Even if you’ve settled into a dependable zero waste routine at home, a lot of zero waste habits can be hard to keep up when you’re traveling. Here are some suggestions of what to keep in mind as you are planning a trip, packing for the trip, and actually going on the trip itself. Happy zero waste travels!
- Take a train
- If possible (i.e., if you’re not crossing an ocean), try to take a train to your destination, since flying in airplanes has a large negative impact on the environment. Traveling by train is fun, convenient, and often inexpensive – I highly recommend it! Plus, it’s much easier to pack zero waste snacks and other supplies when traveling by train.
- Research food options
- Research grocery stores and restaurants in the area you are staying. In the United States, check litterless.com to find zero waste grocery stores in any state.
- Plan zero waste activities
- Make zero waste shopping a destination. Plan to go to a farmer’s market or find a flea market and experience the place you are visiting in a whole new way!
- Let others know
- If you are staying with or visiting someone, let them know that you are doing a zero waste challenge and explain that you’re trying to avoid activities that involve disposable items. If they are willing, they may be able to help you choose a zero-waste-friendly restaurant or suggest zero waste activities!
- Practice making requests
- If you’re traveling internationally, practice making zero waste requests in the language of the place you are visiting. Look up key words and phrases like “could you please put that in my bag?” or “I’m trying not to create any trash,” then say them out loud so you feel confident enough to use them in the moment.
- Tupperware and utensils
- Traveling often involves eating out, so make sure you are prepared by bringing a tupperware container and reusable utensils. You can ask your server to put food into your tupperware if it comes packaged, or you can use the tupperware to make sure food leftovers don’t go to waste.
- Bonus tip: pack stuff inside of your tupperware containers to make the most of your packing space.
- To-go kit
- Pack a set of zero waste tools that is easy to carry. Think about the bag you will use and the activities you may want to do while you’re holding it. Avoid bringing glass bottles or containers, since they are heavy and breakable. My on-the-go travel zero waste kit contains a water bottle, a reusable bag, and chopsticks (see more [in this blog post]).
- Cloth napkins or kitchen towels
- A large cloth can be used in a variety of scenarios, from holding food or carrying groceries to drying dishes or wiping your nose.
- Dish soap
- Bring dish soap. That way, you only need to bring a single tupperware container and set of utensils and wash them while you’re away. If you’re flying by plane, make sure that your dish soap is small enough to be TSA-approved (and that any forks or knives you bring are plastic or wood).
- Toiletry bars
- Bring along your own toiletries so you can leave the little plastic bottles in your hotel room untouched. Bars of shampoo and soap are easy to travel with (no spills, takes up less space, avoid TSA drama) and better for the environment than liquid soaps.
- Laundry detergent
- If you are planning a long trip, bring a small container of laundry detergent. You can use it at a laundromat or just to spot-clean clothes in the sink.
- Pack some snacks. If you’re going on a road trip, zero waste options are often limited in gas station convenience stores. If you’re flying on a plane, all of the snacks and drinks come in packages, so you’ll have to decline them (and they are probably overpriced anyway). Instead, be prepared with some nuts or dried fruit, baked goods (crackers, cookies, granola, etc.), or a travel mug of tea or coffee.
- Compost container
- Depending on the format of your trip, it may also be useful to bring a container to hold food waste. A plastic bag or old tupperware container can be stored in a freezer until you find a place that accepts your compost. Check out sharewaste.com to find a compost wherever you are!
- Make time for food
- Don’t wait until you’re famished to start looking for food. Be prepared to have to turn down a place or two if they don’t have zero waste options.
- Bring snacks
- Bring snacks when you’re out exploring. If you’re staying in a hotel with breakfast included, grab a piece of fruit or a bagel to bring with you on your day of traveling. Seek out a grocery store and buy fruit, veggies, or bulk snacks that you can carry on a hike or a walk around town.
- Use the refrigerator
- If the place where you are staying has a refrigerator, use it to avoid wasting leftover food! Extra points if you store those leftovers in a reusable tupperware container that you brought with you to the restaurant in the first place.
- Digital tickets
- Purchase digital tickets online whenever possible to avoid the need for printing paper tickets to museums or events.
- Choose zero waste souvenirs
- When it comes to buying souvenirs, opt for reused items instead of purchasing mass-produced or packaged goods. In fact, visiting a thrift store in a new location is a fun activity in and of itself, since the landscape of used goods varies so much from place to place!
- Find opportunities to learn
- Take pictures of your zero waste hacks and how the place you are visiting deals with waste. Make learning about and experimenting with zero waste a part of your travel experience! And tag us on IG @ZeroWasteDotOrg so others can learn from you!
Great blog, will definitely follow. Only suggestion emphasize and explain more about how bad single use packaging is for the environment.
Thank- you for the recomendations
Great ideas! We often stay at motels with free breakfasts and bring our own plates, bowls, coffee mugs and plastic ware instead of using disposables. (Kind of a riff on some of the above ideas)
You can take Earth Breeze sheets to do laundry. They are easy to use and you can cut them up as needed.
Thank you Lydia for these most interesting suggestions re Zero waste.
My friend and I have booked Hurtigruten in September and instead of going by plane we will travel by train to Hamburg and then on a Hurtigruten ship.
I remember Christopher was very aware the way he was traveling and we intended to go via Paris and Euro Tunnel to London, but this was sadly not to take place.