The Best Tips For Zero Waste Travel

Change your vacation habits and find out how you can travel with as little negative impact on the earth as possible.


What is zero waste travel?

It does what it says on the (recyclable) tin: you create as little waste as possible when you travel. Some people also call it low-waste, reduced-waste, or eco-travel.

This means using reusable bags, reducing your one-use plastic consumption and overall just being friendlier to the planet. It’s all about making sure you use things which won’t be thrown away after you’re finished and then harm the environment, such as plastic bags. There’s a big community of bloggers and vloggers trying to encourage others to be part of the zero waste travel movement.


Why should I bother with eco travel?

We don’t realise how quick we are to throw away things, especially when we’re on vacation. Whether it’s a plastic water bottle in the airport, or the stickers, maps and leaflets we pick up at museums, you’ll realise by the end that if you had plans to be sustainable, they’ve gone out of the window.

Perhaps you’re thinking it’d just be easier to recycle and reuse at home, allowing yourself to relax a little when you’re travelling. Unfortunately, this mindset leads to some pretty detrimental effects on the planet.

The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) estimated that 4.8 million tonnes, which is 14% of all waste, is produced by tourists. That’s the equivalent of 30,000 houses or 45,000 blue whales in plastic products and other waste. It’s impossible to visualise just how many empty water bottles, used toothpaste tubes and single-use plastic bags that number is made up of.

Travel is a great privilege and we shouldn’t take it for granted by being wasteful when we’re on vacation. Those natural wonders and beautiful climates won’t be around much longer if we don’t travel more sustainably.


Zero waste travel purchases you won’t regret:

Waste-free toiletries

First of all, think about how much packaging there is in those travel miniatures of shampoo and toothpaste that you buy before a trip. Lush has loads of soaps and shampoo bars which reduce waste, plus you can buy steel tins to transport all your toiletries in your carry-on. A few things you can pack in your suitcase to be more eco-friendly:

  • A reusable water bottle
  • A reusable takeaway coffee cup
  • Reusable grocery bags
  • Bamboo toothbrush
  • A shampoo bar or reusable containers instead of travel miniatures

person holding water bottle up to nozzle


Carbon offsets

This is something you’ve most likely been offered in the past but for those of you haven’t, this is an initiative by some airlines to compensate for the carbon emissions of your flight. Your offset will go towards an eco-project or organisation. However, you should do your research before you purchase any carbon offsets because some are offered cheaply but without having any real impact. You can check out this helpful guide to deciding which carbon offsets you should buy.

Second-hand travel

When someone can’t use their travel plans anymore and can’t get a refund, they often have to accept that their money is gone. If they don’t tell the hotel or airline until the last minute, that means an empty seat and an empty room.

Now, every plane is different but if you calculate how much it costs for each person to fly, then a missing seat drives up the cost and means that more flights have to be taken to transport the same number of people.

If you buy second-hand travel from, you’re helping someone out and also filling that empty space which is good karma in itself. Whilst you might not see the direct impact, just imagine if one person on every flight every day couldn’t travel. With over 100,000 flights taking off every 24 hours worldwide, that’s the equivalent of over 330 standard (Boeing A330) planes flying daily with no passengers. Buying second-hand travel means you’re doing what you can to reduce any wasted space on flights.


person looking out of plane window at sunset


Blogs we love:

Looking for some more inspiration and information? We’ve rounded up some of our favourite bloggers talking about eco-travel and how to do it yourself!


This is one for an injection of aspiration and motivation. Suzanne from the Oceanpreneur blog has some amazing projects on the go which help protect our oceans and we love her post about eco travel. Honestly, you won’t read a more comprehensive or well-informed guide anywhere else. If you’re feeling creative, give her DIY toiletries a try!


Zero waste travel can feel like a daunting thing to take on and can turn so many people away from even trying it. If that sounds like you, you need to read this post on Litterless about imperfect zero waste travel and how to reconcile with that. It just goes to show that low-waste travel is about doing your best, not being perfect.

On The Luce

If carbon offsetting gets you confused, you need to read this blog post from On The Luce about why and how to choose the right scheme. It’s a great introduction to carbon offsets and will make you realise you need to do your research before you buy anything.

Small Footprints, Big Adventures

For those of you want to go one step further and give your vacations a complete eco-makeover, check out this awesome family blog. They share their experiences in some cool eco farms, sanctuaries and volunteering projects which will give you a serious case of wanderlust. You need to read their post about finding sustainable and ethical elephant encounters if you’re planning on visiting South-East Asia anytime soon.


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Posted 21 March 2019

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