Waste Free in the South Island Part 2: The Road trip

Hello, here’s another delayed post for you! I took a bit of time off blogging last month as I went to Australia to spend time with my family. Since I’ve been back I haven’t blogged much as I’ve been up to heaps of awesome stuff. I’ve given a few presentations, workshops and even a university lecture. I am so grateful for all of the amazing opportunities I’ve had this year, and the trips away I’ve been able to take. The downside of traveling lots is my environmental footprint; driving and catching planes emit greenhouse gases. So I have a lot of carbon offsetting to do! I actually realised as I was flying back to NZ from Melbourne that I have flown approx. 50 times in my life. Which is crazy considering I’m not that well-traveled and in my mid-20s. I guess that’s a given when you’re half Australian and have family in two different countries. At least Victoria, Australia isn’t that far away. Now I have admitted to my terrible carbon footprint I can tell you all about the ways I tried to reduce my waste while in the South Island. If you recall in part 1 my friends and I had just finished a 6 day tramping trip in the gorgeous Mt Aspiring National Park, and were back in Queenstown.

Back to Queenstown

Post tramp we caught a bus back to Queenstown to suffer party hostel life. We washed all our clothes at the laundromat in our hostel, I was ever prepared and had packed a small container of Eco Store washing powder to save us buying single use (and overpriced) conventional detergent. Unfortunately our hostel did not have a drying room, so we had to use the dryers (it’s been a long time since I’ve used one of those!) and our muddy, smelly tramping boots were tossed outside on the deck from our shared room. Our first post hike meal was Mexican with some celebratory sangria’s. Disappointingly the sangria’s came with 2 straws each, I had completely forgotten to ask for no straw! Even my friends didn’t use their straws. I successfully purchased a hot chocolate from the Cookie Time shop in my reusable cup, during their early morning $1 special. I got a free cookie also which they happily placed on top of my cup instead of in a bag. 

While in Queenstown we visited the local Salvation Army op shop. This was the best second-hand store all of us had visited in a long time. We ended up spending about an hour there (much to my boyfriend’s displeasure), and each making a purchase. The quality of clothes in stock was amazing. I guess a lot of tourists end up donating their clothes at the end of their trip, as there was a high level of brand new and designer clothes. My friend purchased a small haul of fancy ‘new’ work clothes, including these mint condition shoes:
Op shop shoes
After our short stay in Queenstown we caught the public bus to the airport where our friend flew home early and we picked up our campervan.

Our Campervan

My friend organised the campervan through a relocation deal website which meant we only paid $5 a day to hire it! We chose to pay for a couple of extra days at a discounted price also. The campervan was a 4 person van, however we were glad that there was only 3 of us in the end, as it was hard to find one’s own space. The campervan gave us a glimpse at tiny house living. If you follow me on Instagram or know me in person you’ll know I am keen to live in a tiny house. One thing my partner and I knew after the trip was that we are not keen on transforming furniture! The bed area was also the main sitting and living area, so that got a bit tedious having to twice daily move boards and piles of cushion swabs. There was a pull-down bed above the seating area, this wasn’t as inconvenient as it just needed to be pushed back up to the ceiling space.
We also weren’t keen on the wet bathroom, where the shower cubicle was the actual bathroom. We all showered only once during the campervan trip cause it was a pain making the whole bathroom wet, and subsequently the space outside the bathroom. It was also impossible to get dressed in the bathroom as it was so tight. We did learn that you don’t need to shower daily to be clean, trust me, living in tight quarters we would have known if we smelt bad. I was grateful for the under the couch storage being accessible from a cubby hole on the outside of the campervan, as our tramping boots were filthy and stinky, so they got stashed under there and were still accessible. My friend and I picked some lavender from the side of the road and used it as a natural air freshener, stuffing it in our smelly boots and tramping gear and hanging it in one of our spare produce bags. The lavender from Wanaka smelt amazing.
Lavender hanging in Rethink Reusable Produce Bags


There are no bulk or package free shops in the areas we were in, or none that I was aware of/were convenient. So for the trip I allowed items in plastic packaging that we could recycle. At the time of visiting the only soft plastic collection point was in Christchurch. We were flying out of Christchurch so we collected all of our soft plastic (including from our hiking trip) for the whole 2 weeks to drop off at a supermarket before we left. We (my other half and friend were very much on board!) tried to avoid packaging as much as possible.


Making tea with fresh roadside apples
We cooked in our campervan a lot, mainly to save money for more exciting things. Copious amounts of ginger tea and made (campervan made) mulled wine were drunk on the trip. Our food scraps were stashed away separately for composting. Unfortunately we didn’t find any composting facilities (aside from YHA in Wanaka), so we buried our food scraps in appropriate places (not in National Parks). We stopped at local orchards for fresh fruit, including a plum orchard from someone’s home property. The couple who owned the property kindly weighed out the plums in our reusable produce bag.  

The Road Trip




I won’t list the entire trip because 1) there was a lot of driving and 2) my memory is a bit foggy now (sorry!). My other half loves driving, I am not a fan, so he drove the entire trip. We were driving from Queenstown to Christchurch, which can normally be done in two days however we took the scenic route via the West Coast over a 5 day period. We stayed at DOC campsites along the way, making the most of our self-contained status by staying at free campsites when we could.
Side note: One of my favourite Youtube channels Bus Life NZ recently visited Queenstown, Arrowtown and Wanaka. I’d recommend watching their videos to see how stunning the area is, and also check out their awesome house bus.




