Last Updated on January 14, 2021 by Nina Ahmedow
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We all know that the travel lifestyle in and of itself is not very sustainable. However, I do believe that we all have our “weak spots” and rather than denying ourselves those things it’s much better to look for ways to minimize our impact on the planet when we do them. That’s why I created this list of very easy to follow zero waste and minimalist travel tips.
As many of you know, going vegan is the single best thing you can do for the planet, so don’t let anyone tell you that “if you care so much about the environment you shouldn’t travel.” People who say those things are usually the ones who do absolutely nothing to reduce their ecological footprint.
At the end of the day, the real issue is the system that is in place. Blaming individuals will not change the big picture. So keep doing what you love, but try to minimize the damage that big companies cause in your name.
In order to help you with that, here are my zero waste and minimalist travel tips.
The Best Zero Waste and Minimalist Travel Tips
1. Pack Light
Let’s start these zero waste and minimalist travel tips with the basics: Did you know that the lighter a plane is the less fuel it has to use? That means that if all passengers were to only bring a carry-on, fuel usage would be reduced dramatically.
But this is also an advantage for you. Erykah Badu was talking about emotional baggage in “Bag Lady” but the physical baggage slows us down as much. If you only have your two carry-on pieces with you you don’t have to wait at baggage claim saving you anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes. Not to mention the danger of losing your luggage.
So how do you pack light? I have some minimalist packing lists in the sustainable living section of my blog, but here are my main tips:
- If you’re traveling to warmer countries, bring lighter clothes
- Don’t pack for unrealistic scenarios: You will NOT spontaneously receive an invitation to a fancy wedding for which you need to pack. Likewise, if you never work out at home what makes you think you need to bring workout clothes on a trip? And if there’s no rain in the weather forecast, leave the umbrella and raincoat at home.
- Decant liquid cosmetics into smaller bottles. If you go on a short trip you don’t need entire bottles of face wash, body lotion, etc. And if you go on a long trip you might as well buy bigger items once you arrive.
- Travel is the time to use up those samples you receive at stores or events. While refusing unnecessary items (more on that later) is an important aspect of the minimalist and zero waste lifestyle, samples can actually be quite useful if you have them already.
- Use packing cubes. They really make it easier to fit everything in your carry-on luggage because you get to pack things more tightly.
2. Bring Tote Bags
You’re going to want to do some grocery and souvenir shopping at your destination. But that doesn’t mean you have to rely on plastic bags which are still very common in many countries. We all know by now how horrible the effects of plastic on the environment are. If you bring one or two tote bags with you you can completely go without plastic bags on your trip.
3. Try a Menstrual Cup
It may not be for everyone, but the menstrual cup is the most environmentally friendly menstrual hygiene product out there. It’s also small and takes up almost no space. And it’s helpful for those countries where your preferred menstrual hygiene product may not be available (tampons are difficult to get by in some countries).
4. Bring Solids Instead of Liquids
Here’s the thing: Soap, shampoo, shower gel, deodorants – all those products are largely based on water. This uses up a lot of the clean water that’s available on the planet. But the water in those products only serves to make them liquid. Why not try out shampoo and soap bars? They also last you much longer because you need far less of them as they’re entirely made up of the cleansing components you need.
5. Refuse Unnecessary Items
As I said before, refusing unnecessary items is a major aspect of minimalist and zero waste living. On planes, in hotels, or elsewhere people will try to offer you things such as information leaflets or toothbrushes that you already have. Unless you are actually going to put them to use simply refuse them.
The same is true for plastic straws for drinks. Able-bodied people don’t need straws in order to drink their juices, smoothies, or other drinks. Simply refuse the straw. But don’t be quick to judge other people who do use a straw. They may have a disability that makes straws absolutely necessary for them!
On the other hand, if you simply enjoy the idea of drinking with straws, there are beautiful stainless steel straws that you can take on all your trips.
6. Bring a Water Bottle
This one is tricky, and I’ve never actually done it myself because water bottles take up space. However, if you manage to fit a stainless steel bottle in your bag it’s an excellent way to reduce the waste you produce. Many regions have excellent tap water, and you won’t need to spend money on plastic water bottles. In cities like Rome, you can find fountains all over the city to fill up your bottle. An easy way to stay hydrated, save money, and reduce the amount of plastic waste on the planet.
7. Pack a Bamboo Cutlery Set
I eat out almost all of the time when I travel. And if the weather is particularly beautiful it’s an even better idea to get take-out and head to a park. If only that didn’t mean plastic cutlery. We only use plastic cutlery for a few minutes and then it goes in the trash. Luckily, there are now gorgeous cutlery sets made of bamboo. Bamboo is extremely sustainable and even has antibacterial properties!
The best thing about these cutlery sets is that they come with a piece of cutlery for every meal imaginable and with their own handkerchief and travel pouch.
So those are my seven zero waste and minimalist travel tips. I hope you find them useful. But remember not to beat yourself up if you don’t manage to follow all of them. There’s only so much you can do in a system that requires permanent growth which is in and of itself unsustainable. Make sure you also check out my tips for vegan travelers!
Do you have any other zero waste and minimalist travel tips? Have you tried anything that didn’t work for you at all? Let me know in the comments below.
Rose HahnOctober 11, 2019 at 10:24 pm
Great tips! I didn’t know there was such a thing as a shampoo bar. Now I’m curious to see how it works.
Nina | Lemons and LuggageOctober 12, 2019 at 12:07 pm
There are different brands that make them. They’re basically like soap bars. Look them up, they’re super handy!
Dreams AbroadOctober 11, 2019 at 10:35 pm
Packing lite is a must while traveling abroad. When I traveled to teach in Thailand I was super happy that I could find a majority of items I did not come within local shops. People also let me borrow some things too. Let me know what you think about my post!
Nina | Lemons and LuggageOctober 12, 2019 at 12:08 pm
Yes, you can usually find a lot of things at your destination – often at a cheaper price!
NilakshiOctober 11, 2019 at 10:53 pm
I love tote bags and water bottles are always with me. However, I have to work on packing light. Great tips 😇
Nina | Lemons and LuggageOctober 12, 2019 at 12:05 pm
So you’re already doing more than many other people. Great job!
Ana O'ReillyOctober 17, 2019 at 5:16 pm
Good tips. I carry a tote at home as well. However, hard pass on the menstrual cup.
Nina | Lemons and LuggageOctober 17, 2019 at 10:12 pm
Haha, not everything is for everyone, of course. 🙂