Travel Till You Drop Logo

Zero Waste Travel: 11 Tips, Tricks & Hacks for Low Impact Traveling

Zero Waste Travel

Traveling sustainably and in an eco-friendly manner is becoming increasingly important in light of the planet’s environmental challenges. Zero waste travel is an approach that prioritizes reducing waste and minimizing the environmental impact when traveling. With the right tips, tricks, and hacks, it’s possible to begin on a low-impact journey without sacrificing comfort or convenience.

From packing durable, reusable items such as water bottles, utensils, and cloth bags to choosing accommodation that prioritizes sustainability and waste reduction, there are numerous ways to minimize the amount of waste generated while on the road.

You can go as far as opting for local and organic food, avoiding single-use plastics, and utilizing public transportation, cycling, and walking instead of relying on private vehicles. Zero-waste travel is not only a responsible choice, but it also enables us to create meaningful and memorable travel experiences while contributing to a more sustainable and eco-friendly planet.

Read on to learn 11 tips and tricks and travel hacks to make your next adventure a low-impact and sustainable travel experience you’ll never forget.

1. Put your home “to sleep” before leaving

Before setting out and exploring the world, take a minute to put it “to sleep” in a sustainable and eco-friendly manner. An eco friendly home can help you out even when you are away. This means taking steps to reduce waste and energy consumption while you’re away. Unplug any unnecessary electronic devices and appliances, as they continue to use power even when turned off. Set your thermostat to a more energy-efficient level, or invest in a programmable thermostat that can automatically adjust the temperature while you’re away.

Zero Waste Travel

Be mindful of water usage by turning off faucets tightly and checking for any leaks before leaving. Embracing a zero-waste mindset, be sure to empty the trash and recycling bins and compost any food waste before leaving on your trip. You can also consider donating any perishable items from your pantry to avoid food waste.

2. Reduce Waste – Source Second Hand Travel Gear

If you’re looking for travel gear but don’t want to spend a fortune, source second-hand items from local thrift stores, online marketplaces, or garage sales. You can find gently used luggage, backpacks, camping gear, and other travel essentials at a fraction of the cost. This can be especially helpful if you are looking for a new carry-on for everyone in the family. 

Places like Facebook Marketplace and stores like Goodwill frequently have great travel options. Many people sell their lightly used travel gear after only using it for one trip, so you can often find high-quality items that are still in great condition. You also probably already know that buying second-hand gear is also a sustainable choice, as it reduces the demand for new products and helps to minimize waste.

For solo female travelers, adding a portable toilet to your gear can be a smart move, offering convenience and independence on your outdoor journeys.

However, keep in mind, when purchasing second-hand travel gear, be sure to thoroughly inspect the items for any damage or signs of wear and tear. With a little bit of patience and some hunting, you can find the perfect travel gear for your next adventure without breaking the bank.

Pro Tip: Be extra vigilant during the start and end of travel season as people may be trying to get rid of old travel items to make way for new ones.

3. Think Sustainably – Consider Your Mode of Transportation

 When considering modes of transportation, it’s important to think about more than just convenience. Consider larger factors such as environmental impact, cost, and accessibility should all be taken into account. For example, opting to walk or bike whenever possible can save money on gas or public transportation fares and reduce your carbon footprint (pssst, hey – it’s also good for your health).

If walking or biking isn’t an option, public transportation can be a more sustainable option than driving a car alone. Carpooling or ridesharing are also great alternatives that can help reduce the number of vehicles on the road, cutting down on traffic and emissions. If you are going to be using your own vehicle, choosing a fuel-efficient or electric vehicle can make a significant difference in lowering your overall environmental impact.

It’s important to weigh all these factors and consider which mode of transportation aligns best with your values and lifestyle. Whether you’re traveling internationally or just in your backyard, be sure to consider how you spend your travel day. 

4. Go Eco-Friendly – Book direct flights if you can

Go Eco-Friendly - Book direct flights if you can

As you plan your next trip, especially with domestic flights, consider booking direct flights whenever possible. Direct flights are not only convenient and time-saving, but they also have a positive impact on sustainability. By reducing the number of take-offs and landings, direct flights decrease the overall carbon emissions produced during air travel. This is especially important in making air travel more eco-friendly and sustainable in the long run. Flight booking tools like Google Flights state emissions on each flight option allowing you to make informed decisions about the flights you book.

decisions about the flights

Source: Google Flights

Choosing direct flights can also contribute to the promotion of sustainable travel and zero waste practices within the airline industry. With fewer flights and connections, there is a decrease in resources, such as fuel and food, that are often wasted during layovers and transfers. By minimizing these wasteful practices, direct flights can play a role in promoting a more sustainable and environmentally friendly approach to air travel.

