15 Most Inspiring Zero Waste Travel Hacks for Digital Nomads
Whether you are a full time or occasional traveler, these simple zero waste travel hacks and tips will inspire you to do your best to reduce the amount of waste during your trips.
We are not on our property, so there are a lot of factors that are beyond our hands, but that doesn’t mean we have to give up.
So, let’s get started!
1. BE MINDFUL OF THE PLACE YOU CHOOSE TO STAY
The lodging you pick can make a huge difference for making things easier or not. Choosing an eco-friendly lodging is an option, but normally it is a lot more pricey than renting an entire apartment or house. Renting will give you more control of your actual waste, especially in the long term.
Airbnb is my favorite tool to find a place to stay. You can find accommodations offering sustainable services like a composting area, apartments run by solar panels, recycling systems and more. But let’s be honest, in most of the countries these options are very hard to find. So choosing a place where you can cook your own meals is enough.
2. TRAVEL WITH A MINI WATER FILTER
You may have thought about getting a Filtration Water Bottle and here is the deal, they are useful, but if you are a nomadic person like me, a single bottle won’t do the job. My boyfriend and I have being using the Sawyer Mini filter for years, which is super tiny and it filters up to 100,000 gallons.
They have 0.1 & 0.02 micron filtration which makes it impossible for harmful bacteria, protozoa, or cysts like E. coli, Giardia, Vibrio cholerae and Salmonella to pass through. But, yes there is a but, and you probably already know, it doesn’t filter heavy metals. For that, you will need a charcoal filter, but I don’t know of any small ones.
Ideally you will have to use both filters if you are very picky with your water and don’t want to take risks. But, if you are visiting places where you know the water isn’t that bad, you will be fine with the Sawyer Mini.
You will save a lot of money on water and most importantly, don’t have to buy water in plastic containers.
Now, you will need a bottle to attach your filter anyways. So, this may sound gross for some people, but you can reuse any plastic bottle that you find in the street or even ask in small stores for an empty one. Just wash it well and you are ready to go my friend.
3. TRY TO COOK YOUR OWN MEALS MORE OFTEN
Ok, this one depends a lot on the duration of your trip. If you are traveling occasionally or for vacation time, it is probably better to enjoy yourself eating out if you don’t like cooking.
But, if you do love cooking or you are a full-time traveler like me, cooking your meals will save you a lot of money and you will be fully aware of the waste involved in the preparation of your food.
A. Visit the local Farmers Market or Organic Fairs instead of going directly to the supermarket. You will find amazing fresh vegetables and fruits. I love to visit these places because I can learn about the native local plants and get to try a new fruit, root or veggie.
Plus, they normally use paper bags or have their products wrapped with organic materials.
B. Travel with a grocery bag made 100% of natural materials. They don’t take space and you can use it for many purposes besides groceries.
C. Look for Bulk Stores or Zero Waste Stores to buy the rest of your groceries. If you are lucky you may find one or two.
4. TAKE A FOOD CONTAINER WHEN YOU GO OUT TO EAT
This one may be very handy especially if you are one of those people (like me) that don’t finish their meals all the time. Also, food portions are different in every country and restaurant.
For those places with gigantic portions, it is best to carry a food container just in case. In Mexico, we used it all the time, because trust me, you will want to take those leftover tacos with you.
Choose a container that fits well in your backpack or purse, so you don’t have to ask for a plastic bag. A lot of restaurants are still using containers made of Styrofoam and lots of plastic to pack their food, by carrying your own container you are doing a lot.
Also, you will love having a container if you like to go hiking or simply go out in nature for the day and want to pack some food.
5. CARRY REUSABLE STRAWS WITH YOU
They barely take space and you will amazed how often you used them, especially if you are visiting places with hot climates and you are fan of smoothies.
The only problem is that you will have to remember to ask the waiter to not bring any straws with your drinks.
Now, you are probably thinking, a lot of straws now are biodegradable. But remember, all compostable items are biodegradable, but not all biodegradable products are compostable. I have metal stainless steel straws and I love them, plus I use them whenever I want to make some drinks at home too.
6. MAKE YOUR OWN WAX WRAPS TO TRAVEL WITH
If you have a 100% natural fabric from a piece of clothing you are no longer using, that would be ideal. If not, buy a piece of plant based fabric like cotton to convert it into an amazing sustainable and reusable food wrap. Forget about plastics, you can use this to cover bowls to store in the fridge and to save half tomatoes or onions.
They are easy to wash and don’t take space at all. I have my own DIY tutorial on how to make your own wax wrapper, click here for the full instructions and materials.
7. TRAVEL WITH YOUR OWN RAG
Let’s be real for a moment, we don’t need paper towels. Most airbnb’s have paper towels instead of dish-clothes in the kitchen.
Reducing the amount of single use paper products is very important as well. So, two years ago, I decided to travel with my own rag. I use it to clean the mess from the kitchen and I can easily wash it and reuse it.
