How To Go Zero Waste While Traveling (20 Things to Do)

Zero Waste Travel

Going zero waste during your travels can significantly help in the conservation of our environment. Zero waste traveling and the sustainability of our environment go hand in hand. The most disposed of items during traveling are often single-use water bottles and toiletries. These products contribute to the massive accumulation of waste both on land and in water.

Zero waste traveling seeks to reduce our impact on our environment by maximizing recycling and reducing the consumption of items that increase our carbon footprint. It is a cause that requires the collaborative effort of everyone so that it becomes a success.

The United Nations Environment Program estimates that 4.8 million tons, which represents roughly 14% of the global solid waste, is produced annually by tourists. It is therefore not surprising to find numerous destinations adopting a ban on the use of single-use plastics when you visit them.

Airlines have also not been left behind in the effort to promote sustainable traveling. Some airlines like Delta are huge advocates of carbon offsetting. Restaurants are also offering their meals with reusable cutlery. Therefore, while eliminating waste during traveling may not be entirely possible, cutting it down to a bare minimum is.

Is Zero Waste Travel Possible?

Zero waste travel or traveling sustainably is indeed possible! We can do activities in our daily travels to help us reduce the waste disposed of in our environment.

Zero waste traveling does not imply that your trip will not be as exciting. Instead, zero waste traveling requires you to choose alternative products for your travels that will have less impact on the environment by reducing your carbon footprint. This begins right from the moment when you are packing the items that you will use in your trip. It also requires you to choose transportation modes that generate less waste in the environment. 

Last but not least, zero waste traveling will need you to use the resources available at your destination efficiently. As you choose to stay in a hotel or rent an apartment on Airbnb, properly utilizing the resources at our disposal will also promote zero-waste traveling. Simple practices like ensuring that you turn the lights off when you are not using them, not leaving the taps running, and reusing towels form the foundation of successful zero waste travel.

Things You Need to Do for Zero Waste Travel

1. Dine in the restaurant instead of getting takeout

Taking your order to go would require using single-use plastics to pack your food. Dining in the restaurant using reusable plates and cutlery promotes zero waste traveling. It is also a great way to reduce the wastage of food during your trip. 

2. Make your own snacks

Binging on packaged snacks like candy, crisps, power bars, etc., means more plastic wrappers will likely be thrown away irresponsibly. Making your snacks or purchasing ones with reusable bags will allow you to promote zero waste traveling. You can repurpose the reusable bags and use them to carry other items instead of throwing them away.

3. For takeout food, use reusable containers, bags, and cutlery

Dining in the restaurant is a crucial practice to achieving zero waste traveling. However, takeout may be convenient for those who are on the move. Those wishing to have takeout are encouraged to use reusable containers, bags, and reusable cutlery such as chopsticks or sporks. It minimizes the trash that would otherwise be disposed into the environment. In addition, some restaurants offer their customers attractive discounts if you carry your container to get your takeout.

4. Carry a reusable water bottle or thermos

Bringing your thermos or reusable water bottle will reduce the number of disposed water bottles. In addition, you can use your water bottle for other beverages like fresh juice. A thermos helps you to buy takeaway coffee without using disposable, plastic coffee cups.

5. Buy odor-resistant travel clothes

You can wear odor-resistant clothes several times before you wash them. Here, you will reduce water wastage by cutting down on the times you need to wash your clothes. In addition, you also save money you would have used in purchasing soap to clean your dirty laundry.

6. Use rechargeable items  

Travel gadgets like flashlights, lamps, and solar panels have rechargeable models. These promote zero travel by first eliminating the need to carry batteries with you. In addition, rechargeable torches and other gadgets will save you the headache of having to look around for a spot to dump your ran-out batteries.

The only thing you need to carry is a USB cable that you will use to charge your items.

7. Use digital guidebooks, receipts, boarding passes, and tickets

Embracing a digital form of essential items such as guidebooks, receipts, and tickets minimize paper products. In their traditional paper form, people throw these items away as soon as their usefulness lapses. However, embracing a digital version and using travel apps is a more environmentally friendly approach.

You can reduce paper waste that would otherwise fill your environment when you dump used tickets, used receipts, etc.

