Zero-Waste Travel Tips
Things to pack, research and consider before your next trip
What's the best way to maintain an eco-conscious mindset while flying?
What about while camping or driving cross-country?
Some of the issues you'll face while traveling zero-waste might catch you off guard. Whether you’re a sustainability veteran or just dipping a toe in on a #nowastewednesday, our little guide is here to help.
- It may seem obvious, but bring your own canteen or travel mug. Single-use cups and water bottles are the most pervasive when traveling but also the easiest to avoid.
- Save money and reduce waste by bringing your own snacks in reusable Snack Bags.
- Bringing your own Bamboo Utensils or Reusable Straws will also let you frequent local places or food trucks you might otherwise avoid due to a lack of sustainable options.
- Save space and paper by downloading books and your tickets to a device instead of taking physical copies with you. It's a good idea to save multiple copies of any tickets or boarding passes (think external hard drive, cloud service, or drafted email) so you can access them if your devices fail.
- Don't forget to bring your own napkin so you can pass up the paper ones. We love bringing our UNpaper® Towels on train or plane rides. It makes for a great icebreaker with your seat partner!
2. Supporting Local.
Being a conscientious and ethical tourist is a lot easier than you might think.
- Stay at locally run hotels or bed & breakfasts rather than big branded chains.
- Make sure your money supports the surrounding community and opt for handmade gifts and souvenirs instead of mass produced ones at the airport gift shop.
- Ask locals for their favorite markets or restaurants and eat there. Don't forget to bring a sustainable container like our three tiered Steel Bento Boxes for full-course leftovers storage.
3. Planning ahead.
- Learn about the environment and culture you're visiting to understand the impact tourists have on it. Research places that enrich the lives of local communities instead of exploiting them.
- Refrain from buying souvenirs made from animals or plants that are endangered or high conflict.
- Avoid buying items whose overproduction has negative side effects. One example of this is Brazilian beef, which is directly linked to deforestation in the Amazon.
- Consider how much to tip (or when not to) based on the current exchange rate, local customs and average income.
4. Snacking and meals.
On your way to your destination, make sure you bring snacks or energy boosters rather than relying on convenient junk food, since it produces a lot of waste.
- Save money by buying bulk items such as granola or almonds.
- It's easier to avoid pre-packaged junk food when you can bring along your favorite snacks. For example, if you love gummi candy, see if you can find them in the bulk section at your local grocery store and load up your snack bags.
- Depending on your mode of travel, fresh fruit and veggies are a fantastic travel snack. Apple slices and baby carrots are healthier to munch on, and you can carry them in a sustainable container like our Linen Snack Bags or our Beeswax Food Wraps.
- If you have to eat in an airport terminal you can still take your food to go zero-waste. Order your food 'dine-in', then pack it up in your own containers. Our 2-layer Steel Bento Boxes are great for soup or salad, while you can pop a sandwich or a slice of pizza into a Sandwich Wrap. Don't forget to decline napkins and single use utensils when you order!
- Bring your own shampoo or conditioner in reusable travel-size containers like our Silicon Bottles or Stainless Steel Tins. This saves you money and helps you avoid the single use toiletries offered at hotels and Airbnbs.
- Instead of worrying about TSA liquid regulations, consider using toothpaste tabs or Tooth Powder. No water means no stress when traveling by plane.
- If you're going on an outdoor adventure, leave no trace with all-natural/reef safe soaps and cleansers. Use products with simple ingredients like our Cleansing Grains (also great if you're flying since there's no water) and Cleansing Bars.
- Compostable Dental Floss is a great travel option because you can collect it in a small Wet Bag, or find somewhere to safely compost it.
- Bring a Safety Razor and ditch single-use plastic razors! Just one blade will last you the whole trip and beyond. Just make sure you are checking your bag if you're flying with safety razors.
Although traveling closer to home via bike, train or vehicle tend to be more energy efficient, don't focus too much on offsetting the carbon footprint if you're flying somewhere (the U.N. Agreements are already in place to help cover this). Instead, focus on how you're getting around once you get to your destination and whether you'll be traveling a lot once you're there. A little research goes a long way.
- Seek out places where you have access to bike rentals if the weather is accommodating
- Research the cost of public transport and use it! It's often more affordable than renting a car, offers more interesting sites and even more interesting locals.
- See if car rental companies at your destination offer e-car rentals to save gas and money.
- Consider a vacation closer to home. You may be surprised what wonders are waiting in your own city or state.
7. Don't Fear The Path of Least Resistance.
Zero waste isn't about being perfect, it's about trying.
While striving to improve our habits there is a tendency to try to achieve a specific outcome on the first try. However, being low waste/zero waste is both a journey and process, and so it's important to give ourselves a break if something beyond our control comes up. Remembered your reusable straw, but not your cup? Take the plastic cup and don't sweat it! Instead, look for ways to reduce your waste by re-using that plastic cup multiple times before disposal. While resisting the convenience of disposable options is a noble path to take on your trip, don't let a slip up here and there ruin it for you. Use it as a learning experience! You went out of your way to plan a good time and tried to do it zero waste, so be patient with yourself and have fun, otherwise what was the point of going in the first place?
Zero waste as a way of thinking is relatively straightforward when it comes to things around the house. It's when you pull up stakes for a camping trip or pack your bags to travel internationally that you discover how prominent single-use is everywhere!
Again, this is a JOURNEY, so you'll find out what kind of eco-conscious habits are easier to maintain when you’re on the go or in an unfamiliar place.
Whatever difficulties you run into initially will inform your subsequent adventures. Over time you'll develop more techniques and figure out which things you can swap for greener versions. Just remember, all you can do is your best and keep trying. You've got this!
Have your own eco-travel tips? Let us know in the comments!