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Zero Waste Travel: The Most Effective Tips You’ll Need

Zero Waste Travel: The Most Effective Tips You’ll Need

It's no secret that airplanes aren't great for the environment. So zero waste travel becomes a bit more tricky when you factor in the carbon emissions from planes. Not to mention all of the opportunities single use plastic has to come into your life while travelling.

Did you know?

Worldwide, flights produced 895 million tonnes of CO2 in 2018. Globally, humans produced over 42 billion tonnes of CO2.

Air Transport Action Group

How to travel zero waste, the bottom line

Travelling zero waste doesn't have to be difficult. To travel zero waste, consciously plan your trip by writing down everything you'll need. Start with the flight: Pack a meal for your flight at home, and put it in your check bag. Avoid buying single use plastic by bringing an empty reusable drink bottle and filling it up after you're through security. You can also offset your carbon emissions on your flight when you're buying your tickets online. After a successful zero waste flight, the rest of your trip will be a piece of cake. Let's dig a little deeper and find a list of the most effective zero waste travel tips for your vacation.

Zero waste travel tips

Offset your carbon emissions when you book your flight online

Carbon offsetting is a little known way people can reduce their emissions. I didn't even know it was a thing until I did some digging for this blog post!

So what is carbon offsetting? Carbon offsetting is a program that some air travel companies have to help reduce emissions. You pay extra, and they plant trees or help the environment in some way.

Unfortunately, greed is a thing. Some of these carbon offsetting programs are greenwashing programs. Some air travel companies will charge extra and make a profit if you want to help the environment and pay for the offset emissions option.

Luckily for us, I came across this awesome blog post about carbon offsetting. Lucy from "On the Luce" says:

Among the airlines which are doing good things with carbon offsets are Qantas whose Future Planet scheme claims to be the largest airline offsetter. Their projects uses a mix of reforestation, forest protection and renewable energy projects – plus they offset their own staff travel. Other verified schemes include Air Canada’s work with Less Emissions, Brussels Airlines with CO2 Logic, KLM’s CO2ZERO and Austrian Airlines with Carbon Austria.

Lucy, On the Luce Travel Blog

Lucy answers pretty much any question you can think of in her blog post on carbon offsetting, so be sure to check it out!

Look for other ways to travel besides by plane

Travelling by train, boat (besides cruise ships) or even a car is 'better' for the environment than travelling by plane. I say it's 'better' because either way travelling emits quite a bit of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

If you want to check out your options besides flying, take a look at Just plug in where you are and where you want to go, Rome2Rio will come up with all of your transportation options.

Pack a zero waste toiletry bag

Packing a zero waste toiletry bag is pretty simple, there's really only 5 main zero waste travel esentials you'll need:

  • Bamboo toothbrush
  • Zero waste toothpaste
  • Zero waste deodorant
  • Silk floss or a Waterpik
Zero waste toiletry kit

Bamboo Toothbrushes

Bamboo toothbrushes are pretty easy to find. You can pick these up at grocery stores, zero waste stores, or online (try to buy locally before you purchase online to avoid transportation emissions).

Zero Waste Toothbrushes

Zero waste toothpaste can be found at a zero waste store, online, or you can make it yourself!

If you want to make toothpaste yourself, check out Lauren's awesome blog post and video on how to make zero waste toothpaste! (It's really simple).

Zero Waste Deodorant

Zero waste deodorant can also be found at a zero waste shop. I picked mine up a few months ago and there's still lots left! Although it definitely should last me awhile I spent $18 on it!

Besides the price tag, everything is good about the zero waste deodorant I got. It's locally made, has biodegradable packaging, it's vegan, and it smells amazing!

If you're wondering, the deodorant I picked up is by Glowing Orchard Organics. Thinking about getting zero waste deodorant? I recommend your first check out your local zero waste store to see if you have any locally made options. If you're from British Columbia, then Glowing Orchard Organics is local for you! (It's from Chilliwack).

Silk Floss / Waterpiks

Silk floss and Waterpiks are both widely available. You can find silk floss in health stores like whole foods across the UK and America. Waterpiks are also widely available, you can even find one at your local Walmart.

Turn your home off before leaving

Before you leaving to catch your flight, go through each room of your home and make sure everything is off and unplugged.

If you read my blog post "23 Most Effective Tactics to Reduce Waste at Home," you'll know why I say to unplug your electronics, even if they're turned off.

Unless you have energy saving outlets that don't draw excess electricity, your plugged in electronics will still draw electricity.

"According to the US Department of Energy, 75% of the electricity used to power home appliances is consumed when they are turned off."

Go paperless when boarding your flight

Going paperless has never been easier. All you have to do is book your flight online, and have your boarding pass emailed to you (it usually does this automatically).

You can just use the digital boarding pass to board your flight! Just make sure when you check-in you specify you're okay with using your digital boarding pass and that you don't want a paper pass.

Sometimes people jump the gun and print a boarding pass automatically for you, so that's why it's good to ask for no physical boarding pass.

Prepare for a plastic-free flight

A lot of the time I find myself in a daze at the airport. For me flights are usually pretty stressful (with all the traffic on the way there, then the long lines), so paying attention to what I'm bringing on the flight is the last thing I'm thinking about.

For those of you who are like me, it's best to plan ahead.

So the day before I fly I like to check off a couple things I'll need on the flight there. Here's what I have in my mental checklist for my zero waste travel essentials:

  • An empty water bottle (so you don't have to pour it out at security)
  • An empty coffee cup
  • Entertainment (Like downloading a few episodes or a movie from Netflix)
  • Earphones or headphones
  • Sustainable snacks

Packing sustainable snacks

If you really wanted to treat yourself, you could grab a reusable container and head to a grocery store with a bulk section, or a bulk food store.

There's so many snacks that are perfect for a flight. There's nothing better to pass the time than movies and salty snacks in bulk.

Pack the container in your carry-on bag and you're ready for a zero waste flight!

Try staying at an Airbnb instead of a hotel

This might seem like a weird tip, but hear me out...

At a hotel, a lot of them still use plastic packaged toiletries. You know, the tiny bottles of soap and shampoo? Once you're finished your stay, a lot of the time hotels will throw the toiletries away so the new guests have a fresh set of shampoo and soap.

If you stay at an airbnb, you can buy a bar of soap (if the Airbnb doesn't have one) so you can avoid the packaging waste.

Another reason to avoid hotels is the amount of water they use.

Fortunately, a lot of hotels now have water-saving initiatives. But even with those initiatives they still use a ton of water. Washing sheets is a large part of that, National Geographic said that laundry operations make up 16 percent of hotels' water usage.

By staying at an Airbnb, you control how often you need to wash your sheets.

Zero waste grocery shopping on vacation

Zero waste shopping on vacation is the same process as zero waste grocery shopping at home. If you haven't already, check out my recent blog post "How to Go Zero Waste for Beginners (Quick and Easy)."

zero waste flight kit

These are the basics for zero waste grocery shopping:

  • Bring a reusable shopping bag and produce bag
  • Shop the bulk section of the grocery store for coffee, rice, popcorn, etc.
  • Choose naked produce over plastic wrapped produce
  • Go for tin cans over plastic packaging

Here's a fun idea that you can use when grocery shopping when you're traveling:

If you don't have many reusable grocery bags, buy one every time you travel to a different place until you have what you think is enough.

Eventually, you'll have a collection of reusable grocery bags that will spark memories from your travels every time you shop!

I don't do this for two reasons. First, I just thought of this now. Second, I have way too many reusable bags.


Travelling zero waste doesn't have to be difficult, and I hope these zero waste travel tips showed you that!

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