7 Essential Items For Zero Waste Travel

Practicing a zero waste lifestyle at home is one thing, but as soon as you leave that comfort and predictability to go on a trip, it becomes a lot more complicated. Air travel, in particular, is a wasteful industry (not to mention the carbon footprint), with vast quantities of disposable cups, food service items, utensils, head phones, and single-use water bottles getting tossed.

If you must travel by plane, then learn a few key ways in which to reduce the amount of personal trash you generate. (It offsets the guilt ever so slightly…) What follows is my list of must-haves, shaped by my own experiences and helpful lists made by Bea Johnson of the Zero Waste Home and Ariana Schwartz of Paris To Go.


This is an obvious one when traveling to countries with potable tap water; but if you’re going further afield, look for a filtering water bottle. (Check out Camelbak, Aqua Pure Traveler, Katadyn BeFree.)


Depending on how much space you’ve got and what kind of trip it is, consider taking an insulated coffee mug or a Thermos along. A glass Mason jar does a good job at carrying snacks on the plane, and can be repurposed into a drinking mug afterwards.


Food at the airport is prohibitively expensive. Food on the plane is crummy and over-packaged and can cost a lot, depending on the airline. Bring your own food from home in reusable containers or cloth drawstring bags that will be useful for making food purchases during your trip. Pack cutlery, too.


Say no to the handouts, free or not, that will inevitably come your way. Travel with head phones, ear plugs, mask (I like using my big stretchy Kooshoo headband over my eyes), neck pillow, and a reusable straw, if that’s your thing.


I can’t say enough good things about my Diva cup, which goes everywhere with me. Read more about it here.


Always take a scarf on a trip! It can transform into so many different things, from a pillow to a blanket to a mask to a warm fashion accessory. A handkerchief eliminates the need for tissues and can double as a napkin. (Who doesn’t love a multi-purpose piece of cloth?)


Bea Johnson carries a small jar of baking soda, which she uses as toothpaste, facial exfoliant, dry shampoo, and as treatment for heartburn. Her homemade metal tin of lip balm can also hydrate skin and smooth hair in a pinch. Ariana Schwarz recommends using your own refillable travel-sized shampoo bottles to avoid disposables. I always like to have a bar of soap in a holder.


– Travel with carry-on only, if your trip is under three weeks in length. The less weight on a plane, the better from an environmental standpoint; plus you’ll be able to move more freely.

– Use a soft carry-on bag that allows you to squeeze it into tight overhead compartments. I prefer one with backpack straps for ease of mobility.

– Focus on packing minimally. Check out some of the capsule wardrobe challenges online to figure out how to reduce the amount of stuff you take. Roll clothes to save space and reduce wrinkles.

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