Traveling lets you discover new places, explore new things and taste different kinds of great food. However, the carbon emission from the car or airplane rides and the waste we generate from waiting for our flight at the airport to the actual travel itself makes traveling a wasteful activity. Adopting a plastic-free and zero waste lifestyle at the comforts of your home is one thing, but applying it while you’re on vacation, holiday or road trip is a different story altogether.

Zero waste and traveling seems to contradict when used in the same sentence. There are several factors you have to deal with like not having a wide range of options to purchase recycled items or in bulk, as well as not being armed with the zero waste tools available at home. Although this may seem challenging, it does not mean that you can not make your trip a little less wasteful. Each of us can make our travels a bit green. It is not about being perfect. It is about choosing the better option that can lessen the carbon footprint we leave on our planet.

Why Is Zero Waste and Sustainable Travel Important?

For most of us, travelling is a way to get away momentarily from the stresses of our daily routine or spend more time with our loved ones. But all this happiness and enjoyment come with environmental consequences that we should not take for granted such as the following:

  • Traffic, specifically airline traffic is deemed to be one of the biggest contributors to carbon emission in the environment.
  • Numerous tourist spots all over the world do not have a proper way of recycling.
  • Tourists purchased around 50 billion plastic water bottles in the United States alone. Only 23% of which ended up getting recycled.

The tourism industry is a great thing and not at all bad. It can potentially educate people and raise awareness on zero waste living, as well as help conserve our natural flora and fauna.


Tips On How To Zero Waste Travel

What about us? How can we help contribute positively to the environment? The answer is YES!

Living a zero waste lifestyle does not stop at home, it comprises every aspect including travelling. Every travel is abundant with disposable products, from takeaway meals to our in-flight meals. But aside from applying your usual sustainable habits like avoiding producing trash, not wasting food or turning off the lights, there are numerous ways to decrease your impact while you’re on holiday.

Zero waste lifestyle while travelling is simple as long as you are mindful of your choices. While there are some necessary things which are a bit harder to avoid, you can easily avoid using plastic by being prepared. Planning is highly essential when it comes to zero waste travel.  Carefully think about how you or your companion are going to achieve a sustainable lifestyle during your travel to keep your trash little to none in no time before embarking on your journey. Here are the top 10 zero waste travel tips you may want to consider to keep you started on your green trip.


1. Bring With You a Zero Waste Kit

Travel with a carry-on regardless of how long it will be. Not only will it be lighter but it will let you have a capsule for your wardrobe which you can fill with basics for easy mixing and matching.

Pack a zero waste kit as well. There’s no need to bring every tool you have at home. Choose the ones based on your needs. If you’re planning to be away from your home for a week or more, your sustainable kit should contain the following:

A set of bamboo travel utensils. These are non-toxic, sustainable, biodegradable, comes in compostable packaging and will eliminate having to use plastic disposables.

  • A large reusable napkin.
  • Several reusable bags.
  • Collapsible mug.
  • Hot and cold water bottle.
  • Takeaway container.

2. Flying: Avoid the Plastic Wraps

If possible, select an airline with a commitment to improving their overall impact on the environment. When flying, make sure to be conscious of what you will consume. Plan what you’ll need all throughout the flight before going to the airport instead of relying on our usual mentality of getting things once we get there. You can bring a healthy meal or snacks you prepared at home to lessen your desire or cravings to get a single disposable snack when you’re at the airport. You may also consider purchasing peanuts in bulk which you can bring with you in reusable containers.

There are things you may consider refusing during your flight as well, such as the following:

  • Cups which are for single use.
  • Headphones wrapped in plastic. It is best to bring your own pair.
  • Blanket wrapped in plastic. You may want to consider using your towel or scarf.
  • Food being passed around if you will not eat it or if you have brought your own.


3. Driving: Keep Tire Pressure High

Road trips and driving from one destination to another is fun especially if you’re with family or friends. However, it is just as wasteful as flying. Apart from the tips suggested in flying, it is necessary to keep your car in tip-top condition to ensure it’s running and burning fuel efficiently. When travelling a long distance, your tires need to be well inflated to guarantee a smooth and safe road trip. When your tires are fully inflated they will reduce drag and therefore increase fuel efficiency.

