With an estimated 5 trillion pieces of plastic currently clogging up our oceans, it’s not hard to understand why the zero waste lifestyle has fast become the ultimate goal for the eco-conscious crowd. At home you can establish a composting routine, frequent a local farmer’s market armed with reusable bags, and perhaps even install a greywater system. But all of these habits require consistency, planning, and stability – which is exactly why the idea of zero waste travel sounds so intimidating.
First of all, a quick definition: zero waste travel is the practice or goal of eliminating any negative impact on the environment while travelling. This can influence how travellers pack for trips, consume while on the road, and move from place to place.
You could argue, at least for international travel, that zero waste travel is inherently impossible – unless you’ve got a sailboat, some incredible bicycle stamina, or a really great rail pass.
After all, the moment your plane lifts off or your bus pulls out of the station, you are contributing waste in the form of carbon emissions. But the rise of carbon offsets has given aspiring zero waste travellers reason to believe they can still see the world without contributing to its destruction. Add to this the increasingly accessible information about eco-friendly hotels and eateries in many parts of the world, as well as the growing number of zero waste travel productsavailable online, you start to realize: zero waste travel may not be an impossible dream after all.
What Does Zero Waste Mean?
Zero waste is a conservation strategy that ensures that all produced materials are either reused or consumed in a way that does no harm to the planet or those of us who inhabit it.
Governments and businesses have a responsibility to ensure that zero waste initiatives are created and achievable. We all play a crucial role in directing government and business through our consumer choices and advocacy.
One common approach to a zero-waste lifestyle is aiming to cut waste from landfills and oceans by avoiding single-use plastic items such as water bottles, utensils, or packing bags.
Making smart zero waste choices also involves looking at a product's design, manufacturing process, packaging, and supply chain.
The principles of zero waste are:
- Reuse as much as possible
- Reduce what we don’t need
- Recycle when appropriate
- Send nothing to landfills
Why Zero Waste Travel?
Zero waste travel aims for ethical, efficient, and conscious adventures without imposing any negative impacts on the planet. This practice is good for the environment, local economies, and communities.
According to Booking.com, more than half of all travellers want to travel more sustainably in the future.
Some of the benefits of reducing waste are:
- Supports local circular economy and creates job opportunities
- Reduces climate impact
- Conserves natural resources and minimizes pollution
- Reduces carbon footprint
- Increases self-sufficiency
- Limits toxic products
How To Plan For Zero Waste Travel
As you might imagine, a zero waste vacation requires significant planning upfront. Here are some steps to consider taking before embarking on your zero-waste trip.
Book Eco-Friendly Transit
Examples of green transportation methods include:
- Car sharing
- Green vehicles (hybrid and electric cars)
- Electric bikes
- Public transportation
- Rail transport
While travelling, it’s also essential to remain as paperless as possible. If your transit provider offers both electronic tickets and printed tickets… go with the electronic option!
Book An Eco-Friendly Stay
Choosing to stay in certified eco-friendly accommodations is one of the best ways to participate in zero waste travel. Whether exploring a big city or going off the beaten path, taking time to find hotels, hostels, or shared living spaces that embrace sustainability in their practices is an important step.
There are various ways to find eco-friendly accommodations. You can check for green certifications, reviews, rating systems, and any sustainability factors they share on their website. Some of the top certifications to look for include Gold Standard, LEED Certified, or Green Seal.
Tools such as Ecobnb, Ecohotels, Green Pearls, and Book Different offer eco-friendly options in many parts of the world. Though many global booking platforms have a ways to go in ensuring that all listed stays are sustainable, some are making responsible stays easier to find. For example, Booking.com now shows when properties employ sustainable practices.
Research Where You Can Find Farmer’s Markets and Zero Waste Food Stores
We know, we know – part of the joy of eating while travelling is the spontaneity of following your gut (literally) and stumbling on hidden gems. But to eat zero waste on the road, some planning will be necessary.
Research whether your destination has farmer’s markets and zero waste food stores. Buying locally produced goods, direct from a farmer can make travelling a richer and more authentic experience – and what better way to truly connect with a community than through its local markets?
When finding those markets a little research can go a long way. Look up what foods are indigenous to the area, what’s grown locally, and who sells them. Popular and plentiful local food items are likely to be less expensive, and you can choose the quantity you want.
Here’s a great tip for finding those local sellers: do your Google search in the language of your destination. It’s amazing how many small sustainable markets don’t show up if you search in English only. A quick Google Translate will help you with this. Social media platforms can be helpful here too: sustainable grocery shopping tips via Facebook Groups or other forums can direct you to great local sustainable grocery shops.
