How To Reduce Your Waste While Traveling

Reduce Your Waste While Traveling

Did you know tourism pollution is a huge factor in climate change? Many travelers are eating fast food, grabbing drinks from gas stations, and forgetting the impact they have on this new environment. When visiting beautiful places you don’t want to pollute it or take part in ruining the natural beauty. That’s why practicing sustainability even while traveling is important. 

There are so many easy ways to practice sustainable travel so let’s dive right into the good stuff!

Sustainable Dining on The Go


If you are a traveler, then you know some days eating in at a restaurant is just not going to happen. When the time strikes to go through a drive thru or grab something from the gas station, don’t throw sustainability to the side. It is still possible to reduce your waste even when you’re limited on time. 

One of the best ways is to tell the restaurant you don’t need plastic utensils, napkins, or plastic straws. These items create so much waste and aren’t the best to be used. Instead always pack a set of bamboo travel utensils, reusable cotton napkins, reusable water bottle, and glass or stainless steel reusable straws. You can use these reusable items and reduce your impact on the environment even on the longest road trips or busiest travel days. Luckily, there are water refill stations in many cities nowadays. You can easily skip bottled water and refill your own. You can even bring your own reusable containers to store leftovers.

Another great option to reduce waste is by skipping the drive thru and ordering inside. Your vehicle doesn’t run so long, you can ask for no sack, and instead of using plastic cups, you can use your own reusable cup to fill up your drink. Just be sure to mention this at the counter so the employees know you aren’t stealing. 

If you have children traveling with you, instead of stopping off at gas stations to buy snacks, pack your own. Instead of using single-use plastics, you can pack reusable snack bags to divide the goodies into smaller portions. This reduces the plastic waste of snack packaging and the need to make extra stops. 

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Sustainable Shopping

Everyone wants to shop for friends, family, and themselves while traveling but it’s easy to get caught up and forget about sustainability. First, before buying something, take a little while to think about the purchase. Ask yourself if in a year you will still be using and enjoying this item. This will help you refrain from overbuying items you really won’t want, need, or use down the road. 

Another great way to shop sustainably is to bring your own reusable shopping bag instead of using plastic bags. Each time you shop during travel bring along a reusable cotton bag. These reusable bags fold up nicely to fit in any suitcase, vehicle, or purse. This will reduce the amount of waste you produce and your impact on the environment. 

Sustainable Travel Toiletries 

Instead of buying the mini shampoos, using plastic refillables, or using the free items at the hotel, opt for packing eco friendly options. For travel shampoo, opt for solid shampoo cubes. They are mini cubes that dissolve into shampoo without packaging! These cubes are tiny and the best part, you won’t have any plastic bottles to pack to go home. Pack the same for conditioner, conditioning cubes

For body wash, pack an all natural bar soap. This not only prevents spills in your suitcase but also saves space, waste, and is better for your skin. If you’re female and you’re traveling during your menstrual cycle, opt for a reusable menstrual cup. You won’t have to worry about packing all those pads and tampons and dealing with the trash. You’ll be free to swim, bike, hike, and explore without the hassle and the waste. 

You could even pack a stainless steel safety razor so you won’t need disposable razors.

Shop and Dine Local 

When it’s time to go out on the town, support small local businesses. This helps keep your money in the area rather than helping the big companies that don’t care about the environment. Instead of a fast food place, try a local sandwich shop or street food. Instead of Starbucks or Duncan Donuts, visit a local cafe. If you’re looking for shops, visit the small trinket shops instead of the big name stores in the area. This helps your money stay in the area and support locals. 

You can also research the shops, cafes, bakeries, eateries, and more in the area to learn what they stand for. For example in Whitefish, Montana, a local french bakery downtown practices recycling, composting, plastic-less straws and reduces packaging as much as possible. They even open the front of the shop all the way up on nice days to reduce the amount of electricity needed. 

Find a local farmers market, vegetarian/vegan restaurants, and eateries that source their ingredients locally to reduce carbon footprint and support the local economy.

Take Alternative Transportation

A fun sustainable travel method is taking alternative transportation instead of renting a car. Rent bikes, paddle boards, kayaks, skateboards, roller skates, scooters, or even hoover boards to explore a city or area. This is not only much more fun but allows you to really immerse yourself into the area. You save emissions from vehicles therefore reducing your carbon foot print while traveling. You can also take off on foot to explore as well. 