Another eco-friendly travel hack is to opt for a mobile boarding pass instead of a paper.

5. Promote Waste Reduction – Bring Your Own Snacks

When it comes to snacking, a great way to promote sustainability and eco-friendly practices is by bringing your own snacks. By packing your own snacks in reusable containers or bags, you can significantly reduce the amount of single-use plastic and packaging waste that ends up in landfills. Let’s be serious, you didn’t book the flight for the plastic baggie of 5 pretzels, did you?

Bringing your own snacks allows you to be more mindful of the amount of food you consume, which can help minimize your use of disposable products like plastic bags, and plastic cutlery. There are countless options for eco-friendly snacks that you can easily bring from home, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, homemade trail mix, nuts, or even pre-packaged snacks in compostable or recyclable packaging. Not only does bringing your own snacks promote sustainability and reduce plastic waste, but it also often results in healthier food choices.

6. Think Zero Waste – Reduce Food Packaging

Think Zero Waste - Reduce Food Packaging

Similar to Tip #4, reducing food packaging is crucial for promoting sustainability and creating a more eco-friendly environment. With a little forethought, creating less waste on vacation is much easier than you think. You can cook your own food, bring a bamboo cutlery set, and have a refillable water bottle around to negate the need for plastic cups and other single-use plastic bottles.

The excessive use of plastic, Styrofoam, and other non-biodegradable materials in food packaging contributes to environmental pollution and harm to wildlife.

By minimizing the use of packaging or utilizing more sustainable and biodegradable materials, we can make a positive impact on the planet. While on vacation, you can still adopt eco-friendly practices and embrace reusable and compostable options to significantly reduce the amount of plastic and other waste that ends up in landfills or oceans. Wherever you visit, consider supporting businesses and brands that prioritize eco-friendly and sustainable packaging. By doing so, we can encourage the industry to shift towards more sustainable and eco-conscious.

7. Zero Waste Toiletries

Zero waste toiletries are an essential part of living and traveling sustainably and eco-friendly lifestyle. By comparison, our travel toiletries, like travel toothpaste, are much smaller and therefore used up much quicker than their nontravel counterparts. By opting for zero waste toiletries, individuals can significantly reduce their carbon footprint and minimize their impact on the environment. These products are designed to generate little to no waste throughout their lifecycle, helping to conserve natural resources and reduce the amount of pollution. From shampoo bars and refillable deodorants to bamboo toothbrushes and reusable cotton rounds, there are a wide variety of eco-friendly toiletry options available on the market for your trip.

These products are not only better for the environment but also for the individual’s health, as they often contain natural and organic ingredients, free from harsh chemicals and artificial fragrances.

8. Bring A Reusable Water Bottle

Bringing reusable items is a simple yet impactful way to promote sustainability and be eco-friendly. By opting for reusable items such as water bottles, coffee cups, and shopping bags, individuals can significantly reduce their consumption of single-use plastics and minimize their environmental impact while traveling.

This simple change in behavior contributes to the overall effort to move towards a zero waste society. Reusable items not only help in reducing the amount of waste being produced but also help in the conservation of natural resources. For example, using a reusable water bottle reduces the need for plastic water bottles, which require significant amounts of fossil fuels and energy to produce. Bring a reusable coffee cup to eliminate paper waste and eliminate the need to buy coffee that comes in Styrofoam cups.

By choosing reusable items, individuals can contribute to the reduction of pollution, conservation of resources, and reduction of waste in landfills and oceans.

Remember to refill your bottle frequently to help save waste as a traveler.

9. Take Home Memories Instead of Souvenirs

When traveling, it’s tempting to buy souvenirs as a way to remember the trip and bring a piece of that experience home. However, instead of accumulating more material possessions, consider taking home Memories. This can be achieved by focusing on experiences and memories rather than physical items. By choosing to prioritize memories over souvenirs, travelers can embrace a more sustainable and eco-friendly approach to tourism.

