Zero Waste Travel: 16 Essentials To Reduce Plastic & Travel Plastic-Free

(Last Updated On: 23/11/2021)

As plastic pollution continues to rise, it’s more important now than ever to reduce our single-use plastic consumption, offset our carbon footprint, and focus on more zero waste travel practices. While a lot of people suggest going zero waste entirely, I have the approach of showing up imperfectly because of this simple quote that has stuck with me since I heard it years ago,

“You can not do all the good that the world needs, but the world needs all the good that you can do.”

By that, I mean that we don’t all need to aim for only having a single mason jar full of trash every year because let’s be honest, it’s just not attainable for everyone. As long as we show up as best we can by using these simple sustainable swaps to replace plastic packaging, we can do SO much good in the world and the environment.

This zero waste travel kit is full of items that have helped me avoid single-use plastics while I’ve traveled all over the world: a reusable water bottle, shampoo bars, a menstrual cup, bamboo utensils to use in place of plastic cutlery, the list goes on. What I admire most about these plastic-free travel swaps is that in the long run, they are going to save you so much money. If you are aiming to save money for travel, these are a pricey initial investment, but most of them pay themselves off within weeks and months and will last for your entire lifetime, so you can put all the money you save into funding more travel around the world.

What changed my perspective on my own waste was by getting out and experiencing the world. Since I am based in the United States, I had the privilege of living most of my life with rose-colored glasses on. It wasn’t until I traveled to Southeast Asia that I realized we had a serious issue on our hands. If you haven’t seen the drastic impact of plastic pollution in your community or while traveling, these are some great plastic-pollution documentaries to put things into perspective.

I hope this list of items inspires more zero waste travel in your future, and please share with me in the comments at the bottom of this post if you have any additional zero waste travel tips for reducing waste! Let’s dive into these swaps, shall we?

This post contains affiliate links for the products I mentioned, but as always, all opinions are my own. I make a small commission, at no extra cost to you, when you make a purchase or a booking through these links. This helps to support this space and keep me blogging, which I am extremely thankful for.

 


 

Stainless Steel Razor

Who else here has been personally victimized by women’s plastic razor packs? *Slowly raises my hand*. I remember growing up I got maybe ONE good shave out of a plastic razor before it was razor bumps central and time for it to be thrown out. Once I switched to a stainless steel razor, my shower routine was changed for the better. This razor is a one-time purchase that will last for the rest of your life because once you have one you only need to buy replacement blades, which cost less than a few dollars for twenty brand new razors. When you take these traveling, just make sure you check the blades otherwise security will take them. I learned that the hard way…

SHOP | EarthHero

 

 

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Reusable Water Bottle

The amount of money I have saved in my lifetime due to a reusable water bottle is OFF THE CHARTS. Once I picked up my first stainless steel water bottle, I knew it was the start of something new. I use mine after the security line in airports so that I don’t have to pay $10 for another bottle of Smartwater… *shakes fist at the Chicago O’Hare Airport prices*.

When I am in countries where tap water is too unsanitary to drink, I carry this around and ask local businesses to fill it rather than buying plastic water bottles over and over again. A lot of areas in Southeast Asia don’t even have proper trash service, so a lot of the excess plastic ends up getting burned. Single-use plastic water bottles are another huge contribution to plastic pollution and getting one of these is one of the first steps people take to start living zero waste or more plastic-free.

SHOP | EarthHero

 


 

Reusable Grocery Bags

Having a reusable bag with you whenever you travel is key to zero waste travel. Whether you’re picking up groceries from the local market or picking up a souvenir on a road trip, throw them in this and avoid using plastic bags! Chances are, you probably have a lot of reusable bag options at home, so I recommend bringing what you already have before buying new ones if you don’t already own some! What I like most about this bag is that it packs down super small, so it doesn’t take up a lot of space in my travel bag, which is crucial if you don’t have a lot of space to work with.

SHOP | EarthHero

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Bamboo Utensil Set

I believe that whether you’re traveling or not, everyone should have a nice set of reusable utensils to replace plastic cutlery. I use these just the same as when I am not traveling and they have made stops at local fruit stalls and lunches on the go so seamless. Sometimes I have been to places and they didn’t have any utensils, so this has served me well during my adventures abroad.