Travelling in a vehicle is also an opportunity for you to check out local markets that may provide you with flexible and sustainable options. If your trip is during the summer, you may want to park in shades or under the trees to keep your vehicle’s temperature from getting way too hot and reduce airconditioning use.

4. Entertainment: Avoid the Magazine Trap

If you’re traveling on your own, things, like waiting for your flight or sitting in your hotel room after a day of touring, can be tiresome. Avoid magazine stands or buying magazines or books. You may consider downloading ebooks and other digital media on your tablet or mobile phone. If you’re really into physical books, buy second hand alternatively or lookout for libraries on your destination where you can borrow some books. Or you can also use this time to meditate and relax instead to prepare your body and mind for what’s in-store the next day.


5. Eating and Dining: Bring Your Utensils With You

Instead of buying foods on the go, which are packaged mostly in non-recyclable materials, pack your snacks in bulk such as dried fruits, granola bars, and nuts. You can also buy healthy options in a farmer’s market to ensure you have some fresh produce with you.

Another option is to dine out and eat off actual silverware and plates. Aside from not having any packaged used, you will also have fun trying out local cuisines. If you’re planning on taking out something, look for restaurants that utilize recyclable, eco-friendly or compostable straws, utensils, and food containers. Always refuse styrofoam and carry a set of bamboo utensil with you to avoid using plastic disposables.

6. Accommodation: Don’t Forget Your Toiletries!

It’s always nice to stay in hotels, where most of the time your bed is made for you, you’re given fresh towels each day, and you can even use new soap every day if you want to. But all of these produces trash and very wasteful. You have to be conscious with resources just as you would when you’re at home. These days, many hotels are reducing their impact on the environment by asking their guests to extend their bed sheet use or reuse their towels. There are even hotels which use a card system to decrease aircon and light consumption when there are no people in the room. It’s a good idea to research these hotels first before your trip.

Moreover, you can bring your own zero waste toiletries to avoid opening and use a new pack each day and help in reducing waste. You can also look for an Airbnb which offers reusable supplies.


7. Wardrobe: Minimalism is Bliss

Don’t indulge in clothing by buying a whole new set just for your trip. No matter how much we think we need a new bikini for the beach or a new coat for a ski trip, 90% of the time, we already have what we need inside our closet. If you have to buy something, choose clothes made from 100% natural materials like wool, linen, cashmere or cotton and go for a second-hand shop.

If you’re going to be travelling for a long time, bring quick-drying clothes with you. If there’s a need to wear a formal dress in your itinerary, bring one and not everything you think looks good on you.

8. Bring Your Own Reusable Water Bottle

Bringing your own refillable and reusable water bottle will not only contribute to saving single-use plastic bottles, but it will also save you some cash. If you’re in a country where it’s difficult to get a refill, and you have no choice but to buy bottled waters, opt for a larger one instead which you can use to refill your own zero waste water bottle.

9. Souvenirs: Consumables Are King

If you’re like some people who love to buy souvenirs for their friends and family, you may consider buying consumables such as chocolates and candies which are unique to the place you visited instead of individual presents. It’s also a great way to share your experiences with them.


10. Find Your Local Composting Facility

If you’re worried about food waste and don’t want these scraps to be thrown out to landfills, you can gather your leftovers in airtight containers of mason jars to bring home with you for composting. If this is the first time you’ve heard of the term, composting is the process of breaking down waste using heat and time to produce a rich in nutrient topsoil which will work great for your plants.

Other options include looking for local composting facilities, or if you’re driving, you can bury your leftovers along the way.

Travelling is an excellent way to explore the world, discover yourself and experience different cultures, but it will acquire some waste. Applying these simple top 10 zero waste tips on your future travel will help reduce the amount of waste you will produce.

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  1. I agree about souvenirs should be consumables. It’s like extending the travel experience with your recipients!

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