But remember, if you already have a piece of clothing you are about to left behind, check if the fabric can be used as a rag as well.
Zero Waste is about reusing what you already have instead of buying brand new products as a first option.
8. ORDER FOOD FROM PLACES WITH SUSTAINABLE PACKAGING
I know! this one is hard. But trust me, you don’t want to receive your food packed with three plastic bags plus more plastic containers and end up filling your whole trash can.
A good tip that I can give you is to order from organic restaurants or even plant-based restaurants because it is more likely they will pack your food with a recycled paper bag and compostable containers.
Also, most delivery apps now give you the option to communicate that you don’t want plastic forks or spoons. But if some restaurants don’t have this option, you can write in the additional comment section to please not send any silverware. It works!
9. TRAVEL WITH REUSABLE SPOONS AND FORKS
If you prefer hotels over Airbnbs, this one may be very useful. For me, they come in handy when we have to travel long distances and we prefer to bring our own food. Also for outings, hiking or camping.
10. PREPARE YOUR OWN SNACKS
Whether you are going out for the day, on a tour or just traveling from place to place, avoid getting those snack bags of 20% chips, 70% air and 10% plastic. They are a scam and are not good for you. I’m kind of sounding like a mom here, but let’s be real, most of those bags go right away to landfill.
Instead, carry some healthy snacks like apples, grapes or even a sandwich in your food container.
11. GET AN INSULATED REUSABLE WATER BOTTLE
If you already have a reusable bottle, skip this one. For those that are thinking to get one or replace it, I would recommend to get one that also keep your drink cold or hot.
I have one that comes with a small cap where I can pour the hot water and don’t burn myself when I use it. You can get more out of the same bottle!
12. TRAVEL WITH NATURAL DEODORANT AND SHAMPOO BARS
If you are lucky, you can find some shampoo bars that work great with your hair. Make sure to do your research before buying, because once I got a shampoo bar that left my hair extremely dry. So, be aware and get one for your type of hair and scalp.
With deodorants, it is much easier. There are a lot of products now that work just great and come in eco-friendly containers. But if you are looking for a long-lasting deodorant, I’ll have to mention the alum stone which is the one I’m using now, it works great for me and it seems like it’s gonna last forever.
Just make sure to get a real one because I know they are producing it industrially and it is not the same. Now if you are wondering about the “alum” factor, I was too. But then, I did my research and I found out the difference between “Potassium alum” (which is the alum stone) vs Aluminium chloride/chlorohydrate.
The Aluminium chloride or Aluminium chlorohydrate are salts that react with peptides and amino acids in the skin to form a gel which then blocks sweat ducts and glands, preventing perspiration (sweating). And if you didn’t know, it’s what makes antiperspirants work. It’s not safe and we don’t want that.
These salts also have a small molecular mass (typically between 250-350 Daltons) meaning that they can readily penetrate the skin and cross the skin/blood barrier, thereby entering the body.
Potassium Alum (alum stone) in the other hand has a much larger molecule (around 480 Daltons) which is too large to be absorbed through the skin (the maximum size that can be absorbed is less than 450 Daltons).
Instead of forming a gel, Potassium Alum sits on the surface of the skin where it prevents the bacteria responsible for causing sweaty odors from multiplying.
13. TRAVEL WITH YOUR OWN BAR OF NATURAL SOAP
Almost every hotel and most airbnb’s leave these little pieces of soap all wrapped in plastic. Don’t use them, instead, I recommend to buy natural bar soaps from organic stores that are much better for your skin and usually come packed in a carton box or simply just by itself.
It is worth it and you can wrap it easily to save it in your luggage.
14. IF YOU ARE A LADY, REPLACE TAMPONS AND PADS WITH REUSABLE ONES
This one will depend a lot on your preferences. For example, a lot of women love to use menstrual cups and I tried them too, they work fine, but they are not for me. I’m too lazy to remove it on time and sometimes I feel little weird sensations.
So for me, I’d rather use some reusable pads that are easy to wash and I can actually see when is time to change it. If you decide to try this one, remember that you will have to buy two pads, so you can rotate them.
15. GIVE AWAY YOUR CLOTHES INSTEAD OF PUTTING THEM IN THE TRASH
If you get to a point when you need to get rid of some clothes to free space in your luggage, consider giving away your clothes.
Sounds like a lot of trouble? Not really. Put them in a bag and write a big note like: Free clothes, please take it only if you need it. Or whatever note you want. Then put the bag out in the street where people can see it. Make sure to write it in the local language.
That’s it! It is best if someone else makes better use of what you no longer need than throwing everything in the trash. We did this a month ago and by the time we checked the bag was gone 😉
Is not about being perfectly responsible with our waste, is about doing our best.
So, don’t get discouraged if you are not the guru of “Zero Waste”. Just by considering and focusing consciously to do your best is what it counts.
As travelers we must be aware of the impact of our waste as well as the social and environmental effects of traveling. So, our decision to start to take action, it is the most effective tool we have now.
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