My recent trip to Morocco has been very difficult to adapt and make it ‘more’ zero waste. For example, Marrakech airport prefers paper boarding passes; sights and attractions often require paper and card tickets; and local water sanitation meant mineral water bottles were prevalent, leaving my Consol glass bottle tucked in my suitcase, hardly getting a glimpse of the Moroccan sunshine.
I found it quite disappointing, that despite my efforts to create less waste, circumstances beyond my control prevented a truly sustainable travel. I have been working long shifts before departing for this trip, meaning late nights and early mornings. Thus, I was only able to prepare snacks for the plane journey, when I would otherwise make myself a meal (and more) for the duration of the whole trip.
I ended up getting some juice and sandwich from the airport, something I despised doing as: a) not zero waste, and b) I’m trying to live frugally.
Throughout my week in Morocco, there were many paper tickets and receipts I have received for attractions, transportation and souvenir purchases. Surprisingly, many of these are unavoided, as checks are often done routinely, and use of apps and Wallet to process payments are almost always unheard of in the country.
The largest amount of waste I have created is undoubtedly in the form of toilet paper. Public toilets – and even the toilets in the hostels I have stayed at – are sometimes out of TP. I understand many people’s concerns that TP is not zero-waste by any means, but I am yet to cut it out of my life; for now, I have realised the unnecessary rubbish it has created, persuading me to use alternatives instead.
Despite all the trash I have accumulated in the last 7 days, there were definitely some positive outcomes from the trip. First of all, I have discovered how Morocco can be a perfect zero waste destination. With the large number of fresh and dried fruits and nut stalls around, it is always possible to buy produce in bulk – with little packaging. Just remember to bring your own cotton bag for your purchases from the souks.
The juice stalls lining Jemmaa el Fnaa also offer glasses for drinking juices on the spot or ‘to-go’ plastic cups. Using a straw is advisable when drinking out of these re-usable glasses the vendors offer, so I will be sure to bring my own re-usable straw next time I visit.
Morocco is bulk-buying heaven for spices, soaps, and oils. Argan oil is a prized produce in the country – and rightfully so. Spices are in high abundance; a couple of small glass jars will be handy in transporting these back home.
Toiletries are found sans le packaging: from musk soaps, liquid gels, and even nature’s toothbrush – whatever it is you require, it can be found in any corner of a medina.
Eating out is another zero-waste experience. True Moroccans use bread and their hands when eating. No cutlery – plastic or not – will be in sight if you’re dining like a local. I embraced this habit greatly, often eating tagines and my breakfast in this manner.
In a Berber household, wooden spoons are favoured over metal cutlery for eating Berber porridge, a hot, soup-like meal often served during their New Year’s celebration (January 14).
I attended a couple of cooking classes whilst in the country. Both highlighted the meals one can produce from using a tagine, a clay pot designed uniquely to allow for meat and vegetables to cook perfectly, retaining their flavours and moisture. Simple and healthy meals can easily be produced using this type of kitchenware.
The tagine features a very simple design, and little material – albeit high technical skills – required; some may say it is a perfect zero-waste kitchen essential!
And what about souvenir shopping? I detest most types of souvenirs; they are usually unnecessary tack that takes up room in your luggage only to collect dust over the years. The best souvenirs to buy are consumables – from food (spice, and dried fruits) to cosmetics (soap bars and organ oil) to kitchenware (teapots and tagines). By bringing your cloth bag whenever you venture out, anything you buy need not to be bagged up in plastic.
As for fragile items, vendors often use newspaper instead of bubblewrap to wrap it up, which is good practice, anyway. However, you can also refuse the newspaper; I wrapped my tagine pot using my clothes. It made packing easier, and perhaps even lighter without the layers of paper as bulk.
Lastly, I started investing in products from co-operatives. Co-operatives in Morocco is gaining popularity – from women-only groups to eco-friendly warriors. They are often a collection of traders concerned with the welfare of its workers, the standards and quality of items they produce and distribute, and the environmental and social impacts of their trade. The products may be pricier than ones you would find in the souks, but I find investing in products and brands with such promise are worth every penny (or dirham).
Are there any zero-waste destinations I should visit in 2016? Let me know below!