Zero Waste Destinations: The Greenest Hidden Gems to Visit
Where can you find the freshest air, the purest water, and the lushest landscape? It’s often in the parts of the world that are the least tainted by civilisation. While the appeal of big, bustling cities remains alluring for urban dwellers, there’s nothing like living close to nature in places that aren’t just preaching about sustainability, but practising it. Many of these eco-conscious destinations are also off the beaten track, offering you a rare glimpse at the raw beauty of such lesser-known regions. Here are five holiday spots that are close to being completely zero waste.
The Isle of Bute is very much a model destination for more reasons than one. Besides being the second town to join the Zero Waste Towns project in Scotland, it’s also putting much bigger cities to shame by openly welcoming Syrian refugees and offering them shelter through unused lodgings. A quaint town where medieval architecture meets the otherworldly wilderness, Bute has managed to empower its residents to reuse and recycle more, while creating less waste. Even commercial businesses such as the Bute Brew Co, which recycles unsold bread and turns them into craft beer, are getting on board the zero waste train. If you need another reason to visit this island, its surreal, snow-capped mountains, sprawling grasslands and calm rivers are an absolute sight for sore eyes.
Leading the way in conscious living as one of the most sustainable regions in Europe, Flanders has succeeded in reducing its landfill waste by about 75% percent (the highest percentage in the continent) since it passed its first Waste Decree in the 80s. So ingrained are these values of conservation and environmentalism that, despite its steady population and economic growth, its production of waste has remained stable and low. There’s much to see in Flanders as well, such as Antwerp, also known as Belgium’s capital of cool, Ghent, the country’s best-kept secret, and Brussels, the all-time favourite, mandatory pit stop. The romance of this region is much better appreciated, knowing it’s an ally of the natural surroundings that shape and power it.
Once polled as one of the most sustainable cities in the world by Conde Nast Traveller, Ubud is a natural haven known for its terraced rice fields and emerald landscape. It served as a backdrop in Julia Roberts’ Eat, Pray, Love as well, and boasts a plethora of luxury eco-conscious resorts for those seeking a tranquil vacation—one of which (Alila Hotels & Resorts) has a Zero Waste to Landfill policy that ensures all waste is reused. Other idyllic hotels such as Bambu Indah and Swasti Eco Cottages are also constructed with salvaged and recycled wood. There’s no shortage of restaurants focused on organic offerings and vegetarian menus either.
If you’re unfamiliar with Capannori, it’s a tiny Tuscan town, dominated by nature, with a population of about 46,000. Don’t underestimate it though. Small but mighty, it rallied together when it was announced that an incinerator was to be built there. To prevent its construction, the residents had to quickly learn to reduce their waste. Led by Rossano Ercolini, a school teacher, and zero-waste specialist Dr Paul Connett, Capannori started with a door-to-door collection programme and soon became the first in Europe to pledge a zero-waste initiative, with the goal to divert 100% of its waste from landfills by 2020. It’s no doubt a green destination, literally and figuratively.
While little-known towns in Europe have been getting the limelight for being the first to take such environmentally progressive steps, this municipality in Japan has probably been ahead of the game for a number of years. In fact, work started as early as 2003 to build a zero-waste community in Kamikatsu. Stepping into this little town, it’s a breath-taking sight where the landscape is the main attraction. With a little less than 1,500 residents, it’s hard to believe Kamikatsu is spearheading the global green movement, to the point that its people are meticulously and actively sorting their trash into 45 different categories, and no longer dependent on incinerators. There’s even a “store” where folks can pick up pre-loved items for free and leave behind usable items that they don’t need. Unwanted items such as old clothes are also upcycled in a factory to create new toys, knick knacks and products.