My personal set is from Reel Red on Etsy. She makes all her wraps out of upcycled fabrics and it comes with all the utensils you’ll need while you travel. It even has a cute little napkin!

SHOP | EarthHero

 


 

Reusable Straw

A lot of the zero waste travel movement began with the plastic straw because they’re one of the top 10 contributors to plastic marine debris across the globe. Since nearly half of all plastic produced is for single-use, grabbing a reusable straw is an easy swap that brings you one step closer to reducing waste. I’ve linked bamboo straws below, but stainless steel is another great option for on-the-go, it just feels weird on my teeth so I opt for bamboo. There are some made with glass, but that is a disaster waiting to happen in your bag, so I would stick to the originals.

SHOP | EarthHero

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Soap Saver Bag

If you’re planning long-term travel, I highly recommend getting one of these soap saver bags. Once your bar of soap is down to those last couple of awkward pieces that you can never quite lather, toss them in here and this extends the life of your soap bar! I have wasted so much soap by not having one of these, so I can’t wait to use it next time I go backpacking in Southeast Asia or in South America!

Along with this, I recommend getting a small travel soapbox to store your soap until you need this handy little bag! If you don’t like traveling with a full bar of soap, I recommend getting a travel size of Dr. Bronner’s Unscented Castile Soap. It comes in recycled plastic bottles and lasts FOREVER.

SHOP | EarthHero

 


 

Solid Shampoo & Conditioner Bars

One of my favorite ways of reducing waste is with solid shampoo and conditioner bars. These have been a huge game-changer in my efforts to travel plastic-free and reduce waste. For a long time, I used some silicone squeeze tubes that served me well, but I actually prefer traveling with these now. They last so much longer than a traditional bottle of shampoo or conditioner, so when I am traveling long term, I don’t have to worry about running out and having to purchase anything in plastic packaging.

These come in a variety of scents and formulas depending on your hair type, too, so you can cater to your personal needs.

SHOP | EarthHero

 

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Soap Bar

This bar of soap from Booda Organics has become my holy grail soap for travel! Made with all organic olive oil, coconut oil, fair trade shea butter, and spring water, this is hands down, the most nourishing soap I’ve ever used, not to mention that it’s super affordable for everyone. As always, I recommend bringing what you already have at home, but if you’re on the market for some new bar soap, this one won’t let you down.

In all of my orders, they send small samples, some with this soap as one, and it comes in a resealable bag! I have taken it with me to use after backpacking trips and so much more!

SHOP | Booda Organics

 


 

Bandana

A bandana is kind of an interesting item to have on this list, but I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve needed a napkin and not had one, only to end up using my bandana as one. They have a variety of different uses like sun protection, a napkin, a sweat rag, etc., so the ways you’ll use this while traveling is endless. It’s one of my favorite zero waste travel items!

SHOP | EarthHero

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Menstrual Cup

Ladies before you go, “that’s weird“, and completely rule out the LIFE-CHANGING aspects of a menstrual cup, hear me out. I used to be in the same boat thinking that this was the most bizarre thing, but after trying it out over five years ago, I have never gone back to disposable feminine products. What made such an impact on my travels with this product is that I can wear it for up to 12 hours and never worry about leaks. So those days where I am island hopping, jungle trekking, or out on other adventures aren’t interrupted by my cycle.

Different cups work differently for everyone, but this is a great one to try out because Saalt donates 2% of their revenue towards providing reusable period care options, educational scholarships, and life skills training for women in communities all over the world.

SHOP | EarthHero

 


 

Bamboo Toothbrush

A bamboo toothbrush is another key way to reduce waste and zero waste travel practices. Did you know that since toothbrush production first began in the 1930s, that every single one made is still in a landfill or in the ocean somewhere? That’s over 4.7 billion brushes! Crazy, right?! By switching to this compostable toothbrush, you’ll be able to remove the bristles, compost the bamboo, and avoid so much more waste going to the landfill every year.

With this toothbrush, pick up some plastic-free toothbrush tablets for a complete routine!

