Zero Waste Travel

One of the things I love about travel is the feeling of freedom and how you realise that you can actually live without most of the stuff you own.  But making sure you actually leave a small footprint behind you when you go home is even more important.  I’m sure there are other ways to travel zero waste by hiking cross country and camping, or staying at youth hostels with shared kitchens, etc.  But I’m in my 30’s and I have  a young child.  And I like to be comfortable.  So I’m going to share what works for us.

Where to Stay

When we first book a holiday, as soon as the flights are confirmed, we go onto the AirBnB website (click here to save £25 or $31 on your first booking), check out the reviews and rent an apartment in the location where we are planning to travel. In the past we have also used VRBO and Home Away websites as well.  We find this is the most comfortable, cost effective and low waste way for us to travel. By having our own private apartment we can pack light (taking one carry on suitcase each) and travel with a capsule wardrobe that we can wash every few days in the washing machine at the flat. Most Airbnb apartments provide washing powder but we bring a gentle and ecologically friendly one with us. We also shop at the local supermarket and farmer’s markets, buying organic, healthy foods in as low waste packaging as possible, and then cook our own healthy meals. We’ll usually go out for restaurant lunches during the day, but we sometimes also prepare packed lunches to take with us for day trips. We can afford to have the option to do that when we’re saving on the costs of expensive breakfasts and dinners by eating at the apartment.  Another way in which renting an apartment is more zero waste-friendly than staying in a hotel is because you will be able to use the recycling and composting services available to residents, rather than having to throw your apple cores or empty glass jars in the garbage knowing they will needlessly go to landfill.  You can also bring any composting or recycling waste you accumulate throughout the day back to the apartment (such as lunch leftovers or plastic water bottles in case you get caught out and are desperate for a drink – it happens) and put it in the correct bin.

This was our view from our alfresco dining table on our private balcony from our last holiday rental…not many restaurants can boast a view like this:

OLOL Zero Waste Travel Amalfi Italy

What to Pack

No matter how long the holiday, we allow ourselves one carry on suitcase each.  Not only is travelling light easier, but its cheaper too, as we can easily use public transport and can often walk to our apartment from the train station, avoiding taking taxis.  My toiletries kit is usually filled with reusable silicon GoToobs filled with my homemade toiletries or those dispensed from larger containers at home.  You may also note that I mention a mason jar.  Bear with me.  At home I use a separate glass water bottle and a glass coffee mug which I take with me everywhere I go.  But when I travel, my space is limited so a mason jar provides a universal solution.  You can fill it with water and its a water bottle.  Its heat resistant so you can pour tea or coffee into it, so its also your coffee mug.  It also makes a great snack jar for trail mix.  I pack one reusable shopping bag which folds down really tiny and a couple of the reusable produce bags, for buying fruits, breads, etc at the market.  A sandwich box might be useful here if you want to buy berries or cheeses.  The rest of the time you can use it for, you know, carrying around your sandwich.  And finally I take half a dozen organic cotton muslins which can multi task as napkins, handkerchiefs, for wrapping your sandwich up inside its sandwich box (instead of cling film) or for wrapping up baked goods bought at the market so to avoid having to take a paper or plastic bag.  Then you can clean them in the washing machine at your apartment and they dry quickly, ready to take out and use again.

Here’s an example of what my suitcase contents look like:

  • Capsule wardrobe (I won’t go into detail as obviously what I wear depends on the season and destination, but I keep it pretty simple.)
  • Toiletries kit (GoToobs filled with shampoo, homemade toothpaste, homemade deodorant, body lotion and homemade aftersun gel.  Eye cream.  Face oil.  Bamboo toothbrush.  Possibly sun protection cream, if required.  Razor.  Makeup bag.  My 10 ‘first aid’ essential oils kit.)
  • Mason jar
  • Sandwich box
  • Reusable shopping bag & produce bags
  • Clipper tea bags (because finding organic tea in unbleached bags is near impossible!)
  • 6 organic cotton muslin squares (yes, like the ones for your baby!)
  • iPad (for movies, emails and day trip planning)
  • Book (I can’t help it…I’m not a Kindle girl.  I love a good real book when I travel!)

