Can any travel journey truly be zero waste? Looks like Natural Habitat Adventures is spearheading the world’s first zero waste trip, a travel-industry first, on the July 6-12, 2019 departure of Safari America: Yellowstone Country. Fourteen travelers will join this pioneering endeavor in which the company’s goal is to divert (refuse, recycle, compost, upcycle, or re-use) 99 percent or more of all waste produced as part of any trip operations sponsored by them.
This does not include waste that involves personal hygiene items, poses safety risks, is legally required to be sent to a landfill, or results from guest actions outside of NHA’s control (pre-trip, en route, items of a personal nature, etc.). Where waste is created as a part of a partner provider's service, ie: third-party hotels, they are encouraging avoiding it by providing other options.
NHA aims to fit all waste produced on the trip into a single small container at the end, nearly eliminating the need to send any materials to a landfill or incinerator. Trip leaders will encourage travelers to refuse potential waste whenever possible, such as declining disposable straws or individually packaged condiments, minimizing the waste they produce along the route while in vehicles, lodges and camps.
The company has devised various strategies to limit trash: providing travelers with a zero waste toolkit that includes personal reusable items such as water bottles, mugs, cutlery and tote bags; transporting packed meals in reusable containers; recycling single-use packaging, including hard-to-recycle items through TerraCycle; composting napkins and biodegradable food waste; and buying food in bulk.
Waste reduction begins even before the trip starts, with travelers receiving digital versions of all pre-trip materials, including forms to complete and the daily itinerary. While realizing this zero waste goal won’t be easy, NHA is committed to setting a new standard for the travel industry.
By demonstrating that it is possible to operate a zero waste adventure, the company hopes to motivate other operators to improve their own waste management practices and pursue similar innovations. They also expect to learn lessons they can apply across other trips in destinations worldwide.
This groundbreaking project is the latest endeavor to further NHA’s legacy of leadership in ecotourism. In 2007, it became the world’s first carbon-neutral travel company, with its carbon offset program having offset more than 34.5 million pounds of CO2 emissions generated on its global nature adventures.
The company is also dedicated to eliminating single-use plastic water bottles and straws on all its trips. Since 2014, NHA has provided travelers with refillable stainless steel water bottles, replacing disposable plastic bottles across all operations. And it is currently achieving major strides in reducing the use of plastic straws.
By August 2018, 67 percent of NHA trips were plastic-straw-free, and the company is on target to eradicate plastic straws from at least 90 percent of its trips by the end of the year, with a goal of eliminating them entirely in 2019.
Natural Habitat Adventures is the conservation travel partner of World Wildlife Fund, a relationship formed in 2003 that has since provided more than $4 million in contributions to WWF from the company.
It will be interesting to experience how this trip works out for the company and their guests, what they learn from the experience and how many other in the industry will take a page from their book and try to follow/match them in their efforts to do good for the planet. Have you traveled with NHA or other companies that focus on zero waste? Would like to hear your experience in the comments.