In a perfect world, it would be possible to travel without producing any waste or carbon emissions. We love traveling but have definitely been more careful as to HOW we travel since becoming more conscious of the environmental impact.
PACK LIGHT AND PACK SMART
How much do you REALLY need for your trip? I recall when year’s ago I would always have to weigh my luggage to make sure I wouldn’t go over the limit. Now with three kids and being significantly more conscious of my environmental impact, I’m able to easily fit our family’s needs in significantly less luggage. Traveling light is so much more relaxing!
The more weight an airplane holds, the more fuel it needs to use, resulting in increased carbon emissions. Here’s some tips on how to pack light and smart:
- Bring your own bottle (and travel tumbler if needed). This one is essential in reducing countless water bottles and coffee cups that would otherwise be used once and thrown away.
- If you’re concerned about water quality, consider bringing a travel water filtration system with you or iodine drops (depending on water quality). Remember, tap water in Italy is clean and safe!
- Think of what you will be doing and whether you have clothes that serve multiple purposes and bring layering items good for changes in weather.
- Pick neutral colors that go well together. And resist the urge to pack everything just to have options!
- Plan to wash your clothes. TruEarth laundry strips are great for washing clothes while traveling. They take up next to no space and are super light. Just pack a few strips and you can hand wash or machine wash to be able to repeat outfits.
- Pack reusable menstrual products such as menstrual cup, washable pads and menstrual underwear. If you haven’t made the switch yet, you’ll really appreciate the reduction in waste during travel!
- Bring a small towel around with you to dry your hands on the go when out in restaurants etc. to avoid the use of paper towels.
- Avoid hotel samples and travel size toiletries: These are generally single use and full of plastic. Bring your own soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, shampoo, and avoid the waste of the travel versions.
- Pack solid toiletries: Solid shampoo, toothpaste tablets, solid lotion, solid soap bars – all wonderful travel companions. Pack in glass or metal containers or wrap in a bee bee wrap to avoid a mess.
- Bring you own silverware – If traveling not by air, you can just bring normal silverware and a cloth napkin (and a straw if needed). When traveling by plane, it’s better to opt for bamboo options as metal is usually not allowed.
- Shop in bulk – Check where the nearest local markets and bulk shops are in your destination city and bring your bags and containers to be prepared for shopping. Those good zero waste habits don’t have to stop while traveling!
TRANSPORTATION AND CARBON OFFSETS
One of the (welcome!) side effects of COVID has been a significant reduction in travel, and more local rather than long-distance travel. We’re forced to rediscover the hidden gems our own areas hold for us! But there are of course situations when longer distance travel is necessary. For example, I’m from California, and while we rarely visit, the occasional trip to see family is a treat.
When you do choose/or need to travel, it’s best to opt for train or car over airplane travel. When traveling by airplane, try to book direct flights to reduce emissions as the most fuel is emitted during take-off and landing. Less flights = less fuel emissions.
Carbon offset – in order to offset the remissions of your air travel, many airlines now offer you to purchase carbon offsets based on the emissions of your flight, often directly during the booking process. Alternatively, Swiss not-for-profit My Climate, allows you to calculate your emissions and choose between a range of climate protection projects based on the carbon footprint of your next flight, road trip and more.
WHERE TO STAY
Choosing a self-catering option such as an apartment or ecobnb rather than a hotel, allows you the flexibility to do laundry (less clothes to pack), cook from home (less waste from restaurants) and recycle properly. If you do stay in a hotel, ask them not to change the sheets and towels every day to reduce the impact of laundry. Some hotels even provide rewards points when this option is chosen.
Do airplanes really recycle all the trash produced? I hope so, but it’s hard to know for sure. When traveling by plane, pack your own meals and snacks (allowed as long as they are not liquids!). Don’t forget to bring your own bamboo silverware or spork.
While traveling, why not participate in a beach clean up (or organize your own!), get a free kayak rental while picking up trash, or one of the many volunteer opportunities available while traveling. A quick search will show you a vast array of volunteer opportunities in every part of the world.
What are your favorite zero waste travel essentials?