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zero waste travel: how to think like a local when you’re abroad

zero waste travel: how to think like a local when you’re abroad

Written by Local Time



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

Being conscious of our planetary impact starts with being conscious of what we carry with us. We can’t control the sophistication of waste management systems at our various destinations. What we can control is the waste we’ll land with when we arrive.

(This is also why our Local Time packaging journey led us to bio-based and home compostable packaging – so they can be safely disposed of anywhere in the world.)

Upon arrival at your destination, you’ll have every opportunity to go zero waste that you do at home, just think like a local! Keep your five zero waste mantras close and you might be surprised how often you have a chance to activate one.


How to travel like a zero waste local

Activate all five mantras at your destination: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose/Repair and Recycle

When you’re dining:

  • Reduce food-packaging waste by opting for sit-down restaurants.
  • Refuse a straw when you place your drink order.
  • Refill your water bottle every step of the way – use apps like Findtap and Wetap for clean water sources while you travel.
  • Reuse your to-go food container when you have leftovers at a restaurant.
  • Refuse to order take-out from restaurants that only offer Styrofoam containers; try to choose restaurants that offer recyclable or compostable containers.
  • Refuse plastic cutlery and single-use sauces, you’ve got your bamboo cutlery.
  • Reuse your travel hand towel to get pastries or sandwiches instead of paper wrap.


When your shopping:

  • Refuse to buy packaged food whenever possible; instead, explore local package-free shops, bulk shops or refill stations.
  • Reuse any bags you might have received from purchase; and always stash a reusable bag in your purse or pocket.
  • Reuse the wardrobe you packed over buying new clothes.


When you’re exploring:

  • Refuse free promotional items – if you don’t love it, don’t accept it.
  • Refuse to buy souvenirs; instead use your camera to keep memories, and consider finding a local tree-planting organization to have a tree planted in a loved one’s name (snap a photo with the sapling!). Or, make a gift to Tree Sisters.


When you have to throw it away:

  • Recycle and compost everything possible. When staying at a short-term vacation rental, be sure to ask you host where you can dispose of your waste responsibly.


Extra savvy zero waste experiments

We invite you to try one of these three zero waste experiments today. Have fun with this, discover something new and share your experience to inspire others!

  1. Make a note: Review this guide and highlight every zero waste action you can take without buying something new. For any action that requires a purchase, investigate your household for what you might repurpose instead. Share your repurposed item on your favorite social media and tag #onLocalTime and #travelmindfully #landonlocaltime #conscioustravel
  2. Keep track: Keep a log of all waste that you generate from the time you leave your home to the time you arrive at your destination. On the day you travel home, pull out this list and see if you can avoid any of the items you threw away the first time. Share your wins by tagging #onLocalTime
  3. Share struggles & solutions: Once you land at your destination, note the top three zero waste challenges that are hardest for you to overcome. Do you also struggle with these at home? Share online and ask others for solutions – your post may inspire new insights and actions!

*There are a number of companies that are aware of the impact their packaging has on the planet and are using compostable cellulose made out of corn to replace plastics and 100% recycled paper. Look out for these innovators and support their efforts!


View all five posts in our zero waste travel series:

1 zero waste travel: how to create a zero waste mindset

2 zero waste travel: how to pack for any adventure 

3 zero waste travel: tips at the airport 

4 zero waste travel: your in-flight how-to guide


More to explore in nurturing your zero waste lifestyle:

For a deeper dive, check out our sources of inspiration. Some of our favs include: Going Zero Waste, the Zero Waste Home, Zero Waste Nerd, the lovely and inspiring Sarah Wilson, and trash is for tossers. If you want to repurpose or repair try this ifixit or check out the nearest Repair it Cafe.


To learn the ins and outs of recycling, check out this guide. When we can’t find things locally, here are some online zero waste shops we like: Mighty Nest, Wild Minimalist, Life Without Plastic, Earth Hero and the Package Free Shop.