8. Embrace a ‘multi-purpose’ approach

Adopting a multi-purpose will help you travel light by carefully selecting products that will serve you in more than one way. For example, when you carry baking powder, it can be used as toothpaste, laundry detergent, shampoo, and so much more. It will save you the trouble of having to carry all these extra items. Another good example is castile soap. You can use it both for your body care and hygiene and also as a cleaning detergent.

9. Staying in Airbnbs instead of hotels

Airbnbs are a good alternative to hotels because they save money by cutting down on accommodation costs. In addition, they provide you with a “homely” setting where you can prepare your food and give you an opportunity to minimize food wastage.

On the other hand, hotels will provide you with toiletries like soaps and shampoos wrapped in plastic packages. They will also offer you a clean set of beddings every day because they do laundry daily.

These actions hamper the efforts that promote the zero-waste lifestyle. For example, by dumping the plastic packages after using the soaps, you increase plastic waste in the environment. Daily washing of beddings and towels causes wastage of water and strong detergents released into the environment.

Airbnb’s are therefore more environmentally friendly and will assist you in practicing zero-waste lifestyle tips. 

 10. Use public transportation, walk or cycle

Traveling by car, air, and train result in the emission of harmful gases like carbon dioxide and methane which constantly contribute to an increased carbon footprint. Walking and cycling are options that will help us reduce the toxic gases released into the atmosphere. 

Using public transport like trains and buses contributes to less methane and carbon dioxide emissions released into the air due to reducing the number of vehicles on the road. 

11. Carbon offsetting your trip

Carbon offsetting your trip implies offsetting your carbon emissions. It refers to practicing environmentally conscious activities, e.g., tree planting to “take the carbon dioxide gases you have contributed to the atmosphere, out of the air.” Delta airline is an excellent example of an airline that offers its passengers the opportunity to buy carbon offsets.

12. Minimize collecting souvenirs

Souvenirs are a great way of preserving memories of all the destinations that you visit. However, souvenirs are “notorious” contributors to waste. It is because often, these souvenirs always end up being tossed into the waste bin.

Cameras and smartphones are better, waste-free alternatives to buying and collecting souvenirs. With them, you can take memorable pictures and videos of the beautiful experiences of your trips. 

13. Embracing the art of refuse

The practice of ‘refuse’ is instrumental in helping you to minimize adding waste to your environment. For example, when you purchase items at the convenience store or buy takeout from the restaurant, decline the plastic bags offered to carry your things.  

You can also apply this technique when you are ordering a drink or beverage at the store. During your stay in a hotel or Airbnb pad, you can decline the drinks that come in plastic water bottles. You can also decline a straw for your drink.  

14. Bring your headphones for inflight entertainment

Bringing your headphones from home means that you will not have to take the headphones offered on the flight. These headphones usually come in plastic packages. Therefore, you reduce the chances that these plastic wrappings will pollute the environment by bringing your headphones.  

15. Carry solid beauty and personal care products

Solid bar soaps, shampoo bars, deodorant bars, etc., will offer you much-needed convenience during your trip. They are more durable in solid form than in liquid form. In addition, they will not be prone to leakages and accidental spills that will cause wastage.

These solid beauty and personal care products are often multi-purpose and can help you cut down on excess costs that would otherwise go into making several purchases.

16. Booking direct flights whenever possible

It is common knowledge that airplanes are some of the most significant contributors to air pollution. This is because flights release many gases into the atmosphere when taking off or landing. Planes contribute approximately 3% of the world’s total emissions, with a single flight estimated to produce about three tons of carbon dioxide per flying passenger.

If you choose to travel via connecting flights to get to your destination, using more flights contributes to an increased number of landings and takeoffs. These landings and takeoffs will subsequently cause more gases to be emitted into the atmosphere and increase global warming.

The zero-waste way of approaching this would be to book direct flights to your destination. Fewer stopovers mean less harmful emissions.

17. Wear layers of clothing during your flights

Wearing layers of clothing on your flights can help you to withstand the cool temperatures on a flight. In addition, carrying a big and heavy scarf can enable you to use it as a blanket if you end up feeling cold during your flight.

