It was the shoes that did me in.
I've traveled to all kinds of wonderful places where keeping things clean is, quite honestly, pointless or impossible: Tegucigalpa, Honduras, so impoverished and crime-ridden as to be named the murder capital of the world; the countryside in China, where the homes are sometimes caves and stenches rise from the shower drains in the nicest hotels; the countryside in Uganda, where your meal is cooked over an open fire and running water is likely to come out of the tap brown, if it's available at all. I've had almost every vaccine in the book for my trips.
The point? I'm not super prissy. I can hike for six days without a shower and pee outside.
But when searching for zero-waste travel tips, I was really stuck on options for shoes. I couldn't get past putting my shoes directly into my luggage without some sort of barrier between them and my clean clothes. I mean, look at all the places these shoes have *been.* Plastic bags worked, but that's not exactly green.
Zero-Waste Travel Tips
The quest for a more environmentally friendly way to manage household trash, however, led me to a solution for shoes. Bagito's reusable cloth trash can liners didn't stand up well to liquid refuse (for that, try Seventh Generation's recycled bags), but they're perfect for flip-flops and tennis shoes (the small liners) and even boots (the medium liners). And they can go in the washing machine on hot when you get home.
There are lots of other ways to save the earth while you see it. Check out these zero-waste travel tips:
- Ditch the tiny plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles and choose solid hair and body care from Lush that travels well in reusable tins.
- The same principle applies for shaving: take along the Abbey Brown shave bar for smooth skin on legs or face any place you go.
- Stay hydrated without spending a fortune in the airport by slipping a collapsible water bottle in your coat pocket or carry-on. It'll serve you well for days of sightseeing, or save your bacon if you're traveling where clean water is scarce.
- Packing snacks for your trip? Store them in reusable silicone bags; all the better if they can go in the microwave or boiling water, like these from Stasher, so you can cook on the road. They flatten when you're finished, and they go in the dishwasher when you're home.
- When you consider that nearly all the plastic toothbrushes ever made are sitting in a landfill somewhere, you'll fall in love with WowE's bamboo toothbrushes. Even the cardboard box in which they come is recyclable.
- On that same oral-hygiene theme, the new toothpaste tablets from Bite eliminate the need for little tubes that take up space in your luggage and in the trash.
- Try to pack lighter. A car topper will cut your fuel efficiency tremendously if you're driving. Extra luggage burns more airline fuel, too. Wear your bulky items during your journey by car. Share a suitcase with a companion. Choose those shoes wisely! And consider what you can purchase when you get to your destination, rather than hauling it over land and sea.
- Bring your own headphones when flying; the airline's disposable pair sounds crummy anyway.
- You likely already know this, but straws are completely unnecessary. Skip 'em and sip.
- Use the power of the device already at hand: download tickets and passes to your phone. Not only can you avoid printing extra paper, but you'll also have less to keep track of.
- Take along a tote. Whether you're getting groceries for your AirBnB or selecting souvenirs for your friends, a reusable shopping bag is handy to have. We have a gorgeous selection of reusable totes made from organic and recycled cotton and featuring original artwork; additionally, every purchase benefits a nonprofit that gets kids into our great outdoors!
Travel causes carbon, obviously. You can help undo the damage by purchasing carbon offsets from The Nature Conservancy or a similar organization. But how much better if you also can cause less damage in the first place?
So what are your zero waste travel tips? Tell us in the comments below!