How Byron Bay inspired me to give a damn about our planet
I love to travel, but I despise the negative environmental impacts. On my recent trip to Byron Bay, I was inspired by the little, yet extremely effective, tactics that the city uses to lead the eco-friendly travel scene.
I was astonished at the complete and total lack of fast food chains in Byron Bay. Instead, the streets are filled with wholefoods, mostly organic cafes and independent shops.
These stores are feeding the whole body to fuel an energetic day, instead of filling you with unhealthy, fried foods. I thrived because I found a vegan option at every single menu I checked. And trust me, I checked every menu I could find!
Ditching the Plastic
Byron Bay has managed to eliminate many single-use plastics. Some cafes charge extra for takeaway containers, use only paper straws, or even have bamboo cutlery. The option to purchase products from bulk bins is available in multiple stores along the main street and in health food shops throughout North Byron Bay, as well.
Single-use plastics often end up in the ocean and many creatures see these items as food. By reducing the number of plastic items available in Byron Bay, the city is setting an example for eco-friendly traveling. Bring your own cup, straw, and bag to earn your own bonus points!
In Byron Bay, there is virtually no need to have a car. There are ample shuttle services from the airports to Byron Bay, removing the need for a private taxi ride. Additionally, Wake Up! Byron Bay has bikes you can hire for free to travel to places farther out, such as North Byron.
Plus, a majority of the town is walkable. To make the town even more transit-friendly, Wake Up! Byron Bay has a free shuttle service that brings you from the hostel to the town and back throughout the day. Check the timetable at reception.
I admired Wake Up! Byron Bay’s simple, yet effective eco-friendly tactics. Your key is given to you on a lanyard, making it a lot more challenging to lose. By attaching the lanyard, Wake Up! Byron Bay reduces plastic waste from lost keys. Additionally, they have clearly labeled recycling bins in the kitchen and at every food-oriented event, such as the $10 sushi night, guests use reusable plates and cutlery.
Oftentimes at hostel BBQs, food is served on plastic plates with plastic forks that go straight into the bin after one use. Providing reusable dishware eliminates the need for single-use plastics at these events. Finally, every Wake Up! hostel is reducing paper waste by implementing digital screens to keep you in the loop of what events are on that week. How cool is that!
In general, I have been unimpressed with the lack of public recycling bins available in Australia. In Byron Bay, I felt the exact opposite. Next to nearly every trash bin was a clearly labeled recycling bin. Even better, I peeked inside a few bins and noticed that people were actually following the guidelines. It was encouraging to see that adding recycling bins truly does make a difference.
I had the wonderful opportunity to kayak the Brunswick River as part of an Eco tour. As defined on Byron Bay Eco Cruises & Kayak’s website, “Ecotourism is ecologically sustainable tourism with a primary focus on experiencing natural areas that fosters environmental and cultural understanding, appreciation and conservation.”
On my tour, the guide told stories of the cultural meaning of the river, as well as noting the names and specific details about the wildlife we saw. The idea of ecotourism is expanding, and many Byron Bay tour companies are leading the way.
I love having painted toenails but hate the waste created from the bottles. Sienna, a small company from Byron Bay, is a nail polish brand with strong ethical values and wooden caps. Finding this local brand was just the beginning. I discovered multiple second-hand shops, clothing stores that derived only organic materials, and bookstores with large used book sections. Shopping doesn’t always have to be environmentally destructive.
The Farmers Market
Plastic-free and locally operated, the Byron Bay Farmers Market runs on Thursdays and Saturdays. None of the vendors that I saw offered plastic and the market even sold reusable bags at their information booth.
The food booths served food on plastic-free dishes and cherry tomatoes were sold individually instead of in plastic punnets. Check out the market to taste unfamiliar flavors, too. I found a spikey cucumber and ate a starfruit for the first time in my life.
Byron Bay is best known for its laid back, hippie vibes. With those vibes comes an environmentally-friendly attitude that is easy to imitate. If you’re looking to travel somewhere that is setting an example as an eco-friendly town to visit, check out Wake Up! Byron Bay.
by Janine Denney-Mazzilli
Hi there! My name is Janine and I am a self-professed, travel obsessed foodie from Seattle. I recently graduated the University of Washington and am now living my Australian dream on a working holiday! Follow along on @janini133