Exploring our wondrous planet, whether a short camping trip or adventures to other cultures, can test your efforts to reduce single-use, throw-away waste. Most of us are a way off a "zero waste" life, but we can certainly travel with much less waste. With a little pre-planning there are many easy ways to avoid needless packaging and plastic while travelling. Take the time to map out your travel scenarios to identify when you will be presented with single-use items, whether you plan to hike, cycle, drive or fly. Here are our top tips for ways to make zero waste travel easier:
1 Keep it Multi-Use and Minimal
You could equip yourself with the ultimate zero waste kit to cover every feasible situation with a stainless steel plate, bowl, cutlery, cup, straw, and storage containers, but who wants to lug all that weight around? With all our ideas for travelling with less waste, we think about how can we get multiple uses out of one item. A Mason jar, spork and cloth napkins are great examples of this.
2 Mason Jar or KeepCup
If you regularly drink any form of beverage, a reusable cup has to be top on your packing list! Coffee, tea, smoothies, kombucha, lemonade...if you don't plan to sit in and drink while watching the locals (which is actually a wonderful thing to do when travelling!), you will need a cup to go. Your favourite KeepCup may be sufficient, but because a glass Mason Jar seals you can use it for many purposes other than drinks, such as buying food, ice cream, and taking home leftovers from a restaurant. A 475ml Pint size Mason jar is a versatile size, but you may be fine with a slightly smaller 375ml 12oz glass Mason jar.
3 Reusable Leak Proof Water Bottle
Insulated stainless steel bottles are heavier because they have a double wall of steel, so unless you need cold water a single wall bottle such as Klean Kanteen would be best. Take care to choose a bottle with a leak proof top. Klean Kanteen sports tops are not leak proof for example, so go for a screw top lid. Remember that you will need to empty your water bottle before boarding a plane. You can ask for refills on the plane.
4 Cloth Napkin
A cloth napkin will save the waste of throw-away serviettes, but it offers much more functionality. Use when buying bakery or other snack food items instead of taking a paper bag. And keep on hand for spills and cleaning up.
5 Pack Your Own Food, Cup & Spoon for a Flight
It is almost impossible to tell an airline that you do not want a meal beforehand! You can at least send a message eventually by refusing packaged snacks and meals as it may gradually adjust the numbers of meals wasted. Bringing and eating your own familiar healthy snacks, fruit and vegetables will make you feel better than the plane food. Choose a container that will suit you for carrying around and using at your destination also. Lunchbots stainless steel bento boxes allow you pack an array of foods with multiple compartments - though they are not leak proof. You might prefer a smaller single leak proof container such as Onyx.
While you can take any food onto a plane, you will need to leave all your food on the plane. Use your Mason Jar or KeepCup for drinking coffee and tea served on the plane. Can you take glass on a plane? According to the USA Department of Homeland Security TSA website, which we imagine would have among the strictest rules in the world, yes you can. Here is a link to the TSA's useful resource for checking what you can bring on a plane. Spoons are allowed in carry on bags on airlines that we have checked out. However, kitchen utensils with sharp edges or points capable of injuring someone are not permitted. So, do take your reusable cutlery set or spork on holiday with you, but pack it in your check in luggage to be sure. For the plane, just take the spoon with you!
6 Take Your Own Multi-Use Travel Toiletries
Resist the little plastic bottles left for you in hotel bathrooms! “But they are such handy little sizes” you say...Well, why not take your own handy size plastic free, glass and metal containers filled with your own beautiful toxin-free, zero waste skin and hair care products. Pictured above are the containers in Biome's Plastic Free Zero Waste Travel Container Set.
7 Soap Berries for Zero Waste Laundry on the Go
Natural soap berries or soap nuts are perfect for a waste free clothes washing while travelling! They are very lightweight and compact, will not leak everywhere like laundry liquid or powder, and can be dropped into a garden bed when you are done after 5 uses! Here we are using soap berries to wash our 'smalls'. The suds are created by the saponin in the natural waxy coating on the berries.
8 Take an Endless Library With You
It is tempting to buy glossy mags or the latest page-turner from the airport shop, but an eco-friendly alternative is taking a book from the library or borrowing from a friend. While away, you can often find book exchanges in cafes or hotels to swap your book for another. Not a good idea of course if you brought a library book! Alternatively, you can download library books to your device from platforms such as the Brisbane City Council/Yarra Plenty libraries on Overdrive. All you need is a local library membership.
9 Reusable Shopping or Carry Bag
No zero waste travel post would be complete without a reminder to take a reusable shopping bag. You can find super lightweight bags that scrunch up very small. Again, you will have so many uses for a bag from shopping for souvenirs and food, to excursions, and dirty laundry. As the quote goes, "Take only pictures, leave only footprints" and enjoy your zero waste travel.
If you are hitting the road (or the skies), you'll want some protection for your phone.
Shop our collection of travel accessories.