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Traveling Zero Waste: How to prepare for a zero waste travel experience

Reading Time: 13 minutes

To travel without producing any waste has been a journey with incredible discoveries and learnings for me.

The first time I traveled being conscious on the waste I was producing I was stunned about the huge amount of trash we generate when away from home for a while, and how comfortable we feel in this society that doesn’t bother about consuming, discarding and forgetting about the existence of that trash.

I wrote about waste in airplanes here, but today I want to show you how I plan and enjoy a trip for leisure or business while leaving zero waste behind (or almost zero waste).

The zigzag road seen from the train going from Myrdal to Finse, in Norway
The zigzag road seen from the train going from Myrdal to Finse, in Norway

Before leaving, be sure to check on that list

If you are a bit like me you probably have a list with all the essential travel items you must pack, which even includes the right amount of shirts and socks for a determined amount of days away from home. Lists are best friends, and now I don’t only have my default what-to-pack list, but also a more special one not to forget any zero waste essentials so I can produce the least amount of waste while traveling.

Below you will find a very descriptive list highlighting the whys and hows so you can understand and believe that it is possible to produce less waste during your next trip!

Personal Hygiene

Hygiene items were already in my regular what-to-pack list, but now they are even more special and need more attention and care since I need to go to specific stores to find what I need or even have to make them in advance.

Bar Shampoo and Conditioner
I love the bars because they are way easier to take around, they don’t make messes due to leaking and passing by airports’ security is made easier, too. One more benefit: you don’t have to store them in the plastic bags required for liquids by some flight companies. I get mine from Lush and, when traveling, I use the shampoo as body and face soap as well.

Homemade deodorant 
Deodorant is a bit complicated to get right and find the ideal recipe for you and that’s the reason I haven’t posted mine here yet (and already tried 3 different ones!), but I assure you it takes only 3 ingredients: vinegar, essential oils and vodka. Yes, vodka.

Bamboo toothbrush
Have you ever thought that, considering the whole nation has the habit of brushing their teeth and replacing their tooth brushes at least once a year (it’s surely way more than that), only in Brazil we dispose, at least, ~200 millions of tooth brushes per year?

Yes, there are recycling options out there, but you have to know exactly who is collecting them, normally temporary social initiatives that will turn the material into some other product, and there are also collecting points from Colgate in some places.

I think it’s a lot of work and prefer to start it right rather then try and do it right in the end. That’s why we’ve been using 100% biodegradable bamboo toothbrushes for a year already, and it works wonders! We use the same brush for ~4 months and compost them after with no guilt 🙂

The brand we’ve been using is the Swedish HumbleBrush, the brush and the packaging are both compostable and it’s also nice that for every toothbrush they sell, they give one away to a child in a less developed country where there is no access to oral hygiene.

Powdered toothpaste
I talked about toothpaste recipes here and my greatest finding on dental powder for traveling. It’s the best thing, seriously.

Here you can see my purple conditioner and yellow shampoo bars from Lush, the tooth powder in a reused candy can, my bamboo toothbrush and my homemade deodorante in a spray bottle. It all fits in a small nécessaire.
Bad photo, but you can see my purple conditioner and yellow shampoo bars from Lush, the tooth powder in a reused candy can, my bamboo toothbrush and my homemade deodorant in a spray bottle. It all fits in a small nécessaire that I recycled from a flight we took.

Homemade sunscreen
I made my own sunscreen with essential oils and vitamins, but there are rumors (as the sodium bicarbonate from toothpaste rumors) that oils attract more UV rays than prevent it. That’s mainly why I haven’t published my recipe yet, I will to try it for longer, talk with my specialist and research on oficial statements about the real essential ingredients to make sunscreen at home and maybe later post the results in here.

I rarely use makeup and I’m one of those who have a collection of out of date makeup at home and keeps on using them. If it’s harmful I don’t know, but what I want to do once they are over is to try out some great recipes that I’ve seen out there, like this one for making homemade mascara!

Daily utilities

Cotton Tote Bags
I usually take two: one for the day-to-day utilities that I will care around all the time, and one for shopping. I place all my zero waste stuff in one of them and then I can place it in a backpack, purse of even inside the other tote bag, like a matryoshka doll 

I now have a beautiful collection of Tote bags, in here one was bought in the Viking ships museum in Oslo and the other in the British museum in London <3
These are two of my beautiful collection of Tote bags, the one on the left was bought in the Vikings’ Ship Museum in Oslo/Norway and the other in the British museum in London/UK <3

Cloth bags for goodies
I always have two with me as well. These are for bulk shopping or something else package-free, like chocolate, bread, fruits or nuts.

