Living a zero-waste lifestyle is one thing, but reducing waste while traveling is another. Travelers often rely on disposable products for convenience. Instead of lugging around dozens of reusable containers and tumblers, most opt for cheap, disposable items they can easily discard.
However, single-use products hurt the environment. Even seemingly small and insignificant items like disposable razors contribute to the planet’s growing plastic waste problem. In America, over two billion razors end up in landfills per annum. Imagine how much space all that rubbish consumes, plus the time they take to decompose.
Is it possible to travel light while reducing waste? Of course! Contrary to popular belief, eco-friendly trips don’t entail several heavy bags loaded with reusable items. You can narrow down your zero-waste travel kit to these top three essentials:
Reusable Cotton and Paper Products
Most people don’t realize how much single-use paper and cotton they use daily. For instance, Americans have become so reliant on toilet paper that each individual goes through about 20,000 sheets per year. This lifestyle only adds waste to our landfills:
If you want to travel sustainably, you’ll have to rely less on these single-use items:
- Paper Towels: Carry a few face towels with you on your trip. Use these in place of paper towels to dry your hands, remove sweat, or wipe your mouth while eating. For a comfortable experience, we recommend the microfiber towels from Sinland. Their soft, super-absorbent clothes are gentle on the skin.
- Toilet Paper: Surprisingly, 75% of the global population doesn’t use toilet paper to clean their bottoms—they use soap and water. The practice might seem unusual to Westerners, but it’s actually more eco-friendly and hygienic. Solely wiping with toilet paper doesn’t clean your bottom correctly. To minimize the need for toilet paper, stay in hotels with built-in toilet bidets.
- Cotton Pads: Cotton rounds allow you to wipe off makeup and apply skincare products conveniently. However, they also contribute to the global waste problem. On average, a single person uses around three pads a day—exceeding over 1,000 per annum. Instead, opt for LastObject’s reusable makeup remover pads. You can wash and reuse each round 250 times, so a pack of seven already replaces 1,700+ disposable rounds.
Reusable Food and Drink Containers
Foreign restaurants have different servings, so tourists often end up accidentally ordering more than they want. The staff to wrap up your leftovers prevents food waste, but takeout often comes in plastic or styrofoam food containers.
If you don’t want to use the restaurant’s disposable goods, pack your own:
- Food Container: Pack your leftovers in Utopia Kitchen’s food containers. These glass, microwave-safe containers will keep your food fresh for hours on end.
- Tumbler: The next time you order drinks to-go, ask the barista to use your refillable tumbler. Try the skinny tumbler from the Stonechic store. It has a vacuum-sealed lid, insulated interior, and compact design.
- Reusable Tote Bag: Most restaurants use paper or plastic bags, so bring your own bags. We recommend the printed bags from the Juvale store. They have versatile, minimalist designs suited for an array of situations, from quick grocery runs to mini-shopping sprees.
Pro Tip: Avoid leftovers as much as possible. American households produce 150,000 tons of food waste daily; ordering more than you can finish only adds to the problem.
Bars of Shampoo, Soap, and Cologne
The small tubes of soap and shampoo in hotel rooms might not seem like much, but they worsen the planet’s plastic waste problem. Longitudinal research by the Starwood Hotels and Resorts group shows that its partner establishments waste over 82,700 pounds of plastic on toiletries. Just imagine how many millions of tubes all the hotels in the country use.
To help minimize the issue, opt out of using bottled soap and shampoo. Leave these items alone. That way, the next room occupants can use them if they want—or leave them alone as well.
Soap bars are pretty standard, so you will not have trouble finding a suitable option for your trip. However, shampoo bars might prove challenging to find. While dozens of brands offer these hair products, these options might cause itching, rashes, or dandruff buildup. The hair is susceptible to damage, after all.
To ensure that you find shampoo and conditioner bars that suit your preferences, try Ethique. They carry a wide range of hair products. Whether you have an itchy scalp or greasy hair, Ethique has the ideal bar shampoo for you.
Zero-waste Traveling Made Easy!
Social media influencers manipulate the market with seemingly eco-friendly trends like reusable straws and cute coffee tumblers. However, seasoned environmentally conscious travelers understand that “zero-waste” goes beyond trends.
The key to reducing waste while traveling is to make mindful, conscious decisions. Carrying a water bottle around, using a toilet bidet, packing bars of soap, and bringing a few reusable bags, among other small habits, positively impact the environment. Strive for consistency.
Also, don’t rush into the process. Your next trip doesn’t have to be 100% sustainable, zero-waste right away. Start by incorporating easy, feasible changes first. Once you get the hang of things, opt to take on more radical activities like participating in overseas cleanup drives or camping overnight instead of staying in a hotel.