How to Travel Without Leaving a Trace – Smart Media Magazine

How to Travel Without Leaving a Trace

Niagara Falls and its surrounding parks see millions of visitors a year, and all that foot traffic results in a lot of trash — 832 metric tons each year from the Canadian areas alone. Still, park sanitation workers were surprised to find a piano, broken into pieces, among the items left in the garbage one day.

“People dispose of all kinds of things,” said Steve Barnhart, the senior director for parks, environment, and culture at the Niagara Falls Parks Commission in Ontario. “But that was really unusual.”

Although odd things occasionally surface at tourist hot spots, the bulk of the waste in the garbage cans comes from much more common, repeat offenders. Here, in time for Earth Day, are some items that major tourist destinations often find tossed out by travelers — and some ways that you can avoid adding to all that rubbish along your own journey.

Travelers often use disposable items as conveniences that they can simply toss afterward. But when a site hosts millions of visitors and hauls out hundreds of tons of trash a year, as many popular tourist destinations do, all those disposable items add up fast in ways that are quickly apparent on the ground.

Sophie Grange, a spokeswoman for the Louvre, listed maps and entrance tickets as some of the most common items the museum sees in the 1,200 tons of waste it carts out a year. The museum does recycle paper, but for visitors who are carrying a smartphone, paperless alternatives can be an even better option.

“The best way to reduce waste is to not produce any,” Ms. Grange said in an email. Instead she suggests that visitors who want to reduce their trash footprint download e-tickets and use the museum’s app or refer to posted signs for guidance on directions.

In addition to providing options for visitors to skip the printouts, she said the museum also tries to find ways to keep its own printed materials out of the landfill too. For instance, it sends promotional banners for temporary exhibits to a company that turns them into bags; the banners even go to archaeological schools for use as coverings to protect dig sites.

Although tickets and maps for many tourist destinations are offered electronically, some travelers prefer to keep their tech to a minimum or may be traveling in areas where dicey connections and power failures are common. If paperless travel isn’t practical for you, the best thing to do is to have a place ready to hold your papers so that you’re not leaving a trail of them behind as you move. You can use a travel journal or notebook (Wirecutter recommends the Traveler’s Notebook), customized with an inset folder, to keep loose papers together until you can sort through them at home.

Disposable cups, bags, and utensils may be the first kinds of items that spring to mind when you’re thinking about how to reduce waste. But the packaging your gear and supplies come in can also be just as big of a problem. And when you’re on the road, you may find that places to dispose of that packaging are much more limited than they are at home.

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