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zero waste travel: how to pack for any adventure

zero waste travel: how to pack for any adventure

Written by Local Time

This is the second post in a five-part series on how to travel zero waste.

Without our conscious participation, each of us becomes complicit in the consumptive, convenience culture that surrounds the frequent traveler.


The big culprit is single-use plastic or paper: a printed boarding pass with luggage stickers, sip-beverage with stir stick, flimsy picnic fork in that on-the-go meal (handed over in a plastic bag), a compulsive magazine purchase at the check-out. All this before you even buckle into your flight. It is as understandable as it is avoidable. Now that you’ve created a Zero Waste Mindset, onward to putting those principles into practice.

Zero waste mantras to invoke: Reduce, Reuse and Repurpose

Making an entire travel schedule as zero waste as possible starts at home – this is where you’ll have the most opportunities to set yourself up for success.

When you’re packing…

Reduce your way to a zero waste beauty & self-care kit:

  • Reuse a bamboo toothbrush instead of a plastic travel size one. However, if you already have a plastic one, don’t go buy a new one! Just pack your existing toothbrush.
  • Reduce plastic package waste by packing refillable dental floss (yes, it’s a thing!).
  • Refuse floss made from synthetic fibers (such as plastic) and choose natural fiber instead.
  • Reduce plastic disposable razor waste by switching to a metal safety razor.
  • Reduce paper waste by packing refillable hand sanitizer.
  • Reusable travel-sized shampoo/conditioner, soap and toothpaste containers can get refilled at home before every trip.
  • Reduce plastic waste by switching to plastic-free Q-tips, or ditch the Q-tip habit all together!
  • Refuse sunscreen that are damaging to the environment, choose a clean option that protects you and the oceans. Checkout the ewg guide for more information.

*Extra savvy zero waste traveler tip: Reduce unnecessary waste by switching from disposable pads and tampons to a menstrual cup. (Aside: this was lifechanging when we put it into practice; for extra incentive to give it a try, learn why Menstrual Cups Are a Feminist Issue.)

Reusable musts for your zero waste hydration & snack-pack:

  • water bottle
  • coffee mug ­– if you don’t have one, make one with a mason jar, lid and elastic bands around the jar for grip and heat safety
  • snack bags and/or container with a lid so you have a beverage and food container packed with fresh snacks – mason jars are great for this
  • bamboo cutlery (keep away from the plastic options!)
  • metal straw
  • quick-dry hand towel

*Extra savvy zero waste traveler tip: While you’re in your kitchen, remember to go through all of your perishable food before your trip and plan your meals so that everything that might expire while you’re traveling gets eaten ahead of time! This helps you avoid coming home to a kitchen full of unnecessary food waste. Or get rid of your extra food with OLIO an app that “connects neighbours with each other and with local shops so surplus food and other items can be shared, not thrown away.”

Reusable carry-on bag essentials to meet the zero waste just-in-case:

  • headphones
  • shopping bag
  • favourite large scarf (to double as a blanket)
  • travel pillow
  • sleep mask
  • batteries (rechargeable) – remember to recharge your used batteries and dispose responsibly

*Extra savvy zero waste traveler tip: Reduce the weight of your carry on by downloading your favourite podcasts, movies, audiobooks ahead of time.

Before you head for the door…

Planning your zero waste itinerary:

  • Refuse to print those boarding passes and fly digital with an online ticket.
  • Reduce the need for other printed tickets by downloading any applicable digital airline, bus, train or metro transportation apps that allow you to show your e-ticket on your phone.
  • Reduce the need to buy or carry books or maps by downloading your travel guide in digital format; you can even download only specific chapters related to your trip.

Up next in our Zero Waste Travel series: Tips at the Airport

Stay tuned for the next tips guide in our five-part series, posting next week. In case you missed it, view the first post in this series, How to Create a Zero Waste Mindset.