Zero-Waste Travel Tips! 7 Ways to Reduce Waste While Travelling by Air

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My family and I are getting ready for our first beach getaway in several years and we are all so excited for some fun in the sun! 

The issues around airline emissions are not lost on me, but it’s unrealistic to think that we won’t ever travel again. Instead, planning the trip has got me thinking about travelling, and ways I can help cut down on waste while away from home, especially in the airport! I know there isn’t a perfect zero-waste solution, but there are some little things we can each do while travelling that can add up to big changes!

I cringe thinking about all the single-use items used in airports and in airplanes. From water bottles, to cups, to creamers, to coffee stirrers and napkins packaged in plastic – it’s crazy to think how much waste is generated by this industry!

According to the International Air Transport Association, airlines produced 5.2 million tons of waste in 2017, most of which went to landfill or incineration and is the weight of about 2.6 million cars. While toilet waste is included in that statistic, so are lunch trays, miniature wine bottles, coffee and water cups, individual snack wrappers and other tokens of air travel. That figure is projected to double over the next 15 years to over 10 million tons annually by 2030

Clearly we have a problem with waste in our skies that rivals our problem of waste in our oceans!

Here is what I’m going to do for our upcoming trip to help reduce the amount of waste we produce while travelling!

Zero-waste travel tips

Zero-waste Travel Tip #1: Download your tickets to your phone

This is an easy way to avoid paper waste if your airline offers you the ability to download your tickets via email PDF. Imagine the paper savings that can be achieved with regular use of e-tickets! This is an easy win that will set your adventure off on a low-waste foot!

Zero-waste travel tips

Zero-waste Travel Tip #2: Bring EMPTY bottles of water

I’ve actually been doing this for a long time, and it works out so well. I typically bring a 16 ounce mason jar with me in my purse, and fill it when I’m through security at a water fountain or in the washroom. This time, we’ll be travelling with kids so we’ll bring a few empty bottles in our carry-on to fill when we get through security. We like the stainless steel bottles with a straw from Pura for our toddler.

The mason jar is great as it can be used for other items; with its wider mouth, you can use the jar for leftovers at restaurants (like French fries for our toddler) or for buying bulk snacks once at your destination.

Zero-waste travel tips

Zero-waste Travel Tip #3: Reusable wipes in waterproof bag (plus an extra bag for soiled wipes)

I’ll be travelling with my 2.5 year old and a 4 month old so I’m going to plan to bring some cut up tee shirt wipes in a waterproof bag. I mix up this solution: 1 ½ cup distilled water + 1 tsp organic baby wash + 2 drops tea tree oil + 4 drops lavender oil and pour it over cut up wipes in a water proof or portable wipe baggie. I use these wipes for everything from diaper changes to wiping down the airplane trays. Just make sure you bring the extra waterproof bag for the wipes when you are finished using them! These can be rewashed at your destination and work great with just plain water for quick clean ups too!

I like these Planet Wise bags from Amazon because they come in a nice, neutral black (along with some other fun colours if that’s your thing)! They are marketed for cloth diaper users, but with a little imagination, they can be used for all sorts of things (including snacks like cut up fruits)!

Zero-waste Travel Tip #4: Bring clean, dry cloth napkins (or burp cloths!)

I plan on using some clean and dry cloths as not only napkins, but also for wrapping baked goods for the plane, or as a handkerchief if needed. I have the cutest organic cotton burp cloths from MilkBarn, but I know they will do double, if not triple duty while we are travelling.

Zero-waste travel tips

Zero-waste Travel Tip #5: Snacks and food 

This is an obvious way to cut down on waste while on the go. We plan on bringing snacks in Tupperware containers for the flight. Yes, I know plastic Tupperware is a zero-waste ‘no-no’ and there are issues with chemical leaching from plastic containers, but we have lots from over the years and they are lightweight. Rather than replacing all our Tupperware overnight, we plan to use what we have for now and slowly switch to more sustainable options. I have been loving stainless steel boxes – like these or this – or the idea of expanding our glass collection of storage vessels with some of these pots.

I’m also going to bring a bamboo spork or two in my carry-on in case we get delayed and have to get food at a restaurant in the airport that doesn’t use metal, reusable cutlery. This way we’ll be able to avoid single-use cutlery if we are in a pinch!

Zero-waste Travel Tip #6: Entertainment

I used to love buying magazines and books for a flight. What better time to catch up on current affairs or get immersed in a good book than when you are 40,000 in the air and almost entirely cut off from technology. But now, travelling with kids has me rethinking my entertainment strategy. We’ll be bringing a deck of cards and our iPad with some preloaded games, shows and reading material.

Zero-waste Travel Tip #7: Travel shampoo and conditioner (our solid bars)

I’m going to ditch the travel sized shampoo and conditioner in plastic containers and bring my hair bars in our carry-on, along with a few other necessities in case our luggage gets lost!

With these small changes, I hope we can make a dent in the waste we generate while travelling! Do you have any other ideas to share?

Zero-waste travel tips

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