Green and serene: New Zealand is known for its breathtaking natural landscapes. From majestic mountain ranges to rolling foothills; alpine glaciers to white river rapids; rugged coastlines with roaring seas to golden beaches and glassy lakes, it’s all here for tourists to see and experience.
The only problem? It won’t be here forever unless we take care of it. While of course that responsibility falls to New Zealanders, it is also important that our visitors do their part to conserve our natural wonders.
So, we’ve compiled this comprehensive guide to a clean, green New Zealand road trip. By minimising your impact on our natural and cultural treasures, you are helping keep the country in tip top condition for those coming after you – or your return visit.
To start off, there’s things you can do before you even arrive.
Help preserve New Zealand’s ecosystem
New Zealand has a very delicate ecosystem. Our islands are very vulnerable to any introduced species or organisms – just one stray bug hiding in the sole of your dirty hiking boots could wipe out whole industries.
Basically, that means there’s a heap of stuff you can’t bring with you unless you want to get a huge fine or to cripple our economy.
And we are are pretty sure you don’t want to do that.
You can check out the New Zealand government’s list of no-nos here. These rules are enforced by a whole bunch of people in uniforms with sniffer dogs and x-ray machines at the international borders, just a head’s up.
Ditch the plastic
Once you’ve removed all those animal products and organisms from your baggage, there will be room for a few eco-friendly essentials. One of the biggest necessities has to be a reusable drink bottle. Humans need water to live: You’re a human, New Zealand has drinkable tap water – so it just makes sense.
Billions of single-use plastic bottles get sent to landfill each year, making the wastestream one of the most harmful – and easily avoidable – environmental pollutants.
There are heaps of cool businesses trying to stop this with functional, long-lasting alternatives that also look pretty slick in your travel pics.
We especially rate and recommend these (flat-lay approved) numbers by S’well, Klean Kanteen and Soma which you can purchase online before you arrive.
Bag yourself a second hand bargain
Whilst you’re thinking about your reusable drink bottle, consider replacing other plastic items with reusable materials. Do you need to buy new things, or could you borrow or repurpose pre-loved items?
On that note, if you’re planning on going camping or need temporary equipment for all the outdoor activities we highly recommend you do when you get to New Zealand – you will save money and the environment by purchasing it second hand.
Our Ebay is called TradeMe and is a glorious treasure trove of second hand bargains, it is easy to sign up and offers consumer protections. Facebook’s Marketplace is another destination for preloved goods, as well as posts in the many tourist Facebook groups set up for the very purpose of trading traveller essentials. You will probably pick up some travel tips, and even some travel buddies, while you’re there.
Then there is the travel. Transport is obviously essential for your road trip (duh) – but is also a rather large source of pollution. However, there are ways you can help offset that.
Most airlines will let you pay a small fee to offset your carbon emissions. Our national carrier, Air New Zealand, also lets you donate to their environmental fund to help with conservation and research projects.
When you arrive, you will want some wheels to travel the length and breadth of Aotearoa. Snap rentals offers some great options.
If you’re renting through the Auckland depots, you can get your hands on a Tesla. That’s right. The environmentally friendly electric car is available for hire for those seeking a world class ecotourism experience.
Alternatively, Snap’s range of new model vehicles means each rental is as fuel efficient as possible. The less fuel burned, the lesser environmental impact. Can’t argue with that.
Where to lay your head
So you’ve got your eco-friendly gear, no biosecurity risks and a fuel efficient set of wheels, what’s next? Accommodation, of course.
In the past, a New Zealand road trip has been synonymous with freedom camping. That’s where you park up pretty much anywhere and stay in your vehicle.
Unfortunately, too many people before you abused this travel hack – leaving a lot of rubbish (and human waste) in their wake – so the rule-makers have clamped down on it.
Now, there are certified freedom camping areas, and there is also heaps of cool low-cost eco-friendly options, too.
Try a farm stay and learn about one of the country’s oldest industries while living it. There are different levels of rural experiences, including helping with the crops and animals or having a traditional New Zealand roast dinner with your hosts.
Of course there is Airbnb, too, but New Zealand also has its own rental accommodation sites offering rooms in eco-lodges or off the grid cabins.
You might be thinking, “Where would all this rubbish be coming from?” Good question. To answer it, we’re going to have to let you in on a semi-secret: New Zealand has some of the best locally grown food in the world. Think fresh fruit and vegetables, quality farmed meat, and fish caught in our own rivers and seas.
We also produce world-class honey, milk and other dairy products, and a variety of other goods unique to the land of the long white cloud.
So you’re going to want to try it all, and that means buying it all. Packaging included. When you go to a supermarket, check the signs for New Zealand grown or New Zealand made – there really is no point in buying imported food which has use extra energy and pollution to get here.
Better yet, New Zealand has a fast-growing organic food movement. That means no nasty chemicals or preservatives in your precious food. There are specialty organic stores, but most supermarkets will have a range of the eco-friendly goods, too.
When you do go and buy these scrumptious delights, we suggest taking your own shopping bags to cut down on your rubbish and waste. Hey, that just means less for you to clean up, anyway.
Clean up after yo’ self
Speaking of cleaning up, no matter where you chose to spend your time during your NZ stay, you should always leave everything as you found it. That means taking away all your rubbish if there are no bins provided, and not going off marked tracks where you could accidentally damage the flora or disturbing the native wildlife living there.
When staying in serviced accommodation don’t get your sheets and towels changed each day, try and have shorter showers, and save electricity by only using what you need.
Finally, when it comes to leaving our fair land: choose smart souvenirs to remember us by. Support your hosts by buying locally made products, avoid throwaway items and don’t risk the biosecurity rules by trying to sneak something living out…