7 ways to be a zero-waste traveller

A little planning and a small stash of reusable necessities is all it takes to travel in a more eco-friendly way.

Female traveller with backpack stands in a river running through a forest.
  • Sarah Reid
  • October 2019

Reduce and re-use are the keys to a sustainable holiday, starting with choosing environment-friendly travel options, and organising a zero waste travel kit. Here are seven tips for having a great – and green – vacation.

1. Choose to reuse

Keep a reusable water bottle and coffee cup in your daypack to avoid the temptation to use disposable alternatives when you're on the go. Make a zero-waste kit containing reusable alternatives to single-use items you may encounter when dining out such as cutlery, a food storage container and a cloth napkin (which handily doubles as a hanky). Carry a good-quality sleeping mask and ear plugs so you won’t be tempted to reach for the disposable ones on flights and in hotels. And think twice before using complimentary single-use products such as slippers, which are typically tossed out after your stay.

2. Stock up on low-waste travel products.

A growing number of beauty brands produce plastic-free, zero waste travel toiletries, while handy accessories such as head torches are now available in USB-rechargeable models (bye-bye, batteries!).

A zero waste kit including a wooden toothbrush, steel straws, and wooden cutlery.
These reusable travel products are the perfect size to pop in your daypack.

3. Buy quality over quantity

When you purchase new travel gear, opt for items that can be worn or used long after your next adventure. It's also worth seeking out well-made souvenirs crafted from sustainable materials, as they are less likely to end up in the bin (or charity shop) when you return home.

4. Book eco-friendly hotels and tours

Set yourself up for a zero-waste holiday by booking hotels and tours that are committed to the cause. Waste-conscious operators typically offer sustainable alternatives to items such as single-use plastics, making it easier for you to follow suit.

An eco resort powered by solar panels.
There are many accomodation and tour options for eco-minded travellers.

5. Save money AND the world

There are plenty of apps and websites designed to help combat food waste – for example, responsiblecafes.org includes an interactive map of coffee shops around Australia that offer a discount for bringing your own cup, while the Foodprint app allows you to purchase cheap food from Auckland restaurants with surplus nosh.

6. Say no to paper and plastic.

Opt for digital tickets whenever possible and save paper by snapping photos of tour brochures with your smartphone rather than taking pamphlets with you. Stash a reusable tote in your daypack so you never have to accept a single-use bag for spontaneous purchases. And remember to order your holiday cocktails sans a disposable straw.

A woman with a canvas tote full of fresh vegetables.
It's easy to say no to a plastic bag when you have a reusable tote.

7. Think of the planet

DIY hand sanitiser eliminates the need to buy a disposable bottle of the stuff – there are plenty of recipes online. A micro-waste washing bag like the Guppyfriend prevents microplastic fibres from synthetic travel clothing being washed into rivers and oceans, where fish typically mistake them for food. And pay it forward by picking up rubbish on the road or beach when you can.