How to Go Zero Waste on Vacation

Summer is here and many of us have vacation plans lined up every weekend, starting with this past July 4th weekend. It is easy to get away from the hustle and bustle of work life and forget about all of our responsibilities, but there is one full-time job we should keep in mind, wherever our vacations take us: making as small of an environmental footprint as we can. Here are 6 quick tips on being zero waste (or as close to it) on vacation.

This post is in partnership with a fellow eco-warrior, Jen Finds Out, who has shared her experience vacationing with the environment in mind. Check it out linked at the end of this post!

1. Bring your zero waste essentials.

Everyone’s zero waste kit can vary, but the most common pieces of items a person aiming to make zero waste will bring are a reusable water bottle, a travel utensil set, a cloth napkin, some kind of container for food storage, and a reusable bag.

Each of these items serve a specific purpose no matter where you go. If you get thirsty, you can fill your bottle at a refill station or ask a restaurant to fill it for you. If you get food to go, you can firmly but politely instruct the staff to put your food in your food container, and use your utensils to chow down later. If you go window shopping and find something you have to have, you have a reusable bag to hold it!

2. Pack your own snacks.

Every time my family and I stopped by a gas station during a road trip, I made a beeline straight for the snack aisle. My favorite road trip snack has always been beef jerky, but little did I know the livestock production’s environmental footprint.

This past July 4th weekend, I packed two large containers of cherries and blueberries as road trip snacks and they lasted the entire time we were on vacation! The opportunities are endless when thinking about zero waste snacks to pack for a trip – fruit, assorted nuts or trail mix, and more!

3. Bring your own toiletries.

If it were not for companies making bar soaps and organizations like Eco-Soap Bank who recycle discarded hotel soap to improve sanitation access to people in developing countries, I do not know what I would do with all of the travel-sized bottles and tubes of shower gels and shampoo/conditioner that hotels provide!

I have been happily bringing shampoo bars, toothpaste bits, and whatever leftover soap I have accumulated from previous years with me whenever I travel. By doing this, I am one less person (and usually helping the people I travel with) who will be using the toiletries that hotels have to offer during your stay.

4. Use public transportation or carpool.

Find out if you can get to your vacation destination using public transportation such as a bus or a train before you consider driving. If driving is the next best option, see if you can carpool with someone you know who is traveling to that area too! If the destination is too far by car, see if there is a way to travel by boat – flying should be our last option whenever possible.

5. Dine in whenever possible (at a family-run restaurant).

If you are on vacation, there are so many new places to try! I recommend you avoid the fast food chains and check out those mom and pop restaurants to support local. If you have the time, dine in so you will be able to use their reusable dishware. If you have leftovers, you can use your food container to pack it to go. And if you are in a rush, family-run businesses are more likely to oblige and pack your takeout in the container you offer them!

6. Leave nature the way you found it.

Where I live in NYC, litter decorates the streets of our residential and commercial areas. It is disheartening to witness people from afar casually tossing pieces of litter onto the ground without a second thought. Whenever I travel, I do my best to produce as little waste as possible, and to make sure that I do not leave traces of trash anywhere I go. Our environment is not a garbage can and we should not be treating them that way – animals can mistake trash for food and they are at our mercy based on our actions.

What are some ways you practice zero waste living while on vacation?

PS- I’m excited to share a fellow eco-warrior’s experience going on vacation and applying zero waste principles while basking in paradise. While we may be in control of our sustainability practices at home, it gets a bit tricky because we’re not in our element and we may not be in an enabling environment. Read more about the concept of “eco-anxiety” on Jen’s post here!