Arrowtown is a historic goldmining town between Queenstown and Wanaka, and was easily a highlight for all of us, it’s such a stunning place to visit. The town is full of beautiful old houses tree lined streets. I was excited to find a lot of the public street trees were fruit trees. I picked a small bag of plums from trees near the old Chinese Settlement for the trip. The historic Chinese Settlement is made up of some very tiny houses, I made a few jokes that they were giving me great inspiration for a future tiny house. My partner was unimpressed as he was too tall for all of the houses.

Wanaka Waste Busters

Waste Busters is a recycling centre and second-hand store, which sells reclaimed materials as well as household items. After hearing so much about Wanaka Wastebusters, when I finally made it there they were sadly closing! A local said Waste Busters was easily their favourite shop, with the Salvation Army coming second (also a great second-hand store). 

Blue pools

These stunning pools are situated among a beech forest along the Makarora River. The track we were originally planning on doing was along this trail, so we made sure to visit the Blue Pools. A few brave people jumped in for a quick swim and photo opportunity, for the peak of summer the water was very cold! The photos are unedited, the water really is that blue. 

Foxand Franz Josef Glaciers

I had never been to a glacier prior to this trip, we saw three in total; Rob Roy (during our hike), Franz Josef and Fox. I am pleased I got to see them, as it was a really sobering experience. My friend had visited Fox & Franz Josef glaciers about 10 years ago and was astounded at how much they had retreated. The walk was at least an hour and half to catch a peek of the glacier as they had retreated that much. There was a lot of informative signage showing the conditions on the day and historic photos showing how they used to look. It was around this time that my camera battery died, so unfortunately I don’t have the best photos.  

 “Is this what Franz Josef will look like in 2100?” Unfortunately the glacier already looked like that.

Arthur’s Pass National Park

Kea frequent tourist rest stops and beg and steal food. Don’t feed them!
We planned to spend a bit of time at this gorgeous National Park, but unfortunately we arrived at the same time as a major race (Coast to Coast) was due to start, bringing in a massive amount of visitors. As such we only spent a day here doing short day hikes and stayed just out of the park at the lovely Lake Pearson/Moana Rua free DOC campsite. 


Our last full day was spent cruising from Lake to Pearson to Christchurch. We stopped at a few reserves along the way including Cave Stream Scenic Reserve. We didn’t go caving however as no-one was a fan of caves! I was keen but wouldn’t go by myself. It’s still a pretty impressive area surrounded by limestone. 

Cave Stream Entry

We only had that afternoon in ChCh so we rented bikes and cycled around. This was my first time ever visiting Christchurch, it’s quite an experience to see how much of the city is still under construction following the earthquakes. I was taken aback by how gorgeous the city was, and there was some amazing community projects and art installations. There is also an epic playground there that made me pretty jealous of the children. The Botanic Gardens were a must see, especially the herb garden which was full of some very interesting herbs  like pineapple sage.
We stayed at a holiday park about 25 min North of the city, located on the coast and set in a pine forest. As this was our last stop we dropped off the rest of our recycling here, dumped our grey water, buried our compost and left some staples in the communal kitchen for free (oil, salt and a gas can). 
Before heading home we visited the suburb of Harewood near the airport and recycled our soft plastic at Countdown.  While my boyfriend was at the brewing store my friend and I checked out an op shop and ended up leaving with a heap of super cheap fabric. The ladies working their noticed we were only looking for fabric (my friend and I both sew our own shopping bags) so they let us have a look at their stash out back and gave us a massive discount! 

A great map of ChCh’s op shops has now been complied, check it out here.
Christchurch airport has an amazing greenwall inside. 

For the trip I packed my tramping pack and a small backpack, with a couple of larger foldup reusable bags to store items we didn’t need while tramping. We each left a small bag at the YHA hostel in Wanaka for our non-tramping items; spare clothes, shoes, toiletries and plugs etc. We all packed tramping essentials and multipurpose items, I found I didn’t need to pack much else as I am comfortable in my tramping gear. I packed a pair of shoes and jeans and a couple of toiletries and books and really the rest was tramping stuff and food. I packed a lot of food to avoid additional packaging. My friends and I had all packed books and swapped them after we had read our own. I also packed a few reusable items such as a thermal cup for taking hot tea on day walks, keep cups, reusable produce and grocery bags, cloth bags (which were super useful for organising my bag) and reusable food wraps.
Tip: Don’t forget bug repellent!! Sandfly’s are notorious in the South Island, especially by rivers. I used a bottle that I had purchased a while ago, I intend on reusing the spray bottle when I eventually make my own.
Here’s a great video by Bea from Zero Waste Home about packing for travel:
All up I did my best to keep the trip low waste, we composted and recycled what we could. I think the straws and our flight passes were the only trash my partner and I accumulated. It was a stunning trip and I frequently find myself revisiting the photos. I hope you enjoyed reading about my trip and let me know if you have visited any of the places I mentioned, or have any recommendations!


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  1. Pingback: Amanda in Waste-free LandProduce Bags & Bulk Bags - Amanda in Waste-free Land

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