Zero waste travel 101
It's that time of year again! It seems like everyone is craving either a warm weather getaway or a snowy escape. Some time off, to refresh and reset after a long winter. We leave for Arizona in 8 days, visiting some of our closest friends at their desert home and taking our 6 month old on her second flight ever... so I thought I'd revisit some of my favorite zero waste travel hacks from over the years. My friends and family know me for going anywhere and everywhere with a carry-on and I love a good minimalist packing job. There's a few key things I do and take with me to reduce waste on the go and fit everything I need into a single bag. I'm doing the same with Addie, so one bag for each of us, and it just makes things so simple. Follow along to save a little time and money, get creative with what you pack, and feel light and free on your next trip.
I'm writing this during Addie's naptime so I'm gonna bullet point it for what I hope is an easy and fun read. Mom life LOL! Here we go.
- Clothes: Probably the biggest space saver - lay out what you want and reduce it by half... Three good outfits and 1 dressy one will last me for anything 10 days or less. Stay within a color scheme and plan for different style tops you can mix and match, versatile bottoms (one for travel/exercise/ adventure, one for comfort and one that's just cute) and bring a variety of layers for different weather. I always have one jacket that is cozy enough for the plane but cute enough to wear out.
- An example packing list would be 1 sporty tank top, 1 flowy short sleeve (or button down) and 1 tee, 1 pair shorts, 1 pair capri leggings with pockets and 1 pair jeans (short or long), 1 versatile dress, 1 swimsuit (always) and 1 jean jacket. I do a lot of black, stripes, denim and olive green and it's great for mixing outfits.
- Less choices means less time getting ready and it's kinda fun to experiment with a smaller wardrobe anyway! My idol Bea Johnson once packed only her husband's oversized linen shirt for a month in Europe and wore it like 40 different ways.
- The right scarf or sarong can double as a blanket and a towel, and add variety to your outfits.
- Shoes: one pair tennis shoes, one pair nice sandals.
Packing for a few days away - simple essentials
- Toiletries: Think multipurpose.
- Bring one bar soap that can be your face wash, hand soap, and even shampoo or a stain stick in a pinch. I use our clay face soap bars for all of the above!
- On longer trips I like to have a solid conditioner that doubles as a leave-in and a styler.
- One bottle of oil can be used as moisturizer for your face, lotion, taming flyaways, salve for sunburn and a hair conditioner.
- Instead of taking my full-size products (or buying travel size), I use little silicone travel pouches or reuse mini glass jars to house the cosmetics, hair and body products I want to bring. I keep a bunch of them, along with some quart size stasher bags in a basket under my sink so they're ready for my next trip.
- If you didn't know, the lids on contact solution come off, so I refill the same travel size bottle every time, hoping to create a little less waste that way.
- Tinted sunscreen to double as makeup. Refillable mascara and maybe a cream blush/bronzer from Elate, Ilia or Kjaer Weis.
- Alum stone or a compostable deodorant stick (doubles as cream perfume).
- Toothpaste tablets are great for travel.
- Baking soda can be used as baby powder, dry shampoo, (toothpaste but I don't recommend this), a deodorizer, treating heartburn and in cleaning/stain removal.
- My stainless steel safety razor (disassemble to get through TSA!)
- A couple compostable bandaids and some pain killers from my bulk size bottle. Good to have, and less waste than having to buy them when you get there, especially if you won't have room to bring them home.
Found a farmer's market on my bachelorette in Bend, OR
- I always double check I have my headphones and charge cords - saves unnecessary plastic waste from buying cheap travel sets.
- My trick for not bringing a laptop is to bring my bluetooth keyboard and connect it to my phone when I want to work on-the-go.
- Go paperless - I usually download our boarding passes, a book to read, and if we're going to a new country or a place with unreliable cell service I'll download the maps too.
- Vitamins: if you bring vitamins and medications like I do, don't bring the full bottles. Bring a weekly pill organizer or put just enough in a screw top tin or stasher bag to last you the length of your trip. Saves space :)
- Reducing disposables: A handkerchief or cloth napkin will come in handy often and save a lot of paper waste. An insulated thermos can be used for water, coffee, and even leftovers in a pinch. Those two usually cover almost everything I need, but if I know I'll be getting takeout or eating on the go a lot, I'll pack a set of reusable utensils or even just a spork. You don't need nearly as much as you think.
- Airport snacks for less waste: bananas, baked goods (ask for no bag), BYO nuts or trail mix, or budget enough time to order a meal or a snack "for here." I love to bring some hot sauce and a little container of herbs to add to spice things up, especially if we're gonna be doing some cooking back at our bnb.
- If you like to have gum on the plane, Simply Gum and Thrive both carry compostable gum in compostable packaging!
Spices, vitamins, hot sauce, bitters and an all purpose olive oil - travel staples, duh
- Bag: I like to use my little leather carry-on that fits under the seat and has a million pockets but my husband is a no-wheels type of person so more often we do backpacks or share a duffel so I can keep up with him hahaha. Benefit of a backpack is it doubles as a daybag.
- I also bring a purse or cross body bag that's small enough to fit in the carry-on but big enough to store a few things for the beach or a day of exploring. Should fit wallet, chapstick, phone, car rental keys, sunscreen, and a water bottle. Scarf ties outside.
- On some trips I'll also pack a reusable grocery bag that folds up into a little pouch to reduce plastic bags from takeout, farmer's markets, grocery runs and airport purchases. This can also hold wet swimsuits, towels, or sandy shoes.
- For baby: an all-purpose salve, more outfits than you think you'll need (LOL) but don't forget you can always do laundry, biodegradable doggie bags for disposing diapers or wipes, cloth diapers if you use them, one soothing toy, sleepers, weather appropriate accessories, and a few burp cloths. We have a backpack for her that comes with a built-in changing pad and a little travel bassinet she can stretch out on and play, with a sun/bug cover.
- If I'm not staying with family or friends and won't have a washer/dryer, I like to bring one or two Dropps pods in a stasher bag so I don't have to buy or waste a whole bottle of detergent.
Bulk snacks and spices at the Green World Store in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica
Cooking at an AirBNB with containers we brought from home and bee's wrap paper
- Food once you get there: we usually get a big bag of rice, some fresh fruits and veggies, maybe a can or two of beans, and then we love to go fishing and hit up local outdoor markets for fresh unpackaged food. We try to stay somewhere that has oils, spices and coffee. You can always try asking places to use your container for to-go food and drinks or just order sit-down meals and pack leftovers out in your own container. Use Bea Johnson's zero waste store tool to find bulk foods around the world.
That's it for now, some of my favorite zero waste travel hacks and minimalist packing tips. Would love to hear how you pack for a trip to save waste and pack light! XO happy traveling!
Snorkeling at the third largest reef in the world, about a mile and a half off the coast of Turks and Caicos - we kayaked here from our AirBNB!