Zero waste travel

One area where many environmentally conscious people slip up is during travel. It’s so easy to get in the vacation mentality and throw your principles out of the window when you’re on the road. I know when I forget to pack my reusable bags, I kick myself. But there are many more things you can do besides packing your reusable shopping bags when you travel to stay true to your green nature. Zero waste travel is possible.

Over the years my family has figured out ways to try and achieve zero waste travel. Let me tell you, the key to success is planning. For us, we’ve been on this journey since 2008 and we’re still traveling down that road. It did not happen over night. There is always more you can do and learn, so we just keep putting one foot in front of another and doing the best we can.

Zero waste travel tips

If you’re looking for ideas for practicing zero waste travel on your next vacation, here are some ideas to help get you moving in the right direction.

zero waste travel - lake relaxation
The key to zero waste travel success is planning. Image Credit: everst / Shutterstock

Pack your reusable shopping bags

Let’s start with one of the most obvious things you can do – pack a few reusable shopping bags. Plastic shopping bags aren’t recyclable, so they’re the last thing you want to pick up if you’re striving for zero waste. There are plenty of reusable shopping bags that fold up very small and you’ll barely notice the space they take up in your luggage.

Bring an insulated stainless steel water bottle

It’s so easy to leave your reusable water bottle behind and opt for the convenience of single use, disposable water bottles when you’re traveling. However, more and more airports are installing water fill stations alongside their water fountains. This means you can get filtered water at many airports. In addition, most restaurants will be happy to fill your water bottle for you when you’re dining with them. You can even use the insulated stainless steel bottles for hot coffee or tea to cut back on waste there.

If you have enough space in your luggage, it’s also a great idea to pack a stainless steel cup and/or mason jar. They’re a lot easier to fill up with food and drink when you need something quick on the go. You can use the mason jar to get ice cream, have a glass of wine or take your leftovers home with you.

Pack your own toiletries

Hotels always have those cute little, waste-generating toiletries out on display. It can be tempting to save space in your luggage and use the hotel’s toiletries, but go ahead and resist that temptation. You can buy silicone bottles to pack your own shampoo and conditioner in, and you can buy a stainless steel box to carry your bar of soap. Another perk of bringing your own toiletries? The guarantee of knowing you can continue using your eco-friendly products compared to the unknown alternatives available on the road.

Bring a cooler of food

One thing we always do when we go on road trips is to pack a cooler full of food. I always pack salad and sandwich supplies as well of plenty of fruit and snacks. If you have young kids, then you know they eat all day long and if you don’t have snacks handy, you’ll be stopping at a convenience store to grab some snacks – and produce some waste.

If you pack all of your food in reusable containers, you can reuse those containers throughout your trip as well. Instead of taking your leftovers back to the hotel in disposable containers, ask your server to pack them in your reusable container. There’s no worse feeling than carrying that foam container into the hotel room and then never finishing the food.

In addition, you can pack your own bamboo utensils, stainless steel or glass straws and reusable napkins. That way, when you grab a quick bite somewhere that only offers plastic utensils and straws you’ll be prepared with your own green alternatives.

Zero waste travel tips - skip the souvenirs
Save your zero waste travel budget for experiences, not things. Image Credit: BeeRu – Shutterstock

Don’t buy traditional souvenirs

Have you ever been on a trip somewhere and felt like you needed to buy that coffee mug or t-shirt with the city’s name on it? How much did you use it once you got home? If you’re like most people, your answer is maybe once or twice – if at all.

When you travel, don’t go shopping for the sake of going shopping. If it’s not something you’ll genuinely use in your everyday life, then skip the purchase. Save your budget for experiences, not things. It’s much better to smile and reminisce about the wonderful experience you had on your trip than to look at a T-shirt in your drawer and ask yourself why you bought it in the first place.

Take public transportation

I always find it fascinating to take public transportation in a new city. Whether it’s the bus system in Uruguay or the subway in Hong Kong, taking public transportation is a great way to learn about the culture in a new city.

Better yet, it’s a great way to cut down on your fuel consumption. A lot of people don’t look at their full impact when considering zero waste travel. However, you can leave a lighter footprint on the earth when you travel by taking public transportation instead of renting a car.

Destination: zero waste travel

As you can see, there’s no reason to create a bunch of waste just because you’re traveling. These simple ideas to help you reduce waste on your next trip will get you well on your way to zero waste travel.

What tips would you add to this list for putting together a zero waste travel plan?

Feature image credit: Indypendenz / Shutterstock

By Chrystal Johnson

Chrystal Johnson, publisher of Happy Mothering, founder of Green Moms Media and essential oil fanatic, is a mother of two sweet girls who believes in living a simple, natural lifestyle. A former corporate marketing communication manager, Chrystal spends her time researching green and eco-friendly alternatives to improve her family's life.