This shift in mindset aligns with the principles of eco-friendly living, as it reduces the amount of unnecessary items being produced and consumed. It also minimizes the environmental impact of manufacturing and transportation associated with souvenir production. Instead of buying trinkets that may ultimately end up in a landfill, travelers can collect meaningful moments, connections, and experiences that will bring lasting happiness.

You can do things like participating in a local cooking class, taking a nature hike, or immersing yourself in the culture and traditions of a destination, these experiences can create cherished memories that are more valuable than any physical object. By opting for making memories instead of souvenirs, travelers can contribute to a more sustainable and mindful approach to travel, while also leaving a positive impact on the places they visit.

10. Laundry Options on The Road

When traveling on the road, it’s important to consider sustainable and eco-friendly laundry options. One way to do this is by utilizing zero waste laundry methods, such as hand washing clothes with biodegradable soap and line-drying them instead of relying on traditional washing machines and dryers.

This reduces the environmental impact of using electricity and water and minimizes the use of single-use plastic laundry detergent bottles and dryer sheets. If you are in a pinch, another eco-friendly option is to seek out laundromats that use energy-efficient machines and eco-friendly detergents. Some laundromats may even offer the option to bring your own eco-friendly detergent to reduce waste further.

Choosing clothing made from sustainable materials, such as organic cotton or bamboo, can help minimize the frequency of laundry needs while on the road. By considering these sustainable and eco-friendly laundry options, travelers can reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to a more environmentally friendly lifestyle, even while on the go.

11. Rechargeable & Eco-Friendly Electronics – A Must For Going Zero Waste

In an era of increasing environmental awareness, the demand for sustainability and eco-friendly products has never been higher. Rechargeable electronics are a prime example of how technology can be harnessed to reduce waste and decrease environmental impact.

While yes, you already charge your phone this way, other devices like cameras or flashlights may need batteries. Trying to reduce single-use batteries is still a great goal in all electronics.

Rechargeable batteries and electronic devices can be used repeatedly, reducing the need for single-use batteries that contribute to landfill waste. This not only saves money in the long run for consumers but also significantly reduces the amount of electronic waste being generated.

The materials used in rechargeable batteries can often be recycled, contributing to an eco-friendly approach in electronic product manufacturing. From smartphones to laptops to electric vehicles, the shift towards rechargeable and eco-friendly electronics is becoming increasingly widespread.


Zero-waste travel is something we all should strive for. As we continue to see the travel industry promote and encourage low-waste travel products, these tips will continue to be helpful and worthwhile. Next time you are getting ready for a trip, remember your zero waste travel essentials.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is zero waste travel?

Zero waste travel is a conscious effort to reduce our environmental footprint while traveling. It involves making choices that minimize waste generation and emphasize sustainability. This approach includes using reusable items, avoiding disposable products, and selecting experiences and accommodations that align with eco-friendly principles.

Is it worth it to go to zero waste?

Absolutely. Adopting a zero-waste lifestyle significantly reduces one’s climate impact. It aligns with data from the U.S. EPA, which highlights that a large percentage of greenhouse gas emissions are linked to the production and usage of goods. By reducing waste, we can conserve energy and dramatically cut down our carbon emissions, positively impacting the planet.

Is going zero waste expensive?

Contrary to popular belief, sustainable travel can be economical in the long run. The philosophy encourages mindful consumption, often leading to ‘buying for life’ choices. While this may mean a higher initial cost, it typically results in overall savings as these products are designed to last longer, reducing the need for frequent replacements.

What does it mean to go to zero waste?

Going zero waste means embracing a lifestyle where all resources are conserved through responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of materials. The goal is to achieve a cycle where nothing is burned or discharged in a way that harms the environment or human health, preserving resources and fostering sustainability.

What are the 5 rules of zero-waste?

The five rules of zero waste, often referred to as the 5 R’s, are fundamental guidelines.

  • Refuse what you don’t need
  • Reduce what you do need
  • Reuse as much as possible
  • Recycle what can’t be refused, reduced, or reused
  • Rot (compost) the rest. These principles form the foundation of a zero-waste lifestyle, guiding individuals and communities towards more sustainable practices.
About Jill

Hi, Jill Here

Hi! I’m Jill, a Dallas, Texas girl traveling the world. After a career in the Air Force and touring over 50 countries later, my need to explore keeps going! It’s time to rock & roll and find all those places I never knew I was missing.

Join me to get exclusive travel tips, giveaways and more!

I only recommend products I would use myself, and all opinions expressed here are our own. This post may contain affiliate links that, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission.