Zero Waste Backpacking in Mexico
Today I have another Guest Blogger on board. TheZeroWasteBackpacker!
Kat is originally from Australia and at the moment she's traveling Zero Waste in Mexico.
The Zero Waste Backpacker in Mexico
She was happy to share her experiences when I asked her, so let's see how her Zero Waste Mexican Adventure is going so far.
For more great pictures, inspiration and stories follow her on
and make sure to check out her Blog: www.thezerowastebackpacker.com
As a backpacker, my travels have taken me to many countries that are very different to my own.
I’ve had to adapt to different customs, foods and hygiene standards amongst other things.
But that’s what traveling is all about right? Learning about and immersing yourself in the different.
I’ve really only recently converted to a zero waste lifestyle, since December last year. And I’ve only had the opportunity to travel to the United States and Mexico since then. But boy, are they both hugely different! The United States was relatively easy, it was very similar to my home country of Australia.
Mexico, I can’t lie, has been a challenge. One that I struggled with a little in the beginning.
There is plastic packaging (and just packaging in general) everywhere! If you want to buy something loose, they will give it to you in a plastic bag.
The local food stalls serve drinks in plastic bags and hot food in plastic containers made from a specific plastic called Unicel (coloured white and made specially for hot items). Luckily, I have seen this before in South East Asia so it wasn't a huge shock but I have still had to make a few changes to be able to maintain my preferred zero waste way of life.
I have spent most of my time in the Los Cabos area of the Baja Peninsula (very catered towards American tourists) and Oaxaca (very traditionally Mexican).
Sadly, neither area has a huge presence of recycling or composting and I have come to realise that sustainable practise on the ground level in Mexico is still a relatively new concept.
Which I find interesting because after a lot of reading, I have found out that Mexico is quickly rising up the ranks of renewable energy.
How I remain zero waste in a foreign country
In order to adapt, the first thing I do is consider the areas of my life where I create the most waste. For me personally, I create the most waste in my ‘kitchen’.
When traveling I prefer to cook for myself as it is the cheapest way to eat. Eating out is definitely an inviting zero waste loophole but on my tight budget, it’s just not possible on a regular occasion.
So, this means that I usually have a lot of food packaging to contend with.
Another thing to keep in mind is the drinking water situation. In Mexico, the tap water is not drinkable and of course single-use plastic water bottles are also not an option.
So, I have purchased two reusable 'Water-to-Go' water bottles that come with replaceable and recyclable filters. I have used these filters in both South East Asia and now Mexico and I have never once gotten sick. They are super convenient and easy to use. I actually can't remember the last time I purchased a single-use water bottle!
As I said before, the biggest thing I’ve noticed here in Mexico is that recycling and composting are not widely practised.
Back home in Australia, our government provides efficient and easy to use waste collection services for recycling, general waste and for certain property types, organic waste.
Composting is also very popular and many people have their own little kitchen compost to feed their home gardens.
Here in Oaxaca there are many different recycling drop off points. This sounds easy right? Well, that really depends. Unfortunately in my experience, the drop off points have been difficult to find, the closest one was a half an hour walk away from my accommodation (so not particularly convenient), it's hard to find one place that will accept all types of materials and sometimes, a drop off point that was listed will no longer accept any items.
The changes I made for this trip
Whilst traveling, I have always used recycling as a zero waste compromise to make my life easier but this time, recycling was just going to make it harder.
Once I realized this, I decided to stop buying products that came in any packaging all together.
For example, I stopped buying pickles and olives that are packaged in glass jars. This has not been easy as it's safe to say I'm a pickle and olive friend. So, I had to give myself a stern talking to and now I only purchase fresh food from the market and cook my meals from scratch.
They're not fancy but they are nutritious.
I eat a lot of potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, cucumber, avocados, carrots, fruit etc.
Sometimes going to the local farmer's market can be a bit intimidating especially if you don't know the local language. But it's not only a great way to buy food, it's also a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the local culture. There are no bulk food stores here in Oaxaca but you can get anything and everything you would need loose in the markets.
But what about my fruit and vegetable scraps?
Well, the family I am staying with here in Oaxaca don’t recycle or compost.
So I’ve made some more changes. I now no longer peel my potatoes or carrots.
I eat my tomatoes and cucumbers whole.
I still peel my avocados of course but in general I try to keep my peelings to the bare minimum.
They have a very small garden which I did notice some of their vegetable scraps had ended up on. So I have followed their lead. I empty my tea leaves into their garden but don't want to take advantage of the situation so try not to put too much else there.
All in all, I do the best I can with what I have. After 4 weeks, this is the amount of recycling I had. Like I said before, it was a bit of a mission to find a recycling drop off point but I found one that would take everything except the glass bottle.
How to satisfy my zero waste sweet tooth
Ok, that's easy.
Number one: Ice-cream! The easiest zero waste treat.
Number two: Here in Oaxaca, there are these delicious traditional pastries called empanaditas. No packaging or serviettes necessary. Just provide your own container or handkerchief. And when I say delicious, I mean delicious. I literally need one a day to satisfy my addiction.
My final thoughts
While Oaxaca and Mexico in general may be a little behind a lot of other countries when it comes to recycling and composting, they are making great steps in the right direction and I believe they will soon have structured systems put in place.
And let's not forget their promise to reduce their carbon emissions by 30% by the end of the decade and their commitment towards clean, renewable energies.
The best advice I can give for traveling to any country is to be well prepared.
Have your zero waste toolkit ready before you go.
Have your preferred water filters ready.
Have your reusable shopping bags ready.
Have all of your cosmetics and body care products already converted to zero waste products.
Have your preferred zero waste laundry detergent ready.
Have everything preprepared and you’ll find everything will run a lot smoother.
Love Kat xx
If you are planning on visiting Oaxaca
A few places to check out:
Central Abastos Market if you are feeling adventurous. It is a huge and very local market with everything you could possibly ever need. Prepare to get lost!
Benito Juarez Market for all your grains, legumes and lollies. And again, almost everything else you could possibly need.
Basilica de la Soledad for those delicious traditional Oaxacan pastries (look for the stall in the photo above for the best ones).
Cosesha Organic Market - Here is where I found some all natural soaps with only paper packaging.
Here is all of the information I have on recycling centers and here is a pic of a pamphlet that is circulating (which looks very promising).
Keep in mind some of these drop off points are no longer accepting items as was my experience with Biblioteca Henestrosa.
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Hi my name is Jule
I am a nature and ocean lover. A passionate runner and minimalistic traveller. On this blog I share my experiences, thoughts and ideas about the "sustainable lifestyle" and how you can stick to this while traveling.
You like what I share? If yes, feel free to buy me a coffee <3