While eating and drinking on the road, it can be especially difficult to go plastic free. Fortunately, a Keepsie Kits sustainable travel kit can help you feel totally prepared!
Download Zero Waste Apps For Travellers
There are a number of zero waste apps, many with great tips to help us travel sustainably. Some of our favourites include:
Nviro is an intuitive eco-friendly travel app that raises awareness about climate change. With nviro, you can:
- Calculate your carbon footprint
- Search for places with minimal pollution
- Explore vegan restaurants
- Read the latest news about climate change
Available for both iOs and Android users, Geev is an advanced app designed to help you minimize food waste. Through Geev, you can donate food that you are not going to eat. You can also donate useful household items that you might have otherwise thrown away, or receive items from others in Geev’s community.
PlasticStore is a zero-waste dining app that aims to minimize food waste and single-use plastics at restaurants. Crowdsourced ratings make it easier to find responsible restaurants while incentivizing less eco-friendly restaurants to up their game.
Brightly is a comprehensive app for travellers, with info on green energy, sustainability, eco-friendly living, climate change, and more. It also helps you to connect with other eco-conscious individuals and sustainability groups.
Vegan Maps is an eco-friendly app that allows you to find vegan and vegetarian restaurants globally. With this app, you can be confident in choosing eco-friendly restaurants that match your zero-waste travel lifestyle.
EcoCRED is built to simplify sustainability by providing individuals with solutions to commit to eco-friendly habits. Through this app, you can support sustainable initiatives and lower your footprint.
How To Pack For Zero Waste Travel
In many parts of the world, it can be incredibly difficult to find multi-use, eco-friendly products. So the trick is to come prepared with a pack full of zero waste travel items. (Well, somewhat full – try to pack as light as possible if you plan to fly, as heavy gear can add to carbon emissions!)
Here are some of the best zero waste products for travel:
Zero Waste Toothpaste
Smile! An alternative to harmful toothpaste ingredients and packaging does exist, in the form of zero waste toothpaste. You can use natural toothpaste tablets while travelling, at home, or camping. These tablets are eco-friendly and vegan friendly and are made from fluoride and gluten-free materials ideal for your dental care. They are also packed in plastic-free tubes that do not pollute the environment.
Our favourite zero waste toothpaste: Keepsie Kits Spearmint Toothpaste Tablets
Zero Waste Toothbrush
Smile… even wider! While you’re at it, you can replace that plastic brush with an eco-friendly bamboo toothbrush that reduces harm to the environment.
Our favourite zero waste toothbrush: Keepsie Kits Bamboo Toothbrush
Zero Waste Water Bottle
It’s a no-brainer that plastic bottles contribute the most to landfill and ocean waste. The best way to curb this problem is by picking eco-friendly reusable water bottles that you can use numerous times.
Zero Waste Towel
At hotels especially, towels can contribute to massive amounts of wasted water when washed after a single use. So, why not bring your own? If only there were one that was lightweight, packable, and diverts dozens of single-use plastic bottles from landfill. Come to think of it…
Zero Waste Clothes
Zero waste fashion means any clothing made from sustainable textiles that generate minimal waste during production. Unlike fast fashion, zero waste fashion is all about a circular economy, reusing, utilizing materials to their full capacity, and producing no trash.
Zero Waste Laundry Detergent
Of course, that zero waste wardrobe still gets dirty! Eco-friendly laundry detergents are a great way to stay clean when travelling. Made from biodegradable, cruelty-free materials, they’re a sustainable alternative to more easily accessible detergents you’ll find at the average store.
Our favourite zero waste laundry detergent: Keepsie Eco-Strips Laundry Detergent
Zero Waste Travel Kit
The list of eco-friendly items worth packing could go on and on and on… so why not buy a eco-friendly travel kit that’ll have you covered with many of the items mentioned above, plus reusable food storage bags, bamboo cutlery sets, stainless steel silverware, and soft travel bottles for liquids and creams?
Our favourite travel kit: Keepsie Kits' The Works: Ultimate Sustainable Travel Kit
Zero Waste Travel Tips
To summarize, here are the key zero waste hacks to follow when participating in zero waste travel:
- Pack zero waste toiletries
- Travel light
- Travel slower
- Pack reusable cutlery and containers
- Bring reusable shopping bags
- Carry reusable water bottles
- Go paperless
- Bring your own towel
- Eat from local restaurants
As part of the zero waste community, we can all help each other grow into a more sustainable lifestyle. If you’ve got tips of your own you’d like to share, follow us on Instagram and shoot us a message! We’d love to hear from you.