How to Have a Low Waste Summer; Part 1: Travel Tips

How to Have a Low Waste Summer; Part 1: Travel Tips

Going for a day trip to your favorite summer hangout?

Don’t forget your fab five reusables:

  1. Bag
  2. Bottle
  3. Cutlery
  4. Napkin
  5. Food container

TIP: Bring a mason jar as your food container so you can use it for food OR drink.

One of the best ways to reduce waste is by packing enough of your own food and snacks to fulfill your hunger for the whole time you’re gone so you don’t become tempted to stop for to-go food and drink items, which are often in non-recyclable packaging. Also, think ahead as to whether or not you will generate recyclables and compostables while you are out. Make sure you have something to put those in to bring home with you for proper disposal in case there isn’t a recycle and/or compost bin available where you go. You’ll be less likely to just shove everything in a public trash can if you’ve thought ahead and brought an extra bag or container for your recyclables and compostables.

When it comes to food scraps and being outside, a good rule to follow is if it wouldn’t exist there without you, don’t leave it there. When we leave food items outdoors that don’t exist there naturally, animals that pick them up could become sick because that is not their natural food source. But, animals don’t always pick up everything we litter that is biodegradable. Those items accumulate, rot, and become unsightly. It is always best to hold onto your food waste and dispose of it in a compost system.

If you’re lucky enough to be going away for more than a day trip, we have a few more tips in addition to the above to help you reduce travel waste. Since being low waste takes planning ahead, the first few tips will be pre-travel.


We can’t stress the fab five reusables listed above enough! If you’re going away for several days, you should bring extra reusable bags, cloth napkins, and food containers.

Be mindful when you grocery shop in the week or two leading up to your vacation. The goal is to eat up all of your perishable foods before you leave so that food doesn’t become waste while you are gone.

TIP: A day or two before you leave, go through your refrigerator and pantry to identify what could spoil. Freeze what you can, pack what you’ll eat during travel, and eat the rest before you go!

Do some research ahead of time about what will be available to you where you’re going. Check to see if there are any recycling and/or composting options available. Seek out bulk food stores and other local shops to refill on snacks. Try to find a local farmers market, which will not only be a fun activity that exposes you to the local culture but will also be a great place to get some food items in your own reusable containers.

TIP: Use this Bulk Food store locator app to find places to refill your own containers!

If you haven’t already jumped on the bar soap, bar shampoo, bar every other type of soap bandwagon then you can get small reusable bottles for traveling to refill with what you already have at home instead of buying new travel size versions of everything you need.

If you’re traveling by car, set up a collection system for trash, recyclables, and compostables before you leave so you don’t collect everything in one bag.

TIP: Use a sealable glass, metal, or plastic container for collecting compost.

Zero Waste Picnic

During vacation

Go grocery shopping when you reach your destination and strive to make as many of your own meals as possible. When you do go out to eat remember to order drinks without a straw (unless you need one) and bring your own to-go container.

If you go shopping, don’t forget your reusables bags! Be extra thoughtful about your purchases while you’re on vacation - we know how easy it is to give in to all the cute little trinkets. This is especially important if you’re hoping to bring a souvenir back for a loved one or friend. You could send them a postcard or bring them back something consumable (baked treats, coffee/tea, etc.) from a local shop. At the end of your purchase, opt for an electronic receipt instead of a paper one.