Sustainable Travel Kit: 10 Essentials for Reducing Waste on Vacation
8 Minute Read.
On last week’s post, I talked about my Zero Waste Toiletry Kit, which eliminates waste while keepin’ it fresh and clean on vacay. But what about when we’re hangry after a day tour, checking out local street vendors, or face deep in street food? How do we reduce waste on vacation while still indulging the way we want to? Reducing your waste is not about depriving yourself of the things you love, but instead, is about tweaking the approach you take to get them. You can still grab coffee from the local cafe outside your airbnb, or slurp up that freshly-opened coconut. You can do it all! (minus the waste that comes with it)
All you need is a few essentials to create your very own sustainable travel kit. I’m gonna be straight with you though: this does require a little forethought. But it’s so worth it when you see how much waste you’ll avoid.
This is what my Sustainable Travel Kit looks like. It packs into a 9 x 10.5 inch pouch, and weighs just over a pound. This kit has everything you’ll need to significantly reduce waste on vacation, and is useful for everyday life too.
Here’s What’s in My Sustainable Travel Kit:
- Foldable Backpack
- Reusable Shopping Bag
- Reusable Produce Bag
- Sandwich/Snack Bag
- Spork/Utensil Set
- Ecoffee Cup
- Reusable Water Bottle
- Reusable Straw
- Food Container/Bento Box
- Cloth Napkin
Everything packs into this Baggu Pouch (9 x 10.5 inches)
Here’s How You Can Reduce Waste on Vacation:
For me, a foldable backpack is a non-negotiable. It’s super lightweight and compresses into a tiny pouch, which fits into any bag or compartment. It’s also the perfect case for stuffing all your zero waste essentials into. These bags are not designed for heavy lifting, but are ideal for carrying around snacks, a change of clothes, a water bottle, and your passport. The first one I ever got was in Mexico. It was poorly made, but truthfully, I should have known that by the price tag. After getting back from that trip, I discovered that Baggu and Flip and Tumble made foldable backpacks that were stylish and much better quality. ChicoBag also makes a foldable backpack out of recycled materials, but it has more of a backpacker/hiking vibe. Personally, I like bags that can work in any situation, and the ChicoBag would be a bit casual in some instances.
Reusable Shopping Bag:
This is a must-have no matter where I go. I try to keep a reusable bag with me at all times to avoid ever needing the dreaded single-use plastic bag. Like the backpacks above, they fold into compact pouches, and come in a ton of different designs and colors. Again, Baggu and Flip and Tumble rise to the occasion, but there are tons of options that could work for your sustainable travel kit.
Reusable Produce Bag:
These aren’t a daily travel essential, but come in handy for picking up a snack, fruit, bread, cheese, or even separating your dirty clothes from the clean ones in your luggage. They come in cotton, mesh polyester, and recycled materials, so you can pick one that aligns with your values.
Reusable Sandwich / Snack Bag:
Last year, I bought a cloth snack bag, and simply couldn’t figure out what to use it for. I couldn’t put a loaded sandwich in there without having to throw it in the wash after, so it sat unused in my kitchen. Eventually, I realized that even though it wasn’t great for messy foods, it was perfect for fruits, nuts, cheeses, and croissants, among other things. Now, whenever I go to a bakery or cafe, I ask them to put my treat in the snack bag, eliminating any need for a single-use bag. As someone who has a hangry alter-ego, carrying around a fully stocked snack bag is the best way to avoid a Jekyll and Hyde situation on vacation.
**These snack bags are made of recycled plastic, are BPA free, and unlike my cloth snack bag, can be cleaned with a quick rinse.
Side note: One thing that I’ve realized about eco-products is that sometimes there’s a learning curve. I had this experience with my Redecker dish brush, and with my cloth snack bag, but now I absolutely love them both. If you find yourself frustrated with a new eco-product, give it some time and don’t write it off completely. It’s not that the product doesn’t work, its just different from what you’re used to.
With a reusable utensil in your travel bag, you’ll never have to use a single-use plastic fork again. This can have a huge impact when you think about the number of plastic forks that are tossed after being used for only 15 minutes.
My Sea to summit spork can pretty much get any job done (except for spaghetti). It’s made out of anodized aluminum, which means its super strong and insanely lightweight (as in . . . lighter than a plastic fork). I’ve traveled with it in my carry-on bag, and have never had an issue getting through security. Sea to Summit also makes utensil sets if you prefer having a knife and fork on hand. Similarly, To-Go Ware makes a bamboo utensil set that includes a knife, fork, spoon, and pair of chopsticks that come in a compact travel case.
Reusable Coffee Cup:
At this point, you’re probably tired of hearing me talk about my ecoffee cup, but the multifunctionality of it makes it the perfect addition for your sustainable travel kit. You can stuff it with snacks for long haul flights, or grab some local, freshly-squeezed O.J. without needing a disposable cup. If you’re curious to learn more, check out my blog: “5 Ways to Use Your Ecoffee Cup.”
Reusable Water Bottle:
Unless you’re focused on keeping liquids hold or cold, I wouldn’t recommend traveling with a Klean Kanteen. The weight can be a bit cumbersome, especially when traveling long distances. Personally, I opt for a foldable water bottle like Vapur. When empty, its pretty much weightless, which is heplful when “repacking-your-bag-at-the-checkin-counter-when-trying-to-avoid-overweight–baggage-charges”. This is what Vapur’s water bottle looks like when its folded up . . . tiny, right?
I’ll be honest, I don’t use straws a whole lot. However, there are instances that pop up, such as drinking out of a freshly cut coconut or chowing down on a snow cone, where straws can be useful. StrawSleeves makes carrying cases for straws out of reclaimed fabric. They even have a straw set, which comes with a straw sleeve, a straw, and a straw cleaner, so you can keep it sanitary while traveling. If you’re a straw lover, I promise you’ll be happy you packed this in your sustainable travel kit.
Food Container/Bento Box:
Carrying around meals and snacks in your own food container is a great way to avoid packaged foods and reduce waste on vacation. The last time I flew on a plane, I devoured a bento box I had prepared, while everyone ate overly-packaged airplane food. My food looked (and tasted) so good that it stopped the air hostess in her tracks. She even commented, “Ooohh, that looks good!! What is that?!?!” I smiled and took great pride, knowing that my meal was totally package free (and was wayyyyy better than what they were serving on the plane 😉 ).
This container is made by ECOlunchbox. It has a leakproof silicone lid, so you don’t have to worry about finding Laptop Alfredo in your bag. When not in use, you can store toiletries or charging cords in it.
When traveling, having a reusable napkin really comes in handy. You can use it to avoid disposable napkins, and it serves as a mini towel for those sticky European summers. Its also helpful when dealing with unexpected sneezes and spills.
I guarantee that if you make a sustainable travel kit with even half of these essentials, you’ll easily be able to reduce waste on vacation. Plus, your travels will be just a little (or a lot) less sticky 😉 .