Travel the World without Adding to its Landfills

Whether you're preparing for holiday travel, a honeymoon, or you're referring to this blog post before summer vacation, it's important to pay attention to just how wasteful your trip can be.

Buying a ton of travel-sized items and single-use packages can get expensive and leaves behind a lot of unnecessary trash.

Don't worry, it's very possible to make your travel and your packing more eco-friendly. Of course, flying and driving farther distances require extra natural resources, but by being mindful of what you've packed, you can lighten your load and reduce your impact on those resources.

As I've prepared and gotten ever more excited for our honeymoon, I've looked at how I can make the trip as green as possible. (Beyond making my list of yoga poses for photos in Google Keep to stay paperless!)

We don't fly often (if only we had money...and more time off!), but when we do, we always try to travel light. While just being easier to manage, it also reduces the weight on the plane (every little bit counts). Typically when we fly, I'm able to stick to only a carry-on suitcase, and I love not having too much stuff with me. (Which is funny, because on any given day, I am normally NOT traveling light!)

For our honeymoon, I set out to fix one problem I always encounter when I fly - those damn quart size bags for toiletries. Y'all know I don't like single-use Ziploc bags, but every time we fly I end up with one, and it almost always gets destroyed by the time I get home.

So I shopped around for a reusable option. Most of what I found online was expensive, and I ended up purchasing a reusable zipper bag at my local Target to save the impact of shipping one clear bag. While it was the least expensive option I found, it also came with empty travel-size containers that I probably won't need to use, and the bag itself isn't recyclable.

Finding a more sustainable option (especially last-minute) can be more expensive, but with less procrastinating, I probably could have found something better. At least I plan to use this one for the next few years!

Instead of buying travel-sized toiletry items, stock up on reusable travel-size containers, and refill them as you need. I've had these squeezable tubes for a few years, and love using them over generic plastic containers. They're made of a food-grade silicone and are BPA-free.

If you're looking at upgrading or replacing your luggage, consider investing in pieces made of eco-friendly materials. Even if it's just your backpack to take on the plane, you can find some made of recycled cotton.

Travel Well magazine shares a few of their picks for eco travel gear. As I read through the list, I realize we check off a few items I didn't know were focused on sustainability. My husband swears by his Eagle Creek packing cubes for efficiency and organization. The brand's website includes a statement on environmental responsibility, and I appreciate that they focus on creating lasting products, not ones that will end up in a landfill after two or three uses:

We are keenly aware of the environmental impact of everything we produce and so strive to minimize material waste, and source and manufacture with the least environmentally impactful materials. Many customers tell us they’ve been carrying their Eagle Creek gear for years. And that’s our intention; we make gear that lasts to lessen the amount of waste in landfills.

Osprey is another outdoor-focused brand that has a commitment to sustainability. Their packs have recycled and recyclable packaging, are free of BPA, PVC/phthalates and triclosan, and they limit waste in production. I use my Osprey backpack fairly often, although most of the time it's carrying my yoga clothes to the gym.

For our honeymoon, I plan to use my backpack as my carry-on item and adventure pack. And check out that sweet logo! Quick tangent: I wanted a patch with the Eco Cajun logo to stick on my backpack for the trip, but couldn't find an online vendor to print only one. While talking to a coworker one day, I got the inspiration to reuse the button my bridesmaid made for my bachelorette party. It's a plastic button that snaps apart - and conveniently, it's the exact same size as my Eco Cajun stickers. Free and reused...I'd call that a win!

If you're traveling with gifts, especially during the holidays, leave them unwrapped in your luggage. Anything is subject to be searched by TSA, and if they have to unwrap your gifts, that's a lot of wasted paper. Save the wrapping for when you arrive at your destination.

Download your airline's mobile app, which will allow you to use mobile boarding passes. If you don't have paper passes, you won't crinkle or lose them!

When you travel, bring your reusable bottle. While TSA won't let you bring liquids through the checkpoint on it, you can fill it up with your favorite drinks post-security checkpoint.

In the airport, take advantage of available recycling and even compost bins. Choose items that are packaged in recyclable materials, instead of materials like Styrofoam.

Bring a cloth napkin for on the plane, and decline the paper napkins from the flight attendants. Most major airlines recycle the plastic cups from the drink service, so make sure your cup is empty when you give it back.

Before you embark on a road trip, check that your vehicle is up to date on maintenance and oil changes. When everything is inspected and working properly, you'll maximize fuel efficiency and engine use.

Fill up your tires to their proper inflation to increase fuel efficiency (and for safety).

Pack what you can inside the car, as those roof luggage racks reduce efficiency and increase drag.

Especially on car rides, it's easy to load up with bottles of water and small bags of chips or candy. By stocking up before you leave home, you can eliminate a lot of the waste. Pick up your snacks at the grocery store beforehand, instead of loading up at the gas station after you've left home. Get the larger bags of snacks instead of the single-serve, and portion them out into smaller reusable containers to bring in the car.

Fill some reusable bottles with your drink of choice. As you stop for the restroom or to refuel, refill your bottles.

Pack gifts or extra items, like games for children, in cloth bags. They can hold a lot of items and are stronger than plastic bags. Plus, they can serve multiple purposes while you're on your trip.

Essential Eco-Friendly Travel Gear

  • Reusable quart-size bag for carry-on luggage
  • Good quality travel-size toiletry containers
  • Reusable water bottle and/or coffee mug
  • Reclosable and reusable snack containers
  • Cloth bags
  • Airline apps for mobile boarding passes and flight information
  • Cloth napkins
  • Eco-friendly luggage/bags/accessories (a few brands I'm familiar with:)

What are some ways you cut down on trash when you travel?

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