13 Ways to Reduce Waste While Traveling

Traveling can definitely present a unique set of challenges when it comes to reducing your waste. But there are many small changes you make to your habits that can drastically reduce the amount of waste you create during your adventures. Here are 13 of my favorite ways to put less in the landfills while you’re globetrotting.

1. Bring a reusable water bottle

I’m amazed at how many people don’t know you can actually bring a reusable bottle with you on the plane! Just make sure it’s empty before you go through security, then afterwards you can fill it up before heading to your gate. Opting for a reusable bottle is one of the easiest ways you can reduce your daily waste. Just stick one in your backpack or purse, so you’re good to go while you’re on the go!

At any given moment, you will always find me with a reusable water bottle on my person.

2. Make responsible choices when you dine

Choose to dine at sit down restaurants to eat with real plates and silverware. This way you’ll cause zero packaging to be used! You can also try local street foods. Some options are handheld and packaging-free. Just be vigilant and say no to extra wrapping papers, napkins, and/or containers.

3. Don’t forget your reusable shopping bags

When I travel, I always keep one of my Bagito packable bags in my purse. That way when I make a purchase at a store, I can just through it in my reusable bag instead of collecting single-use bags.

My trusty packable, reusable bags!

4. Get a reusable TSA toiletry bag (or reuse your ziploc)

Investing in a reusable TSA toiletry bag is worth it in the long run! Otherwise, you can just reuse a designated ziploc bag over and over to house your toiletries when you travel with a carry-on.

5. Don’t forget your toiletries

Instead of relying on the mini toiletries at your hotel, which are always in little plastic bottles, you can opt to bring your own from home! I use solid shampoo, face wash, and moisturizer, so those are easy to pack. But as much as I try, I can’t find a solid conditioner that quite cuts it for crazy hair (the Lush bars make my hair soft and smell great, but don’t help me detangle as much as I need). So, I’m still on conventional conditioner from a plastic bottle. Ugh. Anyways, I purchased a reusable travel toiletry bottle for my conditioner specifically so I can bring it with me, and get it through TSA with no problems.

Solid shampoo? Check! Solid facial care products? Check! Two reusable bottles of conditioner to tame my curly mane? Check!

6. Collect your recyclables to… well, recycle!

While this is still creating waste and our first step is to reduce instead of recycle, should you have plastic waste that requires disposal, try to hold on to it so you can toss it in the recycling bin instead of the trash. This seems like a no-brainer, but surveys have shown that people are less likely to recycle outside of the home because they don’t want to carry their waste with them until they can find a recycling bin. Instead, they’ll just opt to toss their recyclables in the nearest trash bin. With a bit of effort and patience, you can do a little to put less in those landfills.

7. Bring your own utensils

If you’re eating on the go or at an establishment that does not offer real silverware to you, you can still go reusable with some bamboo utensils! This set is very affordable and comes with a fork, knife, spoon, and chopsticks! You could even just bring some utensils from home or buy a few from your local secondhand store, just wrap them in your reusable cloth napkin and keep them in your bag.

8. Pack a cloth napkin or two

On that previous note of a reusable cloth napkin, bringing one or two with you is a great alternative to using piles of single-use napkins! They can even double as a food or utensil wrapper.

9. Don’t print your boarding pass

Nowadays you can download your boarding pass to an app on your phone, or even have it emailed/texted to you. Technology is crazy! Go this route instead of printing your boarding pass to avoid wasting paper (and plastic, since many are a hybrid of materials to make them more durable, like store receipts).

10. Opt for reusable luggage tags

Instead of wasting paper/plastic by writing your information on a new tag every time you fly, invest in a reusable luggage tag. I got mine for free at a conference I attended for work! It’s not the prettiest or the fanciest, but it’s sturdy and it does the job perfectly! And it’s nice not having to scribble my information over and over again at the check-in counter.

11. Pack your own snacks

I have a few Lunchskins and Stasher bags that are perfect for snack packing! Occasionally I will use my smaller stainless steel containers for snacks as well. They’re good for packing fruit, nuts, trail mix, granola, small veggies, and various other snacks. This can save you money while traveling since you don’t have to buy snacks in the airport. You can save more money for yummy meals instead of shelling out cash on snacks to hold yourself over.

I am obsessed with my Stasher bag


12. Don’t check a bag, just bring a carry-on

If possible, pack light and travel with just a carry-on to avoid creating waste with the luggage tags and stickers. That waste sure does add up! Of course, this isn’t always feasible. There’s no way I could’ve done our two week trip to Japan or my semester study abroad in just a carry-on! But if you’re headed on a weekend trip, this is a much more realistic option.

13. Avoid airplane waste products.

Pack snacks. Ask to use your own jar, cup or bottle for beverages. Say no to straws and napkins. Bring your own headphones. And remember, airlines do not recycle, so be careful about the waste you create while flying!

Do you make a conscious effort to reduce your waste while traveling? Or even in your every day life? I’d love to hear what habits y’all have picked up! Let me know in the comments!

Happy reduced waste wanderlusting, friends!


  • Sarah Shumate

    These are such great tips! Many of them even work when you’re not traveling, too!

    We bring our own chopsticks everywhere in Asia to avoid having to use the disposable ones. I thought we were the only ones to do that, so I love that you mentioned bringing bamboo utensils! 🙂

    March 3, 2018 at 3:10 am Reply
  • Kathi

    Love these ideas! I want to get my own utensils and also a metal straw to bring with me on my next big trip – it’s insane how much single-use plastic you come across when you travel… thanks for sharing!

    March 3, 2018 at 6:14 am Reply
  • Jen Ambrose

    Great list! I’m always shocked to see how much waste a single flight creates. 🙁

    March 7, 2018 at 10:21 am Reply
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