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  • Writer's pictureAnita Vandyke

The definitive zero waste travel guide

Updated: Jan 25, 2018

Here is the ultimate zero waste travel guide that discusses everything I do in order to reduce my waste when travelling - it's not always easy, but its worth the effort!

Before booking the flight:

1. Email carrier to advise you are bringing your own food. That way they know they don't have to make a meal for you. Most budget carriers don't provide food these days and for shorter flights you can refuse the plastic wrapped food provided.

2. Organise your carbon offsets - aircraft travel produces a large carbon footprint. This is acknowledged by all zero wasters. But we do live in a modern world and we do need to travel to visit loved ones and also to experience the wonders of the world to be able to educate and enrich our lives. The best option is to carbon offset your flights with reputable companies.

Packing your own food

A simple way to reduce waste for a short flight is to bring your own food on the plane! Airplane food is pretty tasteless and always wrapped in plastic. I bring my own snack pack instead!

This option reduces waste and also ensures you get healthy, tasty food when you fly. I’ve also got my handy Keepcup for tea and drinks and I always fill my water bottle up before I fly as well.

Plane food doesn't have to be plain

I bring my own food on airplane trips. I love the taste of fresh produce, it tastes extra delicious when you’re stuck in one spot for 9 hours. It feels so good to eat something fresh and delicious in an otherwise very artificial environment. Zero waste living focuses on package-free produce, this ensures I get healthy salads, fruits and vegetables as part of my diet. I feel so decadent when I pull out my food, I always get food envy from the passengers around me. Zero waste plane food doesn’t have to be plain!

Zero waste travel kit

I’ve been asked how I can reduce waste when travelling, here is my number one tip, have a zero waste kit!

My travel kit includes: 1. stainless steel drink bottle 2. mason jar for food, smoothies, tea and coffee 3. reusable produce bags 4. cloth napkin 5. foldable tote bag 6. stainless steel straws

I also have a handy spork, all of this fits easily into a small backpack and I am good to go! For the drink bottle - please empty it before you go through security and you can fill it up the other end, there is usually a bubbler or a water fountain.


No need to print off your boarding passes - keep everything digital and save money!

Travelling with carry-on luggage only

Be an easy-breezy, minimalist traveller and travel with only carry on luggage. This has been life changing for me. I no longer feel burdened by luggage and there is much less waiting time. Also, this is less weight on the plane, which means less fuel is required!

When I arrived at Customs in Cancan, the Immigration Officer asked me “Is that all your luggage?” - I only travelled with a carry-on suitcase and a small backpack and she was so surprised that I didn’t have more stuff! I only packed 9 pieces for 11 days! The key is to pack multi-purpose items that can easily mix and match.

Use items for different purposes

My reusable produce bags have served as bags for everything! Food, beauty products, supermarket purchases, laundry bags. They have been such a great zero waste tool!

Don't buy 'new' holiday clothes, embrace secondhand clothing.

I went to Iceland recently and I sourced everything secondhand. There is no need to buy ski jackets or 'holiday' wear that you'll only wear once, buy things that you need and buy them secondhand.

Learn phrases in the local language

When I went to Mexico I learnt the phrase "no straw" so that I can tell the local servers that I didn't need a straw for my drink! It was so handy! Learn to do the same in the destination you're going to. I brought my stainless steel straw with me everywhere and saved so many straws from ending up in landfill!

Consider public transport or bicycling

The easiest way to travel in an eco-friendly manner is by bike! My friend and I rode 8km to the Tulum ruins and then to the beach when I was in Mexico. It was so fun! We started the day with some yoga, green smoothies and then ventured off on our bikes. It saves petrol and it’s such a great way to get around. Our Airbnb also provides the bikes for us. Win-win! I usually use public transport or bikes when travelling, why not see if you can make this an option for your next travel adventure.

Have fun!

Most importantly, just have fun, zero waste travel is not about perfection! Let’s be honest, it’s very hard to be plastic-free in countries such as Iceland because it’s an island that imports a lot of its produce. That being said, we can only try our best.

Living a zero waste life is not about perfection, it’s just about choosing the better option.

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Jan 26, 2018

I run into trouble with flight attendants refusing to refill my water bottle or pour their coffee into my travel mug. On a recent Virgin America flight, I was refused both. When I politely asked why, I got the response "Health". I assumed she meant health codes? I was torn because it was a 5 hour flight and I had run out of water and in order to get more my only option was an 8oz plastic bottle they offered. I could have drank 4 of those! The coffee was also tremendously wasteful - served in a paper cup and a separate plastic cup holding cream, sugar, & a stir stick with 2 cocktail napkins. Do you have an…

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