It was the shoes that did me in. In my quest to cut down on the impact of my trips, I found all kinds of useful and easy zero-waste travel tips to implement. But I couldn’t get around the issue of plastic for my shoes.
I’ve traveled to all kinds of wonderful places where keeping things clean is, quite honestly, pointless or impossible: Remote places where homes are sometimes caves, and stenches rise from the shower drains in the nicest hotels; places where your meal is cooked over an open fire, and running water is likely to come out of the tap brown — if it’s available at all. I’ve had almost every vaccine in the book for my trips.
The point? I’m not super prissy. I can hike for six days without a shower and pee outside.
But I was really stuck on options for shoes. I couldn’t get past putting my shoes directly into my luggage without some sort of barrier between them and my clean clothes. I mean, look at all the places these shoes have *been.* Plastic bags worked, but that’s not exactly green.
Easy Zero-Waste Travel Tips
I found a kindred spirit, however, in Lyndsey Matthews, author of an article on Afar.com about how gross shoes are, and how she manages them in her luggage. And then I found these amazing shoe bags — washable, and with colored zippers to easily keep things straight — from EcoRight.
There are lots of other ways to save the earth while you see all of it. Check out these easy zero-waste travel tips:
- Ditch the tiny plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles and cosmetics. Instead, choose solid hair and body care from Spinster Sisters that travels well in reusable tins. I like the face serum bar, body butter, and shampoo and conditioner bars from Spinster Sisters, a woman-owned, wind-powered company that uses safe, sustainable and Fair Trade ingredients.
- The same principle applies for shaving and smoothing: Take along the Abbey Brown shave bar for smooth skin on legs or face any place you go; keep it in a mesh bag for zero-waste travel.
- Stay hydrated without spending a fortune in the airport by slipping a collapsible water bottle in your coat pocket or carry-on. It’ll serve you well for days of sightseeing, or save your bacon if you’re traveling where clean water is scarce. I love my Anntrue bottles!
- Packing snacks for your trip? Store them in reusable silicone bags; all the better if they can go in the microwave or boiling water, like these from Stasher, so you can cook on the road. They flatten when you’re finished, and they go in the dishwasher when you’re home.
- When you consider that nearly all the plastic toothbrushes ever made are sitting in a landfill somewhere, you’ll fall in love with WowE’s bamboo toothbrushes. Even the cardboard box in which they come is recyclable.
- On that same oral-hygiene theme, toothpaste tablets from Bite eliminate the need for little tubes that take up space in your luggage and in the trash.
- Try to pack lighter. A car topper will cut your fuel efficiency tremendously if you’re driving. Extra luggage burns more airline fuel, too. Wear your bulkiest clothing during your travels. Share a suitcase with a companion. Choose those shoes wisely, so that you can take fewer pairs! And consider what necessities you can purchase when you get to your destination, rather than hauling it over land and sea.
- Bring your own headphones when flying; the airline’s disposable pair sounds crummy anyway.
- You likely already know this, but straws are completely unnecessary. (Almost always.) Skip ’em and sip for less waste when traveling.
- Use the power of the device already at hand: Download tickets and passes to your phone. Not only can you avoid printing extra paper, but you’ll also have less to keep track of.
- Take along a tote. Whether you’re getting groceries for your Airbnb or selecting souvenirs for your friends, a reusable shopping bag is handy to have. Zero-waste travel plus easier shopping is a bonus.
- Follow the principles of Leave No Trace wherever you travel. It doesn’t apply just to your hike.
- Travel causes carbon, obviously. You can help undo the damage by purchasing carbon offsets. But how much better if you also can cause less damage in the first place? Consider longer trips to minimize flight frequency, or try travel by train or boat.
So what are your easy zero-waste travel tips? Tell us on our social media. And check out our favorite travel cosmetics in the gear section of our blog!
This post likely contains affiliate links. If you shop or make a reservation through these links, we may make a small commission (for which we are very grateful!) at no extra cost to you. Not all links are affiliates, and we only suggest products and places that we have experienced.
We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn advertising fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated websites.
The views expressed on this website represent the opinions of the authors; we encourage you to form your own opinions and confirm any facts.