Zero waste travel: Packing using less packaging

Recently, I really started to notice all the waste we produce unintentionally. I write this post not to preach, blame, or get on a soapbox. I write this post on zero waste travel to get you thinking about whether making some small changes to create less waste is something you want to do.

The thing I’ve noticed about the zero waste movement is that, for the most part, it’s not all about being perfect and creating ZERO waste. That’s virtually impossible. With everyone making small changes, a big difference can be made in the world. These are the small changes I’ll be making throughout this year. They are simple swap-outs and typically will save you money in the long run.

Packing with less waste for the bathroom

shampoo bottles

Do buy GoToobs
Don’t buy the little travel bottles of your favorite shampoo

If you’re like me, you might take advantage of sales and have a stockpile of shampoos and such that you need to get through. GoToobs have been my go-to for years now to fill with the bottles I already have. I love them because they are easy to pack, easy to fill, and easy to clean. I recommend going for the 2.5 oz bottles or less for regular travel. I have never gone through a 3 oz bottle of anything when traveling for a week.

Do take shampoo/conditioner bars
Don’t use bottles at all

This is the next step if you’re up for it. Since I still need to go through my bottles, I’m not here yet, but I’ll be trying the shampoo and conditioner bars from Lush once I get there. I’ve heard great things about their shampoo bars and mixed reviews about the conditioner bars, but once I use them for a while, I’ll let you know how they work for me. There have been rave reviews of J.R. Liggett’s shampoo bars as well. Do some research and see which you like best.

bar soap

Do buy bar soap
Don’t buy shower gel in plastic bottles

Sean’s always done this. You can wrap it in a washcloth when you travel or get a travel case for it. This will be a new one for me, but between the bottle of gel and the plastic in body puffs, I decided a bar of soap is best. Bonus points for a no package bar from a market or speciality store, but let’s be real, that’s not the easiest thing to find. Baby steps.

washcloth vs poof

Do take a washcloth
Don’t use body puffs

I just mentioned this above, but washcloths last so much longer and are so versatile where the body puffs are not usually made well and get trashed quickly and typically made of plastic.

Do get a bamboo toothbrush
Don’t get a plastic toothbrush

This might just be the easiest swap. Even if you don’t have a compost to dispose of the bamboo toothbrush in when it’s finished, it’s still a better option. Bamboo is a highly renewable resource as it grows super fast and it takes less energy to produce than plastic. I figure it’s still a step up if you have to toss it.

Daily items to use when traveling to reduce waste

Always have a reusable bag
Avoid one time use plastic bags

Once you get in this habit, it’s super easy. We started using reusable bags in the U.S. I bought one for every family member (I’m not sure any of those get used!) and we got ourselves one just to get used to taking it. Then a friend gave me one for my birthday 2 years in a row. I think she forgot, but we still use them, so we’re happy about it 🙂 The bags I bought were recycled from old plastic bottles. Easy to pack and throw in any sized bag. Of course, if you have a million fabric/canvas totes from a conference like me, they are perfect if they are big enough! We have to pay for bags here, so it’s an easy habit to get into 🙂 Check prices on reusable shopping bags.

water bottles

Take a reusable water bottle everywhere
Avoid single-use plastic bottles

This isn’t always possible, but it’s about taking small steps to reduce waste. I’m not in the habit of remembering my bottle, but when I do, it pays off! I had it in my backpack side pocket when we got snacks from the airport and the women noticed it. She asked if I wanted her to fill it up before we got on the place. YES! Brilliant idea! I use a stainless steel bottle right now, but I used to use and may buy again, a Camelback bottle. If you want super safe drinking water in places you’re unsure if you should drink it, try a Lifestraw bottle.

homemade snacks

Make homemade snacks
Avoid a ton of wrappers

Did you catch the story above? We bought snacks at the airport. I hate doing that because I know it’s expensive and causes unnecessary waste. But it happens. I do prefer, however, to have a prep evening the night before a flight to make something homemade to take with us. I’ll be getting these kinds of silicone baggies to take as well so we can keep reusing them. Right now it’s regular plastic baggies and I feel so bad about it. It’s on the next Amazon list!

Take reusable utensils/straws
Decline plasticware/plastic straws

Sean was given a set of bamboo utensils in the U.S. in a little pouch and adored them. Used them all the time at work. I just asked him whatever happened to them. Turns out, he is still using them! Proud wife 🙂 Now, I need to get a set! We both just got stainless steel straws, as well. Though, straws are a big thing here. Take away cups with straws isn’t a big thing and you don’t always get them in restaurants, but we’ll still take them if we get a soda (which is rare!). In the U.S., however, they would really come in handy. I’m thinking this full set would be perfect!

These are some small steps we have made or are going to be making in our lives to impact the planet just a little less. The smallest of efforts, if done by many, can make a big difference! I’m happy to be doing my part.

What is your favorite thing to do to have the environment?

Wishing you joy and travels!

Jessica Cutrufello wearing a green floral dress, glasses and pink lipstick

Hi! I’m Jessica, an American who made Amsterdam her home in 2014. I share European gems through food and memorable experiences. Want to know more? Head to my about page or check out my YouTube channel.