Zero waste traveling?!
Traveling creates a lot of waste in this world, but does it really have to? There are many ways how every individual traveller can eliminate or at least reduce waste and therefore their ecological footprint.
Trying to eliminate or reduce waste during your travels can be challenging, but the zero waste lifestyle also has some pretty nice products that are actually ideal travel accessories.
Just think about solid shampoo. Solid shampoo has no packaging (and therefore no plastic waste), so when traveling, I pack it in a small tupperware or aluminum box. Since it is solid, it can also be packed in your cabin baggage while flying without having to be put it in a plastic bag at the security check. And the solid shampoo lasts as long as a regular shampoo bottle, while being nicely small.
Also nice: toothpaste powder. It comes in a glass (for example from Birkengold) and lasts for ever. And since it is a powder: again no need to flash it at security check with all your other liquids. And the glass can be refilled. You can even produce such a powder yourself. And of course, using a bamboo toothbrush that is compostable and packed in paper goes along really well with that
Bring your own bottle!
Very handy for traveling is a light travel flask. Here you can choose from thousand of great offers in all shapes and sizes. You can choose insulated flasks (for example from klean kanteen) or just a normal bottle. I prefer a light stainless steel bottle, to reduce plastic even further. Security checks have no problem with empty flasks and most airports or train stations have free water fountains to refill them. Or you just get it refilled at the onsite restaurants with anything they offer.
For hiking I usually bring my platypus flask. When not filled, you can roll up the bottle to make it pretty small, fitting every tiny bag. And it comes with a carrying loop to attach it to most backpacks or belts or wherever you want to attach it to. And they are BPA free, so no worries that plastic will end up in your body like it happens with many other plastic materials.
Who needs straws anyway?
One of the biggest problems for the environment are plastic straws. There are very few exceptions where they are absolutely needed, so why not eliminate them? If they land in nature (and most of the trash does at one point), wildlife will eat it, get stuck in it, die from it. So, say no to straws. If you love your smoothies or cocktails, invest in one or more stainless steel straws. They don’t need much space in your luggage and you can get a smoothie at the take away with your insulated flask and your stainless steel straw. The plus: thanks to the insulated flask, the smoothie stays cold much longer.
Another very good and sustainable travel accessory are microfiber towels made from bamboo. The towels are pretty big and comfy but pack very small, so they are not taking up much space. And they are made from sustainable resources (check for the labels).
Reusable food containers
On shorter travels or for business meetings out of town where I know I will be near a train station around lunch time, I usually bring my own container and cutlery. Here you can choose again between BPA free materials or stainless steel containers. Check out your local camping/outdoors store for the best ones. With those containers, you can easily get food at every take away or food truck that not only sells pre-packaged salad or sandwiches.
Or if you like traveling light and just having sandwiches, invest in some bee’s wrap (waxed cloth). There are even ones especially for sandwiches, where you can wrap your homemade or bought sandwiches. And without anything inside, it is extremely slim and weighs only a few grams, so you don’t have to carry heavy.
One of my favorite accessory is a self made bag for fruits and veggies. I love going to the market, here and abroad. And with your own bag, you don’t need the single-use plastic bags they offer you there. And if needed, your own bag can be used for other purposes in your luggage as well
Zero waste on planes?
The biggest problem while traveling by plane is the catering on board. While some airlines have their food in reusable containers and use metal cutlery, most airlines still use single-use plastic containers, wrapped in more plastic. On short flights you can easily bring your own food (most airlines don’t serve food on short distances anyway). But on longer flights with several meals, it is hardly possible to bring everything on your own. But, you still can! For example can you bring your own sustainable cutlery and give the unopened plastic cutlery back to the flight attendants. Also, make sure you tell them why you do this (friendly) and ask them to pass this on to the bosses, so maybe they will switch from single-use plastic to reusable food containers and cutlery, unpackaged (or at least wrapped in paper or cloth.
For the drinks, I usually bring a flask that also has or serves as a cup. Then you can ignore all the cups they will offer you and just use your own, saving at least 10 plastic cups on a long distance flight.
Refuse - reduce - reuse - recycle - rot
So just make sure you reduce what you can, refuse cups by bringing your own, refuse disposable hot wet cloths, refuse napkins by bringing your own washable napkin and don’t forget to tell the airlines why you do it. The more people complain, the faster they will change. I personally always put an unpackaged request in the box for food preferences while booking. So far they did not react to that, but maybe one day they will.
What are your favorite zero waste accessories for traveling?
Or do you have other insider tips for me? Let me know and leave a comment.
I am a swiss photographer (www.fmphotography.ch),
a travel, wildlife, volunteer and outdoors addict who cares about zero waste, the environment and simply our planet.