Souvenirs

Its easy to get caught up while on holiday and buy loads of stuff you’ll wonder what to do with when you get home.  You don’t need to buy anything to bring home though.  Some people like to bring home their train tickets and flight stubs to glue into their journals.  My husband loves to buy the tackiest, most gaudy resin magnet he can find and that is his single souvenir from each trip.  I don’t entirely approve of this, as these horrible bits of resin will be probably languishing in a landfill long after we’re dead and gone.  (Surely no one will want to inherit them!)  But it brings him joy, so I have to have a somewhat balanced perspective when it comes to these things.  As for me, I make these ‘memory jars’ filled with sand, pebbles, shells and sea glass from each of our beach holidays.  I reuse the plastic ziplock bag they make you use at airport security to put your liquid toiletries in by using it to store collected beach treasures and a bit of sand or pebbles.  Then, when I get home I put the contents of the bag into an old glass jam jar and add a luggage tag noting the date and location of the holiday for the contents of each jar.  I keep them in my secretary desk and each time I open it, I smile, remembering how happy each holiday made me.

OLOL Memory Jars Zero Waste

Traveling with Children

Traveling with children can be actually really zero waste-friendly.  By staying in a rented apartment or house, rather than a hotel, you can continue to use your homemade wipes and cloth nappies because you can machine wash them as often as you need to.  Its much easier to prepare your child’s snacks and meals in a real kitchen with fresh ingredients from the market or supermarket, rather than constantly having to buy expensive packaged and potentially unhealthy snacks on-the-go.

I hope you find some of these tips useful in helping you to have a zero waste holiday…or at least to help you reduce some of the waste you might normally create when on holiday.  Being able to travel is a wonderful experience in life, but it is so important to keep our planet as clean and beautiful as we can so our children and grandchildren can experience it in the same way that we have.  What about you?  Do you have any great zero waste holiday tips to share with me in the comments below?

 

 

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59 thoughts on “Zero Waste Travel

  1. Becster

    I absolutely love this post! It’s actually pretty amazing how wasteful our holidays have been in comparison. I’m ashamed to say we’re far more into the convenience than I’d ever realised. I see your point with regards to staying in a hotel – I love recycling and I hate to think how much I could’ve been recycling had I not been in a hotel.

    Also, love you souvenirs idea! Although, I am with your husband – tacky fridge magnets are y go-to as well!!

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    1. Our Little Organic Life Post author

      Thank you so much and I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. There are a lot of very aspirational zero waste sites out there, but I try to keep things as realistic as possible as we’re just a normal family which enjoys normal, comfortable holidays. We just want to do it in a less wasteful way. And I do have to admit over the years I have also come to secretly enjoy the hunt for the tackiest magnet on our holidays.

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    1. Our Little Organic Life Post author

      Hi Jess, yes the memory jars are fun. I can’t even really remember how I came up with them. I think it was by accident. But now they are a firm family tradition. Yes Airbnb is wonderful and we have stayed in some very luxurious apartments, but VRBO and Home Away are also great too, particularly for rentals in North America and Latin America.

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  2. Sarah Ella (Mumx3x)

    Aww, brilliant post! I think staying in an apartment is a great idea and being able to wash clothes etc! Airbnb sounds like a fab way to find the right place! I’ll bear that in mind for the future. I also love the idea of memory jars, they are truly lovely and unique.

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    1. Our Little Organic Life Post author

      Thanks Sarah, yes Airbnb is amazing. We get to stay in some very luxurious apartments, usually paying no more than 80 euros per night. (You can’t get a great hotel for that price!) Also check out Home Away and VRBO if you’re travelling in North America or Latin America as they have a great variety of places too.

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  3. Cassandra Mayers

    There are some great tips here. I remember the good old days of traveling with just a backpack. I went to prague with just my camera bag and rolled my clothes so small and just took my camera and a few essentials like hair brush.
    I have a child now though so that is also not going to be happened again anytime soon.
    I love your jar idea! What a wonderful way to collect holiday memories. I collect magnets and also make people bring me them back from there holidays 😀 haha.

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    1. Our Little Organic Life Post author

      Hi Cassandra, yes despite being ‘green’ and ecologically minded, having a child does require a certain level of…comfort. Or at least for us it does. So I’m pleased I’ve found a way we can be comfortable and still meet our ‘green’ standards. And yes, it is fun helping my husband find the tackiest magnet possible. I’m thinking a compilation photo of them all would make a great Instagram post!

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  4. Em

    I should really take some tips from this post, I am useless at packing clothes and always take far too many that I never wear! A capsule wardrobe is something I definitely need to do next time I am away.

