Our favourite low-waste travel hacks

Travelling can really throw a spanner in the works when you’re trying to own your impact and reduce your waste footprint.

suitcases at the airport with an airplane taking off in the background

Unfortunately, most things in airports and planes are often covered in some kind of disposable packaging. Items are wrapped in layers of plastic, served in disposable cups and/or in containers made out of hard-to-recycle mixed materials, or there’s a ‘free plastic gift with every purchase’.

Unavoidable? Not if you prepare in advance.

We’ve compiled a list of 5 of our favourite travel hacks to reduce waste while travelling.

1. Be prepared to avoid airport and plane plastic

Before you leave home, take a little time to list all of the things that you would ordinarily pick up or use at the airport or on the plane – everything from drinks and snacks, to reading material, headphones and blankets.

close up of the back of a seat on a plane

What you take in your carry-on luggage can reduce the waste you create on a plane.

The usual ways to avoid single-use plastic apply, such as bringing snacks like homemade energy balls with you in a reusable container (instead of those overpriced bars and sugary plastic-wrapped treats from the airport vending machine), as well as keeping a reusable cup and bottle handy (which can be topped up in the airport lounges or cafes once you’ve passed security, and also used for your drinks on the plane). A set of reusable cutlery (without the knife) and a cloth napkin or handkerchief can be useful additions too. All of these items are likely to get used again throughout your trip and having them may also help to save you money!

More travel-specific items to pack include your earphones and a comfortable jumper or scarf (so you don’t need to unwrap the headphones and blanket provided on the plane); and pre-download an e-book or audio book on your phone or tablet (instead of picking up a magazine before the flight).

2. Go paperless where possible

Whenever you can, say no to paper and plastic items that you know you’ll end up getting rid of. For instance, if the airline you’re flying with has a mobile app, use the e-ticket function when checking in and boarding rather than printing a hard copy ticket.

digital boarding pass shown on a mobile screen

Go paper-free

If you purchase anything duty-free or from shops and restaurants at your destination, you have the option to say no to paper receipts. And, if shopping is on the agenda, pop a reusable shopping bag in your coat or bag pocket.

3. Don’t forget your low-waste toiletries

All of our suggestions about reducing bathroom waste also apply while travelling. Take what you can to avoid relying on all those miniature soaps and shampoos found in hotel rooms.

travel sized containers

Bringing your own toiletries, rather than relying on hotel miniatures, can be an easy way to reduce waste

Some low-waste, travel-friendly bathroom and beauty products include: toothpaste tabs; reusable make-up wipes; and solid soap, deodorant and shampoo bars. You may also want to do some research into your hotel’s own sustainability practices – they may be taking steps to reduce bathroom waste already by providing bulk toiletries.

4. Follow sustainable hotel practices

Most people don’t change their sheets and towels every day at home, so why would this be necessary when staying at a hotel? Simple answer, it’s not.

folded towels on a bed

You don’t need fresh towels or sheets daily so take note of the hotel’s instructions.

A lot of hotels offer their guests options and advice on environmentally sustainable practices. These include towel and linen reuse programs, where guests can let staff know when they’d like these to be changed but otherwise reuse them over the few days of their stay. Fewer washes will keep towels and sheets out of landfill for longer.

Also it’s worth keeping your recyclables separate if you can. If there is no obvious collection point in your room or in the hotel lobby, ask at the front desk. If all else fails, look for a recycling bin when you’re out sightseeing.

5. Sit down, take in the sites and enjoy the local experience

You’ve travelled across land and sea to reach your destination, so why spend your time there in a car or eating out of plastic and cardboard?

cafe setting with tea being poured

Forget grab-and-go options. Dine in to get the full holiday experience.

When travelling, try to eat at sit down restaurants rather than grabbing takeaway options. You’ll not only be eating off plates with real silverware (meaning there will be no packaging to dispose of afterwards), but you’ll usually also get a far better experience and a taste of the local culture.

If you’re travelling on a budget a large beeswax wrap is a great addition to your packing – hand it over with confidence when ordering sandwiches on the go.

Let us know if you have other low-waste travel hacks by dropping us a line or reaching out to us on Facebook. Also, don’t forget to tag us in your impact-owning posts on social media using #ownyourimpactwa.

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