Sacos de pano de todos os tipos, por exemplo, o último é daqueles que vem junto com as sandálias Melissa
Cloth bags of all kinds, the first one is good for fruits and delicate veggies such as mushrooms, the one in the middle is ideal for bread and the last one I recycled from one of my many Melissas and I use for many different goodies 🙂

Reusable mug/cup
The ideal to me seems to be my mason jar from Ball that I use at work as well because it is made of glass and resistant to hot and cold liquids, it also has an exchangeable lid so I can replace it with a full closed one (useful for when you used the jar and can’t clean it up right away), with a coffee-to-go lid or even a straw lid. I can use this one for all beverages from beer to coffee and juice, and I cut half of a sock in the middle to add the jar in it for security, so the glass doesn’t slip, burn or freeze my hands!

Cloth Napkins
Always useful for using as a napkin (of course), but also serves to wrap goodies like croissant, cheese or a piece of cake. It can also be used to dry your hands instead of using those loud electric driers from restaurants’ restrooms that waste energy and fake-dry your hands.

Meu copo-jarra preferido com café e um croissant que peguei com meu guardanapo de pano em uma cafeteria enquanto esperava meus colegas para pegar o trem de Brighton pra Londres.
My favorite mason jar filled with fresh coffee and a croissant I got with my cloth napkin in a café while waiting for my colleagues to get the train and head from Brighton to London the other day.

A reusable water bottle
Don’t ever leave home without your reusable water bottle. Don’t. Ever. Leave. Home. Without. Your. Reusable. Water. Bottle. That way, you can refill in a water fountain, with filtered water or even from a waterfall! Also, don’t let the media manipulate you into thinking that tap water is evil, in a lot of places around the globe it is safe to drink water from the tap or boil it to kill the germs, in some places bottled water comes right from the tap as well, so don’t be fooled.

A straw
From bamboo, glass or stainless steel. I have a stainless steel straw always with me, but I’m still figuring out how to use it in public places since depending on the place you are not gonna be face-to-face with the bartender to make sure he is using your straw and not wasting any other straws, like the absurd that happens in every corner of London, where they taste your drink for 2 seconds with a straw and trash it shamelessly, then put another two straws in it to give to you.


A stainless steel lunchbox
Prepare a snack or meal for the flight, and reuse your lunchbox after arrival as well. Despite using it for snacks during tours, I used it for leftovers, as a plate in restaurants that served in disposables, in food trucks, for take away and bulk shopping 🙂

Working, drinking green juice with my stainless steel straw in my mason jar and eating some snacks prepared in my stainless steel lunchbox
Working, drinking green juice with my stainless steel straw in my mason jar and eating some snacks prepared in my stainless steel lunchbox.

A spork, or a spoon and a fork ()
I have both, but I’ve been feeling more comfortable using the proper spoon and fork instead of the spork. I bought it as a kit with my stainless steel straw from this Australian store at Etsy that sells all things zero waste, but thinking in retrospective I could’ve gona after all the material and made my kit here instead, it’s always better to consume locally. Sometimes a knife can also be helpful, specially if you are a meat lover, I take my camping knife when needed but since I don’t eat much meat I prefer avoiding the need to baggage check-in.

Reusable chopsticks
Yes! I never took them with me, but last time I travelled I was dying to get some cheap noodles and there they were, the disposable ones, producing trash. Now I will pack them up together with my spoon, fork and straw every time!


Sugar, sweetener or honey
Many places serve these additives wrapped in plastic or coated paper, so having your own little sugar flask to sweeten your coffee does seem like a good idea.

Salt & Pepper
Same as the above, they might come in packaging that generates waste. I’m willing to buy one of these kits of grinders for travel for a while now 🙂

Coffee powder or tea
We took it with us once and it’s very nice! I like having tea at the hotel room sometimes and many hotels provide an electric kettle but normally with coffee and tea in sachets. To have my own zero waste coffee or tea with me is very pleasing 

Cantinho do café e chá em um dos quartos de hotel que fiquei em Brighton. Evite as coisas empacotadas, mas use a chaleira elétrica para esquentar água e fazer um café com seu café sem lixo :-)
Tea and coffee corner in the hotel room I stayed in Brighton. Avoid the packaged stuff in the right, but use the electric kettle to boil water for your zero waste hotel room coffee and tea 🙂

That’s it! Here you can find the zero waste list in an actual list format, and if you have questions or any other tips to share please let me know! It’s always great to know people are reading me and even best when we can collaborate and learn together!

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