Zero Waste Train Travel

Setting specific, time-bound goals and objectives is a common concept in any project planning. So I set myself the first challenge on this path towards zero waste lifestyle. Travelling on an overnight train from Coimbatore to Goa, travel time is over 12 hours, can I plan it in such a way that I don’t produce any waste?

For water I’m already for over six months now using the invention that is BETTER than just the advice to ‘carry your own water bottle’. In a country like India where tap water is often not of drinkable quality, you might not always find a place where you can fill your bottle (even though these drinking water taps and water ATMs are increasingly more easily available – at least in the Nilgiris!). Unless you have a water bottle with a filter! This is such a genius idea and because of the easiness of filling it from any tap, I have also realized that I end up drinking more water even during regular work days in the office.


I reduced the need to eat anything major on the train by having a good meal before boarding. Served on a proper, stainless steel plate.


What about some snacks? This was a major question for me as I was preparing for the trip since we usually end up stocking with biscuit packages and chips when travelling on train. Until I saw the answer right in front of me. If anyone would ask me what are my favorite snacks I would most probably include popcorn, chocolate and peanut chikkis (Indian speciality of groundnuts and jaggary) into my list of top 5 snacks. Well, popcorn can be made at home from the plain popping corn kernels that I have bought from the bulk vendor in the Ooty market, and then packed into a cloth bag lined with some left-over paper baking sheet that I don’t use anymore for baking since I have re-usable baking sheets. Lucky for me Ooty is famous for its homemade chocolates and these are available as bulk from almost every shop. Usually they pack chocolates into plastic bags but this time I went to Modern Stores with my own small metal container (bought from IKEA about 10 years ago) and bought some dark chocolate directly into it.



Peanut chikkis I have so far mostly bought in readily packed in a plastic sheet but I remembered that some shops have them loose in bigger glass jars. So I went with a cloth bag and bought it full of peanut chikki pieces to also fill our biscuit box at home for package-free snacks whenever anyone wishes to have some.  (Excellent option if you are not too much into baking your own biscuits.) After buying these loose snacks I really begun noticing how the roadside shops are often full of choices sold from big glass or plastic containers. You just need to bring your own bag or container and you will get your favorite mixture or peanut chikkies or sesamiseed bars or potato chips all without extra packing materials!


In addition to these, couple of bananas and oranges and I was good to go for the food part.


Tea and coffee are always sold in Indian trains by the ‘teawallahs’ and served in paper/plastic disposable cups. I decided to carry my own travel cup just in case they would have an option of black tea/coffee. However, usually milk is already mixed to the tea and coffee that is sold in trains and since I don’t take dairy so chances were the cup would not really come in use anyways. 

Napkins and toilet paper – here I decided to carry couple of cloth handkerchiefs for wiping my hands or face if needed and regarding toilet paper, well – after 16 years of India I can use the jug if needed.

On my way to the railway station I noticed how the roadside stalls selling tender coconut water (to be drank from the coconut itself) seemed to be there in every 30 meters. This, again, is a wonderful way of providing rehydration for tired and thirsty travellers without any packaging material involved - except for the straws that are often provided along with the coconut. I wasn't carrying my re-usable metal straw with me this time so I did not stop for this drink but made a mental note to remember in the future carry the metal straw when travelling so that I could enjoy some coconut water. 

How did it go? Mostly well yes, it was easy to carry these snacks in the train and it was enough food for the journey but when finally in the hotel, without thinking too much I threw the banana and orange peels into the bathroom dustbin. Stuffed  inside a plastic rubbish bag as the bin liner and taken then by the hotel cleaner to wherever they throw their rubbish means that they won’t get composted. Lesson learnt: Organic waste that is compostable will just become addition to the landfill waste if not disposed so that composting can take place. It would have been better to dispose the peels by digging them under some tree or bush.  At home we segregate all organic waste that then goes to our own vermicompost production. But that is another topic for another time.