10 Ways to be more Zero Waste on an Island

10 ways how to be more zero waste on an island

​The best time to travel to South East Asia is starting now, and who doesn’t like to enjoy a beach holiday? 
​I know a lot of people that are already or planning to go to Thailand, Bali, Malaysia, etc.
Whats better than drinking coconuts on the beach, snorkeling, exploring remote places, eating exotic food.
Most people I know respect other cultures and want to interact and get to know the locals.
I find, to respect nature and animals in those countries, should be in the same line.

Mass tourism takes place all over the world, because nowadays, more and more people can afford to travel. 
No wonder some places just can´t cope with that, and sadly a lot of places we love, have problems with trash because the plastic products came as quickly and in the same masses as the tourists.

Now I could tell you a lot of things like:

  • how I as a traveller enjoy a cleaner beach more than a trashy one.
  • that I hate when people leave their cigarettes on the beach.
  • how I was embarrassed and sad to hear people saying: “The beach is full of plastic? Ah well thats ok, it´s like this everywhere in South East Asia, we expected that”.
  • how I was shocked when I saw a video about the Islands of Maledives, where on some islands tourists relax on the beach, not even aware off that the trash from the Resorts just got shipped to another island where they burn most of it (not in a facility), and people who live and work there, need to breathe the toxic plastic burned air.

But I thought its much more authentic and real to let people who live on a tropical Island, experiencing the problems of trash every day, and trying to make a change, to fight the plastic problem on their island, give you some tips and tell you some alternatives, how you can enjoy your holiday without leaving a huge trash/plastic mountain behind you.

So I asked the team of Gili Eco Trust (a great organization from Gili Trawangan-Indonesia) if they like to share some tips, informations about how tourists can make a change and I hope you will read, share and talk about these “10 ways to be more zero waste on an island” – (And these 10 ways are rules that actually counts for every country!)
Lets see what we all can do on our next journey to help saving the environment, one holiday at a time:

10 ways to be more zero waste on an island

The majority of backpackers, travellers and those with a sense of adventure will be sure make their way to tropical islands like the Gilis every year.
Here are a few tips to be a more environmentally conscious traveller using less disposables, creating less waste, and making sure we always keep Gili Trawangan a plasticfree paradise.

1. Say no to straws

Coconut on the beach? All day happy hours? The staggering amount of disposable straws given out at beach bars – sometimes even two per cocktail is totally unnecessary. Most of these straws will make their way to sea, where they may take up to 400 years to degrade. Choose a beautiful beach bar with beautiful options to go with it. Bamboo, paper and steel straws are some of the reusable choices worth making, or even easier, just say no! The more bar staff know that we are becoming more and more eco conscious the less they will waste money on disposable straws.

2. Coffee Culture

As islands develop to suit a western culture so does the use of disposable cups/takeaway mug and single use un recyclable plastics.
Bringing your own takeout mug is the best way to raise awareness on the island and phase out single use coffee cups. If you can’t find one, then take the time to have your coffee not on the go. The island way is the most relaxed way, so nothing needs to be rushed on tropical islands so sit in the cafe and soak up the views with a big mug of coffee free of single use plastics.

3. Save a turtle – Only rip your joss half way

Whether you are a regular Trawagonite or you’re just chilling on the island for a few days you will have heard of our little secret the infamous Vodka Joss. Every secret comes with a big price!
With up to 200 Vodka joss shots being consumed on an average night in Tir Na Nog, one of the island’s busiest bars, it’s no surprise that the island’s dump is filling up quickly.
However, not everyone comes to islands for parties. Whether it is a packet of crisps, shampoo, joss packet or chocolate bar, remember two bits of plastic is doubly as damaging as one!
If you have to use single use products dispose of them carefully or take them with you. Mainland Indonesia has a lot more disposal options and even recycling options.

4. Bring a bag for life!

They fold up small, they are fashionable they come in many different sizes, colours, shapes and they serve a purpose to help save the world! We love shopping on islands, souvenirs, ice lollies, flip flops, dive gear, takeout food.
Take a bag with you and we won’t find so many on our beaches and in our oceans.
At the end of the day – you have two hands! Use them to carry that new pair of flip flops or bottle of water home.

5. Refill your water bottle

Drinking water is very important in the tropics – minimum 3 litres a day!
But to do this would take up to 4 single use water bottles daily…. with almost 3000 tourists discovering Gili T every day in high season you can do the math… There are many safe, clean
refill stations on the island way cheaper than buying bottled water.
Download our new app: Refill Bali to find safe drinking water stations on all three Gili Islands and all over Bali! Good for the budget traveller as well as the eco conscious one.

