The Zero Waste Travel Guide: Easy Tips for Eco-Friendly Traveling

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More people than ever are embracing zero waste in an effort to combat our environmental problems. This movement is commonly discussed when it comes to home life, such as reducing food waste in the kitchen, using sustainable swaps in the bathroom, etc. But what about zero waste outside of the home? It isn’t nearly as hot a topic when it comes to travel—but it should be.

We commonly travel to experience new destinations and observe the beauty of the world. Yet, some of our travel practices can be harmful to these destinations. From emissions from flights to an abundance of single-use items, there is much to be desired when it comes to most people’s travel routines. And embracing zero waste may be the solution.

Traveling zero waste can help preserve the environment and save you money—making it undoubtedly worth incorporating a few zero waste tips into your next travel adventure! Here’s how. 

Bernard Hermant © Unsplash

Booking 

First off, where are we going and how are we getting there? After all, zero waste shouldn’t just extend to how we pack, but also who we are supporting with our money. You may want to consider:

Flights

Air travel is a significant source of pollution, but the good news is that there are some eco-friendly airlines operating which make it easier to minimize your carbon footprint when going overseas. However, you can do your part on any flight by packing your own items such as headphones and an eye mask so that you can avoid the heavily packaged options offered. You may also want to bring your own snacks for the flight. DIY zero waste food ideas for flights include dry fruit, homemade granola bars, sandwiches, and crackers with cheese. 

Lodging

It doesn’t matter if you are exploring the big city or relaxing in a more rural setting, eco-friendly lodging is probably closer than you think. 1 Hotels is an excellent example of an urban hotel with a commitment to the environment. They not only offer farm-to-table cuisine and incorporate reclaimed material into their build but are always striving to lower their waste. 

In rural settings, a farmstay is a great option. Your money helps support those who tend to the land and it offers an excellent opportunity to connect with nature. Remember that wherever you decide to stay, say no to unnecessary free stuff such as toiletries and branded goodies. 

Tours

Book with travel companies such as I Like Local that have a commitment to preserve or rehabilitate the natural environment. This may include their practices, as well as how they spend their time and money within their communities. 

Vidar Nordli-Mathisen © Unsplash

Luggage

If you are not a frequent traveler and don’t have your own luggage set, buying new isn’t the only option. You can borrow one from a friend or even rent some from short-term luggage rental websites. This tip is especially helpful for those that lack storage space or are on a tight budget.

Alternatively, many thrift shops also offer secondhand pieces at unbeatable prices. Since luggage styles haven’t changed a lot in the past couple of decades, you can often find something of good quality that still looks like it belongs in this century.

Superkitina © Unsplash

Toiletries

Whether you are downsizing your luggage to fit in a carryon or simply wanting to pack light, you aren’t going to want to tote full-sized hygiene products. 

Small Bottles

Skip buying small bottles of products and instead refill travel-sized bottles that you already own. Don’t own any travel-sized bottles? Buy a set of small empty bottles to fill with products you own instead. 

Buying New

Look for zero-waste alternatives if you have to buy any new products. This may include a bamboo toothbrush, sunscreen in a metal tin, and chewable toothpaste tablets. 

Soap Bars

If you have soap bars that you use for body wash, conditioner, shampoo, or all of the above, there is no need to bring them in their entirety. Instead, cut off smaller chunks and keep them in a small container. This is best done with a cutting board, a sharp knife ran under hot water and a dry bar of soap. Just keep in mind that the soap will get slippery if water drips off the knife, so proceed with caution. 

Markus Spiske © Unsplash

Zero Waste Bag

Packing a small zero waste bag in a backpack can help you avoid single-use items while exploring. Items you may want to consider in this bag:

  • Cutlery, reusable straws, and cloth napkins for eating out
  • Collapsible containers or reusable sandwich bags for leftover food or takeout
  • A reusable coffee cup and water bottle
  • Zero waste feminine hygiene products
  • Rechargeable batteries
  • A reusable grocery bag
ali elliott © Unsplash

Maps & Tickets

Apps like Google Maps can help you plan your trip, tell you exactly where you need to go, how long it will take, and the quickest route—AKA no more trying to fold those giant paper maps! If you know you won’t have access to Wi-Fi or data where you are going, be sure to download maps of the areas you plan to visit before you leave. Bonus: this is also a great way to re-use old phones if you don’t want to use your current one.

Using a ticket? From airlines to theatres, many places now accept electronic tickets, so there is no need to print them off. Just keep in mind that this is generally only true for developed countries. When in doubt about how tickets are accepted, try sending a quick email to customer service at the place in question or phoning—traveling zero waste is great, but it shouldn’t add stress to your trip or impede your enjoyment. 

Martin Sanchez © Unsplash

Water

Using a reusable water bottle is trickier if you are traveling somewhere that doesn’t have potable water, but single-use plastic water bottles are not the only option. To make water drinkable, you can use:

Iodine Tablets

These tablets can be added to water to kill harmful bacteria. They do add a bit of a taste to the water, but you get used to it. However, you may want to give one a whirl before your trip so you know what to expect.

A LifeStraw

This straw works by removing the vast majority of contaminants, bacteria, and even microplastics from any type of water. It is highly recommended by outdoor enthusiasts and travelers alike.

Water Purifying Bottle

Filtered water bottles are a bit of an investment, but it can often be more cost-effective than buying plastic water bottles. Plus, it is much less wasteful! 

Whether you are traveling across the globe or only a few hours from home, these tips will make your trip less wasteful. They aren’t expensive or complicated but can help preserve the planet while giving you a great travel experience!

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