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L I T T E R L E S S   L I V I N G 

Everyday sustainability in a throw away society 

  • Writer's pictureBrittany Ainsworth

Zero Waste Philippines Guide

Wanting to island hop the 7,000 Philippine islands but don't want rubbish floating in your wake? This Zero Waste Philippines Guide to the most popular islands will help you along your sustainable travels.

Zero waste philippines el nido
| Coconut with a grass straw in El Nido |


The Philippines is another country where you can’t drink the tap water without becoming incredibly ill. Don’t fear because there are multiple ways you can avoid getting sick and buying disposable plastic bottles.

  • DIY: If you have access to a kettle, boil tap water for one minute to disinfect any nasty bugs which could make you sick.

  • Free Water Refills: Find yourself at one of the many restaurants and hotels that offer free water refills for customers and guests.

  • Returnable Water Containers: Cheap 10-20 litre water jugs are available at specialty water purification stores which can be returned for your deposit back or a new bottle.

  • Buying in Bulk: For a shorter stay you can find smaller 6L water bottles available at every convenience store across the Philippines however these must be self refilled or recycled.


Traditional glass soda bottles can still be found in the Philippines with a good recycling and re-bottling system in place. Just make sure to wipe the top of your drink to ensure its clean, or use a metal/bamboo straw to be on the safe side.


Flying from island to island may seem like the easiest way to get around the Philippines, but it's also the most expensive and most un-eco-friendly option out there. Also where is your sense of adventure? The better option to get between the 7,000 islands is by boat, minivan, bus or jeepney. Sure it may take longer but you see more of the local culture, scenery and make a few friends along the way.

Zero Waste Essentials

Make achieving Zero Waste easier by packing a couple of Zero Waste items to reduce your waste and protect the beautiful waters you are in the Philippines to see.

  • Reusable water bottle: Refill your bottle with the safe drinking water options above to avoid plastic water bottles.

  • Metal/bamboo straw: The Philippine islands are the perfect place to simply sit and watch the world go by whilst enjoying a fresh fruit smoothie. A reusable takeaway cup is hence not necessary but do remember to bring a reusable straw to slurp it up with.

  • Reusable container: Take your snacks to the beach in your container or take home leftovers to feed the resident beach dogs

  • Reef safe sunscreen: There are nasty chemicals hidden in your sunscreen which can harm the reefs and wildlife. Look at plastic and chemical free options instead.

  • Plastic free insect repellent: Protect yourself from bug bites using a natural and plastic free insect repellent which can come in a balm form to save you from spills in your luggage.

[ For more information on Zero Waste Travel Essentials head to Zero Waste Kit ]

Zero waste philippines port barton
| Bamboo straws in Port Barton |

Puerto Galera

The diving in Puerto Galera is out of this world. You will see more nemos than you can count, turtles, a countless array of corals, fish and so much more.

Scandi Divers Resort: John, the new manager at Scandi Divers Resort is a passionate environmental warrior. Having lived and dived around the Philippines, he has seen our pollution problem first hand on the beaches and under the water. Several measures are implemented by the resort to ensure they reduce their environmental impact as much as possible on the island at the hotel and on the water for your dives.

Water: There are several water purification stations in Puerto Galera where you can order a 10-20 litre water jug to be delivered to your accommodation for free. Convenient, cheap and they reuse the containers.

Transport: Puerto Galera is the closest dive spot to manila which can be reached via a two hour bus ride and a one hour ferry. Once in Puerto Galera Jeepneys are cheap and readily available to transport you around the area.


Lolo Nonoy’s: While this restaurant still uses plastic drinking straws, they do promote customers bringing in their own containers as plastic bags and styrofoam have been banned.

Water: There is a water purification station in the middle of town to access bulk drinking water.

Transport: In our efforts to avoid flights and backtracking at all costs, we travelled from Puerto Galera to Coron via jeepney, three minivans, an overnight stay in San Jose and Ferry. It was a long journey but we made some great friends along the way, plus it makes a good story! Once we finally made it to Coron it was easy to walk around the town and explore the area.

zero waste philippines el nido island tour
| Reusable cutlery and plates on an El Nido island tour |

El Nido

Leave your plastics at home when visiting El Nido, the Philippine government has recently banned all plastic bags, water bottles and disposable plastics! In an effort to avoid shutting down El Nido for rehabilitation like the island of Boracay, there are many environmental strategies now in place.

El Nido’s famous island hopping tours now pack reusables for your island lunch and bring along bulk water to quench your thirst instead. Bamboo straws are also sold at every souvenir store as the perfect eco-friendly gift.

Midtown Bakery: This famous El Nido bakery bakes the best banana bread I’ve ever had! Not to mention they pack your goodies in paper bags or are more than happy to stuff your BYO containers full of treats.

Art Cafe: Founded in 1995 The El Nido Boutique and Art Cafe serves local produce from their own organics farm, solar panels to run the place and they have a no plastic straw policy. You can even refill your reusable water bottles here and purchase your eco-friendly souvenirs.

Mad Monkey Hostel: Nacpan Beach is one of the top ten beaches in the world and you can enjoy it in all its glory at the Mad Monkey Hostel. Sip your banana smoothie through a paper straw or participate in one of their beach clean ups for a free drink. Their recycled art is worth checking out too!

Port Barton

A little beachfront town a little more undiscovered than Coron and El Nido, Port Barton’s marine life is abundant and beaches spotless. As the local people are more intune with the environmental impact affecting other popular destinations.

Mabuti Eat & Chill: The perfect spot for vegetarian and healthy eats, Mabuti promotes sustainable tourism and even sells their own bamboo straws.

Gorgonzola Pizza: For the biggest pizza you’ll ever eat head to Gorgonzola, a vegetarian Italian restaurant where you can also refill your water bottle for a small fee.

Water: The water purification station is right by the minivan terminal, so on your way into town stop by and ask them to deliver a water jug to your accommodation for you.


Whale Sharks: If you’re looking to tick swimming with whale sharks off your bucket list, Donsol is the place to do it. Listed as one of the top three places in the world to swim in these beautiful creatures, Donsol offers the opportunity to ethically swim and observe whale sharks. As opposed to the ‘zoo-like’ tourist attraction in Oslo, where the whale sharks are being fed by the fishermen to lure in tourists and have thus alternated their natural migration.

Water: A water purification station is located between the main town and the beachy tourist area, just ask your tricycle driver and they’ll know where to take you.

Transport: Donsol can be reached from Manila via a 12-14 hour bus ride. It’s really not as terrible as it sounds, plus you save a nights accommodation by taking a night bus. Plus the whale sharks are so worth it! You can book a bus straight to Donsol or to the nearby town of Legazpi.


Have you traveled to the Philippines and found some other Zero Waste options?

I would love to hear them in the comments below!

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