Zero Waste Living

How to Go on Vacation While Staying on Your Zero Waste Journey

I don’t know about other places, but Memorial weekend marks the official start of summer vacation time. Minnesota has many migrations due to our vastly different seasons, but one of the biggest migrations happens between Memorial Day and Labor Day, and that is people migrating up north to their cabins or vacation rentals. I totally made the part up about this being one of the biggest migrations in the state, but it honestly seems like it sometimes!

But I digress.

Being that Memorial Day seems to mark the official start of summer for many people, I thought it would be a great time to share this guest post from Emily, the editor of a website called Conservation Folks. In this post, Emily shares her zero waste wisdom on how to adapt your zero waste lifestyle during your travels. Whether you are going away for a weekend or a week, there are sure to be some tips you can take with you! Be sure to check out her website, Conservation Weekly!

As always, remember that zero waste is a journey and that we are all doing what we can in the season of life we’re in. If adopting all of these tips seems overwhelming, right now, that’s OK! Take one or two of your favorite to start with. You can always add more to your next trip!

More often today, people start a zero waste journey. The reasoning for this is different for everyone. It might start when you find out that disposable bags have chemicals in them that can seep into your food, or you might end up inspired when you read a news article about how much damage waste leaves on the earth. Whatever made you decide to start your zero waste lifestyle, it’s worth keeping up no matter where you are or what you’re doing.

You spend most of your daily life in your normal routine, so when you started researching how to live a zero waste lifestyle, you probably didn’t think of how to do that while you’re on a trip. It’s not too difficult to adjust your new habits to any travel plan. Read on for some ideas to help inspire you to continue living with zero waste while you’re on your next vacation. With a little research and effort, you can travel the world without the guilt that comes with additional waste.

Always Plan Ahead

It’s rare that major trips will pop up without thinking about them far in advance, but you need to plan ahead for any trip you take. It’s crucial that you know what you’ll be doing and when so you can figure out if your activities will create any waste.

Check out some typical things that happen while people are on vacation that you could fall into without thinking about it.

  • Stopping at a convenience store for snacks on a road trip.
  • Having to use paper napkins at a restaurant.
  • Only getting Styrofoam cups at a hotel breakfast.
  • Using extra water to wash hotel towels every day.
  • Using extra gas for a trip to the store because you forgot the essentials.

There are so many things that come up on trips and can leave you unprepared if you don’t carefully think everything out before you leave. Although you should avoid overpacking, if you have food you’ve grown yourself or preserved and canned food that would be an excellent thing to pack to reduce waste on your trip. Consider how you’re traveling, what you’ll need and what you’ll do on your trip to see what situations could create additional waste and how you can prevent that.

Bring a Water Bottle

Whether you’re traveling by plane, train or car, at some point you’ll end up getting thirsty. Instead of having to buy a plastic bottle to drink out of, bring your own reusable water bottle instead. Airports will let empty water bottles go through security, so there’s nothing stopping you from refilling at a water fountain or sink before a flight. Just make sure to check if the tap water is safe at your destination since not all communities will have water that’s good to drink without extra treatment first.

Use e-Tickets

You can now buy most tickets as e-tickets. The invention of online tickets was a great one for everyone involved. You can get your tickets faster and farther in advance, plus you get to help save the planet while doing what’s most convenient. The International Air Transportation Association estimates 50,000 trees could be saved each year if people used e-tickets exclusively. Skip printing your ticket and keep it on your phone to minimize your waste.

Put Snacks in Bee’s Wax Wraps

Traveling means you’re going to snack at some point, whether it’s while you’re on your way to wherever you’re going or while you’re relaxing in your hotel room at the end of a long, adventurous day. Make yourself some bee’s wax wraps and skip the store-bought bags you’re only going to use once. It’ll only take a few minutes to make wraps to cover any food. They’re great at keeping food fresh, and you can re-use them for as long as you like.

Pack Cutlery

While you’re away, you might want to treat yourself to a meal at a nice restaurant. The other times you need to eat, not so much. Nice restaurants cost a lot to sit down and eat at, and they won’t work for every meal you’ll need while you’re on vacation. That’s why you should always pack cutlery for yourself. The cheaper restaurants may only offer plastic forks and spoons, or paper napkins that are a major waste of resources.

Instead, carry around a spork, or a travel-sized cutlery collection. You can stow it away and wash it later when it’s convenient instead of using plastic silverware that you’ll only use for a few minutes before throwing away. It’ll save you some peace of mind since you won’t feel obligated to spend big bucks on fancy restaurants for every meal just to make sure what you eat with is reusable.

Easy and Rewarding

Living a zero waste life is easy and rewarding once you get into it, but then sometimes life can throw a wrench into your plans. Traveling is something every person should want to do, so don’t let your lifestyle make you feel held back from seeing the places you’ve always dreamed of traveling to. Plan for every detail of your trip.  

Another great thing about preparing for a zero waste vacation is that you can reuse your supplies for every trip you take in the future. You won’t need to buy another reusable water bottle for every trip because it will always be there for you if you take care of it. Once you have your supplies and you’re ready to go, you’ll have prepared yourself for the trips you’ll take that you don’t even know about yet.


Emily is a sustainability writer and the editor of Conservation Folks.

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5 years ago

Beeswax wraps?! Genius!! And thanks for the other bits of advice. Its funny to think of those face palm moments but yet we rarely learn from them…. this will help next time my family and I are traveling!

5 years ago

Full of great ideas to reduce waste! One small change makes a big difference!

5 years ago

Great ideas! I go through phases when I’m really good at not using plastic and then one unprepared moment sets me back. My daughters and I made a dozen resuable bags with fun fabrics that we use every time we pack fruit or a snack. I love my bees wax wraps too. Thanks for the reminders!

5 years ago

Love this post! Never heard of bees wax wraps before and it sounds amazing!

5 years ago

Such good advice, i always feel as though i have to leave my zero waste beliefs at home while i travel and now i can start trying to reduce in that area of my life too!

5 years ago

love this! will be vacationing up north this summer too!

Sydney Ball
5 years ago

Amazing, these are such useful tips! Things I wouldn’t have even thought of, thanks for sharing!

Emily @ Pizza & Pull-Ups

These are great tips! I always try to bring reuseable water bottles, I will have to try the beeswax wrappers.

5 years ago

A post after my own heart! People are in awe when I say we only have 1 bad of trash per week.

5 years ago

What a great read. And so true. One small change and really make a huge different.

5 years ago

I absolutely love the ideas to conserve while travelling. I will definetly try some of these!!

Eco Friendly Mama
5 years ago

These are all great suggestions! I have been doing this for years, feeling a bit like an outlier for going to these lengths. Can’t tell you how much money we’ve saved by bringing our own metal water bottles on trips instead of buying bottled water everywhere. It’s so wonderful and gratifying to discover a kindred spirit here! : )

5 years ago

We’ve been going on a lot of camping and road trips this summer and it’s amazing how much money we save when we try to minimize our waste. Last weekend we went on a road trip across the state and we packed all of our food instead of eating out. I packed olives, nuts, cheese, fruit for snacks and sandwhiches, berries and trail mix for lunches. It was so nice to be able to reach in the cooler whenever we we’re hungry and pull out a lunch complete with cutlery instead of hitting a drive thru. I also put wet… Read more »

Kate Findley
5 years ago

Great tips! I shared with my mom as well; she is a big environmental advocate.


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