Mallory is my go-to lady on living sustainably and generally treating the environment better. I asked her if she wouldn’t mind writing posts on traveling more sustainably, and she kindly obliged! Her first post is on easy ways to reduce waste while traveling.
So, we all know how we can minimize our waste when we’re at home – remembering to take our reusable bags to the grocery store, buying in bulk, avoiding plastic whenever we can – but what about when we’re traveling? Travel tends to invite disposable food containers, plastic water bottles and utensils, and wrappers that encase sweet, nutty energy bars (that I so look forward to eating) into landfills. I get it, they’re convenient, but they’re not exactly the most sustainable, eco-friendly options. When we travel, we’re already emitting carbon dioxide into the air, making it hard for Mother Nature to breathe, so let’s cut her a break by minimizing our waste in other ways, shall we?
I’ve compiled a few ways that you can reduce your waste while you’re out exploring the world! It’s a hefty list, so don’t get overwhelmed and think that you need to implement every last suggestion into your travel habits. Try one or two at first, knowing that you’re doing the earth so much good with even the smallest change, and then maybe add another each time you get bit by the travel bug and whisk off to somewhere new. But hey, if you’re feeling ambitious and want to jump right into a minimal waste travel lifestyle, then by all means, go for it!
How to Reduce Waste While Traveling
1. Pack your own food in reusable containers.
While this might seem like a pain in the booty when you’ve got loads of other things to pack for your travels, just think about all of the fast food and takeout waste that you’ll reduce by preparing your own meals and snacks. Not only that, but you can have all of your favorite foods while you’re away from home. Some of my favorite things to take along with me are hand fruits, vegetable sticks, nuts and seeds, roasted chickpeas, and energy balls (try this recipe from Deliciously Ella). Get creative and take whatever personally satisfies you! I tend to carry my reusable water bottle with me everywhere I go, and most restaurants and cafes are happy to refill it for you.
As for reusable containers, Tupperware works just fine, but if you want to invest in some stainless steel containers, water bottles, and cute, canvas tote bags, take a look at Life Without Plastic and The Pepper Mill Shop.
2. Take care of yourself (and the earth) with eco-friendly toiletries.
Disposable razors, shampoo bottles, plastic toothbrushes – all of our favorite self-care and beauty products are made from or packaged in non-biodegradable materials like plastic, which we all know are a huge burden to landfills. While you can choose to recycle your empty bottles rather than toss them in the trash can, plastic can only be recycled once before it’s sent off to the landfill anyway, so why don’t we just avoid that altogether by finding a minimal waste alternative? Give these sustainable swaps a try:
- Preserve recycled razors and toothbrushes
- Brush with Bamboo bamboo toothbrushes
- Safety Razor
- GoToob squeeze travel bottles (fill these bad boys up with shampoo, conditioner, etc. instead of buying new travel-size products for each plane trip)
- Menstrual cups by The Diva Cup® or mooncup®
- Bar soaps sans plastic! You can grab these at your local health food store or Whole Foods (I like Grandpa’s Soap Co. because they have a different kind for nearly every skin type)
3. Consider utilizing public transport.
Walking is ideal, but I understand that you’re not always going to be in a pedestrian-friendly area, or maybe your destination is just a bit too far to travel to on foot. Try to use public transport services as much as you can as its impact on the environment is considerably less harmful than private transport.
Try skipping the Uber ride once in a while and rent a bike on a nice day, take the bus, or ride the subway. Using these methods of transportation is also a fun way to get to know the place you’re visiting. You never know what neat places and attractions you’ll stumble upon while navigating your way around.
4. Support restaurants that use ethical practices.
Okay, I’m about to be that annoying vegan, but please don’t run away. Just hear me out. I know, no one likes to be told to change their diet, but if you’re looking to reduce your carbon footprint, then you’ll want to be more conscious of your food choices.
Animal agriculture is a huge contributor to environmental issues, including climate change. Meat and dairy production emits loads of greenhouse gases, uses an immense amount of water, contributes to deforestation due to the demand for land for farming, and so on. You can take my word for it, or you can read about it here, here, and here.
If you’d rather listen to your facts then read them, I’d recommend watching the documentary Cowspiracy. Now I’m not saying that you need to go vegan overnight, nor am I saying that you need to adopt vegetarianism, but at the very least, you should aim to reduce your consumption of meat, and consume sustainably and ethically produced meat and dairy products. Peruse Happy Cow to find some cruelty-free, environmentally friendly food options, or download the app. It costs $3.99, but I use it all the time, and I’ve even discovered some new dining options in my hometown.
5. Explore the local farmers market.
Even if this weren’t a minimal waste hack, I would recommend doing this. Farmers markets are just plain wonderful what with their abundance of fresh produce, enticing baked goods, handmade beauty products, and bright flowers. But focusing on their sustainability perks, we love farmers markets because everything is local. The great thing about local products is that it doesn’t have to travel far to be accessible by consumers, which means that there are less CO₂ emissions, which means less pollution! Not to mention you’re supporting small, local businesses. Everyone wins! So go treat yourself to a loaf of bread or a bouquet of wildflowers – you deserve it, you minimal waste queen (or king).
6. Aim to shop ethically.
If you find yourself needing a little retail therapy while on your trip, I urge you to support companies that are committed to ethical, sustainable practices.
I recently downloaded an app called Good On You, which rates brands based on their practices and how they impact their workers, the environment, and animals. You can search by brand or category, get the ethical lowdown on all your favorite brands, and find new brands to support in the process. Overall, the idea here is to avoid fast fashion, which produces heaps of waste and exploits its workers (read about it more in depth here). Go ahead and get your shop on, but try to do it thoughtfully.
Like I said, while this list might feeling overwhelming, you don’t have to make all of these changes at once. Any effort that you make to reduce your waste while traveling and being sustainable overall is fantastic. Small changes add up to a big, positive impact, so do the best you can and have fun with it.
If you can think of some other eco-friendly hacks and ways to reduce waste while traveling, please share with us and your fellow readers. We’d love to hear what you’ve come up with!
For More Travel Tips
- Maintaining Long-Distance Friendships
- 10 Things to Do Before Vacation
- How to Be a Mindful Traveler
- Post Travel Detox
- A Logistical Guide to Planning a Trip
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**Feature photo by Caroline Sada