SHOP | EarthHero

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Reusable Containers

A reusable container is going to come in handy while you’re traveling if you need to pack lunch for a day trip or if you wanted dessert, but just didn’t have the room. But we all have room for dessert, am I right? Combine this stainless steel bento box, the reusable cutlery, and the bandana, and you’re going to have everything you need for a zero waste travel meal.

There is so much waste that goes into ordering food from the spare plastic cutlery you don’t end up using, full sauce packets, and the plastic containers that the food comes in. I bring one of these along with me and ask either in person or over the phone if they can put my food in this container.

SHOP | EarthHero

 


 

Refillable Floss

As you’ve probably noticed, a lot of waste comes from our bathroom routines, and it doesn’t stop with floss. This zero waste floss is made with fully biodegradable silk and comes in an entirely plastic-free package. They’ve even added coconut oil and erythritol to help prevent cavities. If you’re plant-based, they have vegan floss that comes in a vanilla flavor! I’m not always on my floss game, but when I do, none of it goes to landfill, and that I am, proud of.

SHOP | EarthHero

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Reusable Facial Rounds

Reusable face rounds are useful if you pack makeup when you travel or use any type of toner on your skin. These replace the traditional rounds that contribute more single-use waste, so these make for a greener beauty routine. These are made from organic hemp fleece that is antimicrobial, absorbs moisture, resists mildew, and is compostable at the end of its life! Although I don’t use these every day, they’re nice to have around for when I do need to remove makeup.

SHOP | EarthHero

 


 

Zero Waste Deodorant

Coming from someone who ditched commercial deodorants a long time ago, do your pits a huge favor and switch to an all-natural, zero waste deodorant. Most aluminum in those deodorants is very toxic for your lymphatic system, so it’s best to switch to a safer option that doesn’t make you smell worse, and trust me, that’s hard to find.

I have probably tested every single plastic-free deodorant on this planet and THIS is the only one that worked well for me. All the other ones either didn’t work at all or somehow made me smell worse, so once I found this I was sold for life. Also, not to mention the fact that this stuff is so affordable!

SHOP | Booda Organics

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Plastic-Free Sunscreen

I have used Raw Element’s Sunscreen since I started traveling back in 2017, and I was stoked when they dropped a zero-waste tin of my favorite formula. Along with plastic-free packaging, this sunscreen is biodegradable, safe for all ages, reef safe, water-resistant, has broad spectrum protection, cruelty-free, and non-GMO project certified! This has protected my skin in the harshest of summer rays and I cannot recommend it enough.

I also have a whole blog post dedicated to the best zero waste sunscreens if you’re looking for more options.

SHOP | EcoRoots

 


 

MORE ZERO WASTE TRAVEL GUIDES:

–  27 Sustainable Gift Ideas For Travelers: Affordable & Eco-Friendly

– Zero Waste Sunscreen: 10 Plastic-Free Brands To Protect Your Adventures

– What Is Sustainable Travel? + Why It Matters

 

LOVE ADVENTURE? TAKE YOUR ZERO WASTE TRAVEL ESSENTIALS TO MY FAVORITE SPOTS:

–  Casaroro Falls: Dumaguete’s Hidden Paradise

– Tower Arch Trail: The Best Hike In Arches National Park

– A Perfect Philippines Itinerary For 2 Weeks

– The ONLY Utah National Parks Road Trip Itinerary You Need

 


 

WHAT ARE SOME WAYS YOU TRAVEL PLASTIC-FREE? LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS BELOW!

DID YOU FIND THIS LIST OF ZERO WASTE TRAVEL ESSENTIALS USEFUL? SAVE IT FOR LATER!

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An eco-friendly travel kit is perfect for reducing waste and plastic consumption while traveling! These plastic-free travel products make the perfect eco-friendly travel kit that will have you traveling more sustainably while out adventuring! #ecofriendlytravel #plasticfreetravel

An eco-friendly travel kit is perfect for reducing waste and plastic consumption while traveling! These plastic-free travel products make the perfect eco-friendly travel kit that will have you traveling more sustainably while out adventuring! #ecofriendlytravel #plasticfreetravel

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