Can You Be a Zero Waste Traveler?!

I have always loved to travel! I have been to Canada, Mexico, England, Italy, Poland, Germany, Czech Republic, and Hungary. I even lived in Scotland for 5 months while I was studying abroad at the University of St. Andrews. These are just the countries that I have visited. I have traveled all around the United States by plane, train, and car. Needless to say I love to travel. But, can I consider myself a zero waste traveler or am I actually the most wasteful person on this planet?!

According to an article in the New York Times, “ One round-trip flight from New York to Europe or San Francisco creates a warming effect equivalent to 2 or 3 tons of carbon dioxide per person. The average American generates about 19 tons of carbon dioxide a year, the average European, 10.” This is a ton of carbon dioxide that is polluting our environment. What is one to do? Stop traveling?

I can’t imagine my life without travel. I currently have dreams to visit India, Thailand, Vietnam, France, Iceland, and so many other countries that not traveling isn’t an option. So, I try my best to find other ways to help reduce my overall waste. I try to only support local farms as much as I can, even when I am traveling, I bring my own food onto the plane for meals, and I only purchase “souvenirs” that people will actually use. But, what about all the waste that you may end up producing. What if I forget or don’t have enough time to make my own food- forcing myself to eat what’s on the plane? What if I can’t find any local farms while traveling that are within my budget? All of these what if’s are terrifying for many zero wasters who want to travel.

Try To Do The Best You Can!

Just because you aren’t in your house doesn’t mean that zero waste goes out the door. But also don’t beat yourself up if you get hungry and you end up eating the airplane food. If you have any dietary restrictions- just make sure to make it clear on your ticket before you get on the plane. This trash could have been avoided, yes, but don’t beat yourself up because no one is ever perfect. Many times the waste is out of our hands. If you visit countries like India that don’t have clean tap water, your only option is to drink bottled water. This usually comes in plastic water bottles and there is nothing we can do to avoid it. Even many of the high tech filters still wont extract many of the bacteria that is found in the tap water. Just be safe and drink the bottled water that many times has been imported from other countries in Europe. At the end of the day, we have to focus on trying our best and forgetting the rest.

Always Bring Food With You To The Airport!

Airport food usually sucks and is super expensive. Pack your own oatmeal that you can add hot water to when you get on the airplane. I have even packed some potatoes and veggies to eat for dinner before or during my flight. You can bring pretty much anything onto the plane- with the exception of fresh fruit to many countries- just as long as it isn’t a liquid or a gel. This means avocado, already made oatmeal, nut milks, maple syrup, honey, and other foods that have a gel and creamy like texture. This allows you to eat healthy, cheap, and plastic free whilst you are traveling!

Bring A Empty Water Bottle through TSA And Fill Up At The Gate!

I can’t not live without my empty water bottle. It is a simple and easy thing to do as soon as you pass through security. If you are going to a country with unsafe drinking water, then I would leave the water bottle at home and just grab a big one from the gate. I also keep a few tea bags with me and an empty travel mug with me to make some hot tea wherever I go. I love hot tea whilst I am flying, it really helps me to relax and sleep while I am on any red eye flight! Just make sure that there is no water in it before you go through security.

Shampoo And Soap Bars!

The Zero Waste lifestyle is the perfect Minimalist lifestyle because it allows you to pack all of your items into a small carry-on suitcase or backpack! Instead of trying to fit liquid shampoo and soap into your little plastic baggie, just opt for the shampoo and soap bars! For any liquid face oil or essential oils- I keep them in the same plastic baggie that I have been using for years. It doesn’t stay close all the time, but I just make sure that it is when I pass through security. A few times my bags have had to be checked again, but it’s not a problem.

Essential Oils!

Ever feel nauseous, get a headache, or that stubborn pimple? Essential oils are your best friends on flights. Bring some tea tree oil as an antibacterial after using the bathroom or to wipe down your seat before sitting down. Peppermint for that stubborn headache or nausea when you are on the plane. I also have some that are super helpful for I get really bad stomach aches. My current favorites are Lavender and Clary Sage for when I have to get a few hours of sleep on any red eye flights!

Bring a Disposable Razor!

Yes, I know this may sound a bit odd but if you are a women that is going somewhere warm and you want to carry on your suitcase, bring a disposable razor. I have thought about just bringing my metal one, but it is more likely to be flagged during security because it is bigger and made out of more metal than a disposable razor. I have never been caught with a disposable one, doesn’t matter what country I am going to. I have heard of quite a few people that have been forced to throw away their safety razor. Save your money and just have on disposable razor for any trips that you end up going on!

Bring tooth powders and facial powders!

Try to bring as many powders as you can to help limit the amount of liquids and creams that end up having to go into a plastic bag if you are carrying-on your bag. It is also just way more convenient to carry around with you wherever you go. I have some recipes for my tooth powders and facial powders on my blog.

Refuse What You Can On The Plane

Refuse the single use plastic cups, the headphones, the pillows, and even the blanket by bringing your own! This doesn’t always happen, especially if your carry-on isn’t that big. But, your own pillow and blanket will be a lifesaver for red eyes, since the blankets aren’t usually that comfortable. By refusing all the disposable items, the food that is packaged in a ton of plastic and non-recyclable materials. This will do a ton more than not flying to a different state or country on our planet. Even though carbon dioxide is very harmful to our environment. By continuing to use disposable items that pollute our environment by creating more greenhouse gases and filling our land with a ton of trash that will never decompose. By following these steps, we can help limit our carbon footprint on our planet more than just refusing to fly the world! However, at the end of the day, we need to focus on what we can and can’t do. We can’t stress ourselves out for the mistakes that we make!

For more tips and tricks I highly recommend checking out Emilia from The Girl Gone Green who traveled around Asia for a few months. Emilia is a well known zero waste activist who gave a Ted Talk on how to live a more eco-friendly, sustainable, and zero waste life. However, during her trips to Bali, Indonesia, Thailand, India, and various other countries- she found that she couldn’t live the “perfect” zero waste life that her audience had presumed she lived all the time. Instead of forcing herself to only show the “perfect” aspects of her travels, she revealed the hard issues and the amount of trash that she produced whilst traveling. This allowed for many to realize that the majority of the world can’t be zero waste because of the amount of health issues that occur if you eat and drink any of the fresh food and water in that country.

At the end of the day, no one is perfect all the time. If you believe that I shouldn’t be traveling than that is fine. I try to limit my travels by car. Instead, I opt to take the plane or the train when I can, because those two modes of transportation are always running. If I didn’t take that seat, then someone else would. When it comes to a car, you are the one who has decided to do the traveling to a different state, city, or even down the street to visit someone, go to the grocery store, or to your job.