Traveling in a low-impact or zero-waste way can take some getting used to. Trash is convenient, and that means it can feel difficult and inconvenient to change your habits to be more sustainable. Doing your part to reduce waste may also inconvenience the people you come into contact with, such as the barista who you ask to fill your reusable to-go mug.
But if we want to do our part to decrease the growing mountains of trash on our lands and in our oceans, we are going to have to be a little uncomfortable in the process. Plus, you can feel better knowing that you are doing your part to ensure a healthier future for this beautiful planet that provides us with everything we need to live a healthy life.
Pep talk over! Here are necessities for low-impact travel, as well as for everyday life:
Food and beverage
- I never leave home without a bamboo fork, knife, and spoon, which are widely available in a little traveling case.
- It’s also great to have a takeaway container with you. There’s no need to buy something fancy for this, as a simple jar with a snug lid will work. Personally, I like a tiffin. It’s a lightweight, stainless takeaway container used in India that often comes with multiple stacking parts.
- Carry a reusable napkin or small absorbent towel. Both can be used to wrap up snacks or in place of a paper napkin.
- A reusable water bottle is an absolute necessity and will save you from buying bottled water—a huge polluter! Having a reusable to-go cup is also recommended if you’re someone who often buys coffee or tea on the go.
- Remember to pack your own beverages and snacks for traveling. Airport food is overpriced, and airlines do not recycle (baffling, I know).
- As a lover of small things, I take great pleasure in buying small, reusable bottles for my shampoo, conditioner, lotion, etc. for traveling. This also means you don’t have to rely on products you find in a hotel or on the road, so you can use the products you know work for your body.
- Solid products, like bar soap and bar shampoo, are also great options. They last longer and are easy to pack.
- Find a better toothbrush! There are bamboo toothbrushes, as well as toothbrushes that allow you to change out the bristles so you don’t have to buy a new piece of plastic every time your bristles get old. This is an easy way to reduce trash both at home and while traveling.
- Pick a neutral color palette for your outfits. Don’t like neutrals? Then choose a palette of a few colors that go well together, which will help maximize the number of outfits you can wear while still bringing only a few items.
- Invest in good luggage. Cheap suitcases are a bad investment and can wreak havoc on your trip if they rip or break during travel. Choose a sturdy, small piece of luggage that will see you through your journeys for years to come.
- Before you leave home, make sure to unplug all of your appliances. Even when appliances are off, if they’re plugged in, they’re pulling energy in from the outlet. Turn down your heat and draw the curtains to conserve energy.
- Don’t leave home without a reusable shopping bag. There are so many great companies selling these now (and they come in all sorts of fun colors and patterns!), and many of them fold up into a tiny little package.
While traveling, I recommend spending your money on experiences, not things. Although souvenirs can be appealing, the memories of your trip will have value throughout your life, whereas the trinkets you pick up on your journey may not. Plus, the knowledge that you traveled in an intentional way, doing your best to reduce your carbon footprint, will only add to the positive feelings you have about your travels.