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    1. Our Little Organic Life Post author

      I once read in Vogue, many many years ago, that you should be able to reach into your wardrobe blindfolded and be able to pull out a perfectly co-ordinated outfit. For this reason, ladies of style never wear colour. Well, I do like wearing colour from time to time these days and I certainly couldn’t reach blindfolded into my wardrobe and have a perfectly matching outfit. But…I do this when I’m travelling because there is nothing worse than having an “I hate my wardrobe” moment when you’re hundreds of miles from home. Maybe I’ll do a post on what my capsule wardrobe looks like…do you think people would find that interesting?

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    1. Our Little Organic Life Post author

      Hi Mellissa, they’re made from pretty durable glass so I’m comfortable with travelling with them but alternatively you could use one of the short metal Thermos wide mouth containers and they’d work for water, coffee, snacks, etc as well.

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  5. Sarah

    I absolutely LOVE this post, and your souvenior idea is amazing.
    What a beautiful, yet cheap way to remember your holidays! I too hate those tacky magnets, keyrings etc!

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    1. Our Little Organic Life Post author

      Thanks Liz. Even just implementing one or two ideas at first really helps the environment (and pocketbook too!). Just take it in baby steps, so as not to overwhelm yourself. It will come naturally then.

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  6. Elizabeth

    Some fantastic tips here! I recently returned from a bikepacking trip through the highlands of Scotland and was really impressed with how little I needed to travel with for a full two weeks, and how little waste there was.

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    1. Our Little Organic Life Post author

      That sounds amazing Elizabeth! I’m reading Bill Bryson’s “A Walk in the Woods” right now and am dreaming about a backpacking/hiking trip. Perhaps when my 16 month old is a little older or…it could be a very slow hike indeed! 🙂

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  7. Denisa

    Great tips ! I will think about and use your advices in our next trip. Funny how we think the same about the magnets 🙂 always restricted myself from buying them

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    1. Our Little Organic Life Post author

      Absolutely! The trick to Airbnb is just to read the reviews – lots and lots of good reviews – before making your choice. And of course checking the location on a map to make sure you’re exactly where you need/want to be. We’ve had great success every time and stayed in some very luxurious places for around 80 euros a night.

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    1. Our Little Organic Life Post author

      Dannii…its the shoes that always get me too! The problem is a change of shoes & handbag can transform a capsule wardrobe from daytime casual to evening (so that makes them super practical, right?)…I lugged a pair of gold wedges and an LK Bennett evening clutch to Italy last month and never had a chance to use either as we spent every night in with our toddler. 😦 What a waste of space that was!

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  8. Jessica Ayun

    I do love Airbnb as it gives huge choices of accommodations where I can actually cook, unlike in hotels.
    As much as I like memory jars, I think it’s not good to get sand from the beach. It may be a little amount but if all tourists will do that, it can cause flash floods. Coming from a tropical country and where disasters can easily hit us, we try to maintain some sort of protection as well and let the pebbles stay in the beach

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    1. Our Little Organic Life Post author

      Hi Jessica, I hadn’t thought of that. However I doubt my memory jar idea will sweep the nation! People are too busy buying plastic mugs, t-shirts, baseball caps and other tchotchke! And yes Airbnb is such a great way of being able to cook your own healthy foods. I tend to get ‘restaurant overload’ fairly quickly.

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  9. Kira

    On my recent holidays I’ve been trying to make a point of bringing home something that I haven’t bought, like shells etc. Notice you’ve got some from Puerto Plata in Dom Rep, I’ve been there loads and absolutely loved it, it’s so beautiful! This is such a great guide on traveling!

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    1. Our Little Organic Life Post author

      Hi Jenni, yes do, its great. There is also Home Away and VRBO which are good if you’re going to the US, Canada or Latin America. I’m thinking after this article though and all the interest its piqued in Airbnb I should see if they want to work with me! 🙂

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    1. Our Little Organic Life Post author

      Yes, do check Airbnb out. Just read the reviews and make sure the apartment/villa has all the amenities you need. If you’re going to the US or Canada or Latin America, VRBO and HomeAway are good too.

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    1. Our Little Organic Life Post author

      Thank you so much! Green fashion certainly has come a long way…but I don’t think everyone realises it. I hope I can make some small contribution towards helping people see that they can buy ethical fashion and still look good.

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