6. Bunkus box

Traditionally, the nasi bunkus (takeaway fried rice, vegetables and chicken) was wrapped up ready to go in a simple banana leaf, easily available in the tropics and 100% compostable when finished with. These days even the ‘paper’ used to wrap your local food has a thin layer of plastic to keep all those delicious curry juices inside.
Your local warung will be delighted to see a Tupperware box to fill full of campur (mixed vegetables) delights every lunch time. They can be bought for as little as 10,000Rp on the island and come in every tacky colour, size and shape you can imagine. Love a cheap lunch? You don’t have to be a single use culprit to do so!

7. No butts on the beach

Take your rubbish with you! Globally one of the biggest culprits of litter as people don’t think twice as they flick an old cigarette out on the side of the street. No matter how far from the ocean you
are, butts are small, light and float in winds and rivers and never 100% degrade. They have a good way of ending up on our beautiful beaches. Every Debris Free Friday we pick up more than
3.000 cigarette butts so how about reusing that joss packet in your pocket and saving all your butts until you are close to a bin.

8. Beach clean ups

Taking part in one of the weekly Debris Free Fridays not only helps to mitigate the massive rubbish problem on Gili T, you get a free beer for helping and get to make some new island friends
too! Every Friday we meet on different sections of Gili Trawangan’s beaches to clear as much debris as possible. Check out SeaMade’s Facebook page to find out where this weeks Debris Free Friday takes place.

9. Composting

All major restaurants and businesses will be ensuring that this is happening already. You can find out more about Gili T’s composting programme, or if you are a local and would like to
know how to buy some compost to start growing your own zero waste food, email: info@giliecotrust.com

10. Use that bum gun

If you have travelled in almost any part of Asia you won’t be surprised to find a not so typical toilet invention – the bum gun.
The most environmentally friendly way to wash your bum is by wiping out (literally!) the use of toilet paper. Unsanitary, unflushable and unrecyclable, we could stop the use of toilet paper by using a bum gun and drastically decreasing the amount of waste going to the landfill.

Extra info from 10 recommendations for being a responsible tourist:

Be a role model:

  • Do good and others will follow.
  • Throw waste in the bins provided.
  • You are never far away from the beach on Gilis, so any rubbish left on
  • the ground will eventually float, fly, drift or wash down to the sea.
  • If everyone picked up just 3 bits of litter when they visited the beach, with a tiny bit of effort from everyone, it would be much cleaner!
  • No bins in the area? Take your litter with you!!

Save water and turn off lights

All electricity on Gilis is from one power plant, which regularly is over worked from the amount of hotels requiring AC.
Always turn off your AC and lights as you leave the room, when you return it will quickly cool
down again when you turn it on.
Don’t throw ANYTHING in the toilet! Unless you have consumed it first, it shouldn’t go down the toilet! 
We use septic tanks on Gili that easily get blocked with tissue or other foreign objects which cause leaks and leaching into the ground water, soil and ocean. Increases of biohazard waste into our fragile ecosystem causes harm to all wildlife. Better to put tissue, sanitary items, and
everything else in a bin! 

Do not collect sea shells

Other than it being illegal to remove shells and coral from most beaches, it is actually endangering beach development. Waves break down large fragments of rock, coral and shells to form smaller
fragments, and over time this turns into sand. If every tourist took one tiny shell or bit of coral home as a souvenir the beach would disappear quickly. Those beautiful shells are actually the future home of hermit crabs. Once they outgrow the shell they have borrowed, they return it and find a new larger home. So leave them on the beach for future homeowners!

Do not touch/ stand on corals

Although to the untrained eye corals look like rocks, they are actually hundreds of tiny animals! Stepping on corals to rest whilst swimming destroys these living ecosystems. If you need to take a break whilst snorkeling or swimming, hold onto a rope, or don’t go out of your depth. If you wouldn’t stand on your dog’s head, then please don’t stand on corals!

Respect turtles and underwater wildlife

Even though Gilis is famous for its population of turtles, they are actually endangered species. Never touch them or hold onto them as this causes huge amounts of stress. They come to the surface to
breathe, so the more people surrounding a turtle will reduce its chances of getting to the surface to breath and they will drown.
Feeding turtles and fish bread is very dangerous and disrupts their natural feeding patterns.
​Until fish learn how to bake their own bread, they do not need our help to be fed.


​If you get to Gili Trawangan, make sure to visit the team from Gili Eco Trust. You can make some volunteering or just participate one of their beach clean ups! 
​You will get a free beer for your help and meet likeminded and awesome people too! 

Enjoy your holiday without leaving more than footprints 🙂

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