The thickness of the scarf can also allow you to fold it up to use as a pillow. Again, this promotes zero waste traveling by making it unnecessary to use the pillows you are given on your flight that usually come wrapped in single-use plastic.

18. Get a Scrubba!

A Scrubba is a small, lightweight, and portable washing machine that you can bring along to your travels. A Scrubba comes in a “bag-like” form that allows you to fill it up with water and do your laundry with minimal fuss.

It is a very convenient gadget that will allow you to use little water and soap if you do some laundry. With this device, you will not waste a lot of water. In addition, you can save a lot of money by cutting down on the cost of having to get your laundry done at a laundromat.

19. Carrying your towels to the hotel or Airbnb home

Bringing essential items like towels from home to your destination will help you minimize water wastage. You can use your towels for a couple of days before you need to wash them. Hotels, however, will provide you with towel changes every day, contributing to the wastage of water by doing laundry frequently.

20. Turning off all electricity-powered devices when you are not using them

This is an excellent technique that will help you to cut down on electricity costs. Unplugging electric devices and turning them off conserve energy. Electricity usually comes from non-renewable resources.

What You Should Pack for Zero Waste Travel (Low Waste Travel Essentials)

Some low waste travel essentials that you should add to create little to no trash on the road include:

1. Compostable toothbrush

Bamboo toothbrushes are great examples of compostable toothbrushes whose bristles may be made of tapioca and corn. You can compost the bristles and use the bamboo handle for other activities.

2. Reusable grocery bag/mesh or cloth bag

Cloth or mesh bags present an excellent alternative for carrying your snacks and any fruits or vegetables you may have purchased while on the road.

3. Dark-colored handkerchief

A handkerchief, preferably of a dark color, allows you to use it several times before washing it. This helps you conserve water. You will also save the money that you would have spent on the soap. 

4. Soap and shampoo bars

Soap and shampoos are easier to travel with and will assist you to travel light. In addition, the liquid soaps may leak while you are on the road and cause a lot of wastage. Liquid soaps usually come in plastic bottles that people toss away when the soap is finished. Moreover, soap and shampoo bars last relatively longer than liquid soaps. This reduces the frequency with which you’ll buy soap.

5. Menstrual cups (for the ladies)

A reusable menstrual cup is a life-saver for ladies. It is convenient and will save you the headaches of looking for where to dispose of tampons.

6. Packed snacks in a Mason jar

Mason jars eliminate the dependency on single-use plastics. They can carry produce from the grocery store, snacks from home for eating during your trip, etc. These are versatile jars that will allow you to store your edibles all through your journey.

7. Minimalist clothing/capsule wardrobe

A capsule wardrobe is characterized by the essential clothes that you wish to carry for your trip. You can wear these several times before you have to wash them. Furthermore, you can mix and match these clothing items (trousers, shorts, shirts, and blouses) to create different outfits during a trip.  With these minimalist clothes, you will not have to carry a suitcase full of clothes when you can use a few items to get different outfits during your trip.

8. Reusable makeup remover wipes

Reusable makeup remover wipes will ensure that you can use your wipes severally before having to toss them away. This allows you to reduce waste from accumulation in your waste bins.

Why You Should Do Zero Waste Travel

  1. Zero waste traveling is a necessary endeavor that aims at minimizing the possible negative impacts of traveling. It reduces harmful emissions in our atmosphere and results in a ‘healthier atmosphere.
  2. Zero waste traveling results in substantial cost savings through reusing products and minimizing purchases.
  3. Zero waste travel creates more jobs. In addition, it advocates for the use of reusable products. Many businesses have taken advantage of this opportunity to produce reusable products like mesh bags, compostable toothbrushes, and other eco-friendly travel items. 
  4. Zero waste traveling encourages making and packing your food from home. It reduces the chances that you will buy takeout food like fast food. Consuming fast foods less frequently promotes a healthier lifestyle.


While a zero-waste travel experience might not be 100% possible, there are easy ways to reduce waste, as you have read. Practice them regularly for more responsible and enjoyable travels that assist in creating a more sustainable environment.

Check this article out to learn about removing nail polish in a Zero-Waste way.