If going on an adventure by paddleboard or roller skates doesn’t sound fun, opt for public transportation. This could be taking the city bus, train, subway, or ridesharing with others. Some cites have really unique transportation for the public that could give you adventure and comfort at the same time while practicing sustainability. San Francisco for example has trollies that transport people from destination to destination. They come in many colors and are always so much fun to see going up and down the hilly streets of the city. 

Digital Documentation

Embracing digital alternatives such as e-tickets, mobile boarding passes, digital maps, and electronic travel guides reduces the need for excessive paper usage, minimizing both waste and deforestation. By accessing information and documents through your electronic devices, you help conserve valuable resources and reduce carbon emissions associated with production and transportation. Additionally, digital documentation offers convenience, allowing you to stay organized and have essential travel details at your fingertips.

Carbon Offsetting

Carbon offsetting could be a good option to help reduce your environmental impact. It’s important to research and support reputable carbon offset companies.

Carbon offsets aim to counterbalance the carbon emissions produced by various activities by investing in projects that actively reduce or capture an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. By funding initiatives such as reforestation, renewable energy projects, and methane capture, carbon offsetting contributes to the overall reduction of greenhouse gas emissions on a global scale.

These projects help restore ecosystems, promote clean energy adoption, and encourage the development of innovative technologies that mitigate the negative impact of climate change. Carbon offsetting not only supports the transition to a low-carbon economy but also raises awareness about the importance of environmental stewardship. It empowers individuals, businesses, and organizations to take responsibility for their carbon footprint and play a role in creating a more sustainable and resilient future for the planet.

Travel to Destinations That Value Sustainability

Traveling to destinations that value sustainability makes reducing waste easier! These destinations will most likely have recycling bins on the sidewalks, composting areas, sustainable alternatives to take out containers, and even more plant-based meals! Some destinations that value sustainability are Portland Oregon, Whitefish Montana, Phoenix Arizona, Silver Spring Maryland, San Francisco California. These are just a few, there are many more that are worth exploring! You can find out what destinations value sustainability by researching online. 

Consider Staying in Sustainable Accommodations

When traveling, supporting sustainable accommodations like eco lodges, eco-hotels, or hostels with green initiatives goes beyond finding a place to stay – it’s a conscious choice that aligns with responsible, sustainable tourism and environmental preservation. These accommodations prioritize minimizing their ecological footprint by implementing energy-efficient practices, waste reduction strategies, and sustainable construction materials.

By opting to stay in such establishments, travelers actively contribute to the protection of natural resources and the reduction of carbon emissions associated with their lodging. Moreover, these venues often engage in community-based initiatives, supporting local economies and cultural conservation.

Support Conservation Efforts

By engaging in activities like participating in beach clean-ups, wildlife monitoring, or habitat restoration projects, you actively contribute to the health of ecosystems and biodiversity. Additionally, supporting local conservation organizations through donations or volunteer work provides crucial resources for ongoing environmental initiatives.

Educating yourself about the local environment and respecting guidelines set by conservationists helps minimize negative impacts on delicate ecosystems. Your responsible choices, such as opting for sustainable tour operators or purchasing ethically sourced souvenirs, directly support local communities and initiatives that prioritize environmental protection.

Choose Mindful Souvenirs When Traveling

Prioritize locally crafted and sustainable souvenirs! You can support communities and artisans while reducing the demand for mass-produced and environmentally harmful products. Look for items made from natural, renewable materials or upcycled materials, as these often have a lower environmental footprint.

Choose souvenirs that hold cultural significance, telling a story and preserving the heritage of the destination. By avoiding single-use items or plastic items and instead favoring reusable, durable, and functional goods, you contribute to waste reduction and promote a greener way of living.

You can reduce your waste while traveling on your next trip. The good news is it doesn’t have to be hard or complicated. There are so many resources to help and some things actually make travel easier. Leaving a destination the way you found it if not better, is so special. You don’t want to ruin the beauty for others. Happy traveling! 

Written By:

Molly LaFontaine 

(Certified Holistic Nutritionist and Co-Owner of Tyler + Molly)

Reduce Your Waste While Traveling
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