Traveling Without Trash


By Brooke Lorimer - Be Zero Ambassador

Refuse - Reduce - Reuse - Recycle - Rot

These principals shared with the Zero Waste community by founder Bea Johnson have lead a movement that has inspired many to drastically reduce their waste. For my recent trip to Long Beach Island, NJ, I applied these principles to three sections of the traveling experience: Packing, Traveling, and Destination. Doing this allowed me to reduce my impact while also sharing the impacts of trash with those around me.

While I was packing to prepare for the 10 day trip I refused what I did not need. I brought a toothbrush, some toiletries, and a few pieces of clothing. In addition to this I brought items that would allow me to prevent the need for disposable products such as a water bottle, bulk bag, and grocery tote that doubled as a beach bag. By packing only what I needed it allowed me to reuse and refuse with ease once at my destination.

I was able to refuse single waste disposables on the plane by bringing my own water jar, fruit, and a container with hummus and bell pepper. While traveling in the United States you can bring a water bottle through the security line so long as it is empty, and fill it up at a water fountain once through security.

If you’re lucky you might find a water bottle filling station like Denver International Airport has!  

Traveling is an important place to reduce waste since there are so many disposable opportunities in airports and on flights. Between plastic cups, paper napkins, cocktail straws, and packaged snacks and meals, the average American passenger produces about 1.3 lbs of trash per flight, according to Green America’s 2010 study, which can be found here:

At my destination I was able to refuse most single use products, though not all. Where I was unable to divert my waste, I took the opportunity to talk with those around me about the crisis of waste. Through this trip I had many a conversation with my family about the harms of trash. I have been refreshed to see my mom begin to refuse plastic bags and water bottles! I am so impressed with how much her awareness and commitment has grown just from our shared discussions about waste. Further on in the trip my dad and I discussed the need to ban plastic bags nationally, and how this might come to be. It was enlivening to share this passion with my family and to have them be so receptive. 

Though the purpose of this trip was solely to enjoy time with family, it has also opened my eyes to how much work there is to be done in the world, and how much growth still needs to be accomplished. I share this story with you all in hopes that you take the opportunity to use travel to share in discussions, both easy and hard, about the state of our world with those around you.  

Bon Voyage! 

The tips and tricks section below is a quick guide to zero waste traveling for when you’re throwing your packing list together, I hope it helps, and remember, be creative! 

Tips and Tricks:

  • A solid bar of soap can be used for shampoo, hand wash, body wash and shave cream 
  • DIY powder toothpaste and deodorant can keep it simple and liquid free for carry on’s
  • Water bottle (I recommend Klean Kanteen)
  • Bring your own containers to help refuse plastic take out and other to go disposables
  • Bring your own on flight entertainment to avoid unnecessary purchases as well as magazeen impulse buys
  • Anything multi purpose (my beach and grocery tote) saves space and energy
  • Bring your own cloth napkins and handkerchiefs to avoid paper towels and tissues
  • Educate! Share and be aware with the people around you about why you are refusing and reducing trash, you never know who you’ll connect with or inspire! 
  • Check in and get involved with the local community, see what is already in place there!