16 Quick Tips to Reduce Waste While Traveling

Photo by Dustan Woodhouse on Unsplash

Traveling tends to lead to A LOT of waste. Even people who are typically eco-conscious at home have trouble reducing their waste while traveling.

This is because, as tourists, we’re constantly surrounded by single-use items and disposable items for convenience. A lot of it seems to be out of our control (we have no say in what restaurants, hotels, attractions, airlines, etc. do, right?), so we don’t even think about it or second-guess our wasteful tendencies on the road.

The truth is, as travelers we can do a lot more than we think when it comes to reducing waste. We just have to:

    • Be aware of where we are creating waste
    • Make the choice to reduce that waste
    • And be prepared with the right items before we go

Being a responsible traveler and promoting sustainable travel goes way beyond reducing our waste and plastic usage, but this post is solely focused on this aspect (i.e. creating less trash and avoiding disposable items).

So here are some quick tips to help you reduce waste while traveling.

Note: A lot of these tips do include purchasing reusable items to pack with you on your trip. If you don’t travel frequently, it might seem like a lot to buy, but most items are just as useful at home as they are while traveling.

16 tips to reduce waste while traveling

How to Reduce Waste While Traveling

    1. No Plastic Water Bottles Always bring a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated. If you have your own with you at all times, you won’t have to buy disposable bottles of water. You can fill up your bottle at airports, hotels, attractions, restaurants, etc. throughout the day. (Note: in some places, water is not safe to drink, which makes it difficult to avoid bottled water. A reusable bottle with a built-in filter can help with this.)
    2. Don’t Use Hotel Toiletries Pack your own toiletries in reusable bottles (I like GoToob). Don’t use the single-use toiletries that hotels provide. It’s a lot of plastic! And for that matter, don’t take extras home with you if you didn’t use them. (Tip: Try to keep the toiletries arranged as they were when you arrived so housekeeping can easily tell you didn’t use them, so they can keep them for the next guests.)
    3. Skip the Takeaway Coffee Cups If you’re a coffee drinker like me, pack a reusable coffee cup to fill up at your hotel, on flights, or to get a cup of coffee to go at coffee shops. If you have time to sit at the cafe, ask for a regular mug.
    4. Choose Tap Water When ordering water at restaurants, specify tap water (if the water is potable in your destination, of course). If you don’t specify, they might give you bottled water by default.
    5. Pack Your Snacks Pack any travel snacks in reusable snack bags instead of using plastic bags or individually wrapped snacks. Bringing your own snacks will stop you from having to buy heavily-packaged snacks at the airport, etc.
    6. Don’t Use Plastic Utensils Bring your own eating utensils (like this bamboo set) on the road. They’re small enough to pack on any trip, and it means you won’t need to use the plastic utensils that some restaurants provide.
    7. Bring a Reusable Straw If you use straws, carry a reusable one with you to replace plastic ones. (Tip: When ordering drinks, make sure you ask for no straw or you might end up with one unexpectedly.)
    8. Say No to the Plastic Cups on Flights If you have your reusable water bottle and/or coffee cup, ask flight attendants to fill those up for you instead of using the plastic cups they provide for drinks. (Tip: Have your cup ready to fill, lid off, when they come around for beverage service.)
    9. Skip In-Flight Meals Pack your own food for flights in reusable containers. In-flight meals and snacks are a huge source of waste, so just skip them. (Note: Some flights may not be able to save/re-use uneaten meals, which make this point useless. But at the very least, avoid the packaged snacks and plastic cups.)
    10. Reusable Bags and Totes Carry a reusable bag (I love these little Baggu bags that easily fold up) with you in case you do any shopping or pick up necessities while you’re out and about. They also come in handy when you need a little extra space for your stuff, or just want to take a few things with you for the day.
    11. Don’t Take Brochures If You Don’t Use Them Instead of taking those paper brochures/maps/etc. from attractions, take a picture if you want the info, or return it after heading through the attraction (if it’s in good condition). These things usually get thrown out by visitors anyways, and attractions have to constantly replace them and print more. If you know you won’t use it, don’t take it. (Tip: If you’re in a group, just take one map. Don’t get an individual one for each person when it’s unnecessary.)
    12. Avoid Takeaway Packaging Sit and eat at restaurants/cafes instead of grabbing food to-go. Bags and takeaway packaging just goes to waste, and there tends to be a lot of it. (Tip: If you do want takeaway food, don’t take any plastic utensils; just use the ones you brought with you.)
    13. Reusable Makeup Wipes Instead of using regular makeup wipes, try these reusable makeup remover pads. You can remove your makeup, throw them into a separate bag, and wash them when you get home or hand wash them in the sink as you go.
    14. Get Packing Cubes If you’re one of those people that packs using plastic bags…just invest in packing cubes. There are inexpensive options, you can use them on every trip, and they make organizing your suitcase a lot easier.
    15. Cook Your Own Meals Staying in accommodation with a kitchen means you can cook your own food, store leftovers, and prepare snacks for the day in those reusable snack bags you brought. This lets you skip all the high-waste restaurants while you’re out.
    16. Zero-Waste Toiletries Using solid toiletries and packaging-free toiletries can help you reduce packaging waste, plus bringing them means you won’t need to use the hotel toiletries.

I’m not here to act like I’m perfect and do all of these things, every time I travel. I still have trouble with some of these things (for example, I drink a lot of coffee while traveling and I don’t always have a cup with me).

The point of a list like this is to help us all be more mindful of what we’re using and what we’re wasting while traveling. Sometimes you just don’t realize it until you sit and think about it. But once you take notice of where you can make changes, it becomes easier to start making those improvements.

I know being eco-friendly isn’t always top of mind while on vacation, but the more you make small changes, the more easy it is to keep doing in the future. And most of these things can be implemented at home too!

Reduce Waste with These Reusable Items

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Tell Travel Companies You Care About Sustainability

Earlier I said that we don’t seem to have any say in what travel providers/airlines/hotels/etc. do regarding waste, recycling, and being eco-conscious. The truth is that as tourists, we DO have a say. By choosing to give your money to businesses that implement sustainable practices, you are reinforcing the idea that it is important and worthwhile to them to continue doing so.

You can also leave notes and reviews, or even email companies directly, after doing business with them to let them know it’s important. So if you stay in a hotel and notice there is a lot of waste going on, let them know that you’d like to see some changes before staying with them in the future.

The more people that make demands for these changes, the more companies will be forced to listen.

What are your tips to reduce waste while traveling? Share your ideas in the comments below!

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Disclaimer: Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. By purchasing through these links, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Travel Daze is also a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Images sourced via Unsplash.com

By Courtney Minor

Wandering around and writing about it.

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