DIY zero waste travel kit

My family of 4 takes a few road trips around the west coast every summer, and we try really hard to avoid creating trash while we travel.  We’ve definitely had our moments of last minute, unplanned fast food stops (vegan burgers from Burger King aren’t too bad!). 


But now that things are opening up a bit more, we’re able to avoid most trash when we travel with a pretty simple DIY zero waste travel kit and a little bit of planning ahead.  


This is what we bring with us on road trips and when we travel by plane.

Here’s a quick caveat for you: we aren’t trying to travel super light.  Vegan kids don’t always have lots of choices and might be a little picky at times, so we tend to overpack a little to make travel go more smoothly for everyone.  You might find that you don’t need all of these things if you’re more minimalist and flexible in your foods.


  • travel mug for everyone who might want a hot or specialty beverage. 

I drink coffee most mornings, and my daughters like the occasional boba tea or frozen lemonade or orchata. And as I’m filming this, most businesses are letting you bring in your own reusable coffee mug again. So we get our coffees, frappucinos, or frozen lemonades in our own containers.  Just wash it well before you bring it in and don’t be afraid to ask!

  • water bottle – for everyone. 

Pretty self explanatory.  On road trips, we keep a few extras in the car with extra water. On plane trips, we bring a couple of extras too in case they won’t refill our water for us and want us to use their plastic cups.

  • travel size fork/spoon/knife (but not on an airplane) or spork for everyone.

If we’re eating somewhere that doesn’t use real silverware, we’ll ask them to keep the forks .  Usually they oblige, sometimes they forget, but if we’ve got forks and spoons, we know we can skip disposable ones. Putting them on the table helps remind the staff that you don’t need utensils.

  • reusable straws

This is one of those items you can probably get away without, but if you’ve got kids who get excited about frozen lemonade or boba tea, one of these is a nice addition to your DIY zero waste travel kit!

BTW, if you want a little pouch that holds your utensils & straw, I’ve got a tutorial video HERE

  • cloth napkins

We always have a few of these handy.  They let us avoid paper napkins & are great for a spill in the car. I have a video tutorial HERE & a blog post HERE on how to sew your own napkins here.  Remember to ask folks to hold the napkins if you’re eating somewhere that doesn’t use real napkins.  Sometimes we still get paper napkins on accident, which we use & compost or save it in the car for emergencies.

  • mason jar, bento box or container, and/or a wax wrap or waxed snack bag

It’s great to have a couple of containers to hold leftovers or snacks on the go.  I’ve got a video tutorial on how to make a waxed snack bag HERE. This lets us avoid takeout boxes, which usually end up as landfill waste.

  • cloth bags for snacks & pastries

If we didn’t finish the chips or breadsticks, we can just put them in a bag.  It’s also great for packing sandwiches for lunches.  We usually bring a drawstring bag & snack & sandwich sized bags.  They’re usually holding our snacks on the way out of the house, so we often don’t have to think about packing these.  I’ve got a video HERE on how to make a drawstring bag & a video HERE & tutorial HERE on how to make snack & sandwich sized bags too.   

  • shopping bags.

Depending on where you’re going and for how long, you’ll probably need to shop for some food, so remember to bring your own bags!

  • compost container

We always try to compost when we’re out and about.  Some places that you visit have compost collection these days, which is great. And if not, there are resources: & have compost finder maps.  Local community gardens, or even a local farm might be able to take your compost.  If none of those are available and you’re driving, you can just bring it home to your own bin.  If you keep the lid on your compost, it should be fine until you get back.  If we’re traveling for over a week, we’ll usually have a large bin with a lid for our compost and drive it home with no issues.


And here’s a couple of bonus tips for zero waste travel:

  • Find local bulk bins near you has a great list. has a list too.  Look up some local bakeries & delis for unpackaged bread & treats. 

  • Pack awesome snacks.

Having awesome snacks from the bulk bins & fruits & veggies that travel well can help you avoid last minute, spontaneous stops for food.  We usually bring a couple of fresh loaves of bread & some yummy spreads (homemade cashew cheese, hummus).

  • Plan ahead!

Think about those meals that might be a little rushed or unscheduled – like the dinner on the road in between your stops.  You might be able to find a place to eat if you look online in advance, or maybe you’ll remember to pack a meal for that stretch of your trip. 

There’s how to create a truly DIY zero waste travel kit. I hope that’s helpful for you!  Is there anything you’d add to this list? Leave a comment below! Or anything you know for sure you wouldn’t use?  Tell me that too.


Thanks for reading!




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Low waste vegan family dinners – what we’re eating this week!


More stores are allowing for reusable bags again (yay!) & our groceries are slowly getting back to pre-COVID plastic-free levels.  Here’s what we’re eating this week:

  1. Pasta night!  This includes pasta in a paper box and marinara in a jar or can with TVP for protein, plus a green salad .  We reuse the jar and donate it to the local thrift store when our cupboards get too full of jars.  Or recycle the can, which has a high recycle value.  This is an easy and fast dinner for nights when the kids have sports stuff.
  2. Vegan crab cakes & seared Napa cabbage!  I found these 2 recipes on TikTok (time well spent, I guess 😉 ).  The vegan crab cakes are made from jack fruit, hearts of palm, chic peas, onions, Panko bread crumbs, vegan mayo, and seasoning.  We can find all of those ingredients plastic free except the bread crumbs (which we could also make if needed!).  The seared Napa cabbage is dressed with a miso-based dressing, and all of those ingredients are available plastic free too!
  3. Red lentil soup, toast & roasted veggies.  This is a staple at our house.  Red lentils cook so fast.  I love to season them with onions & carrots, plus cumin, tumeric, ginger, salt, pepper, and veggie bouillon.  We have a big brown bag of red lentils that we got last year and are still working through.  We can usually find these in bulk too.  For the roasted veggies, I’ll roast either cauliflower, broccoli, or brussel sprouts.  My easy-peasy approach is to toss them in olive oil, salt & pepper and then cook them at 450F for about 30 minutes, with a stir halfway through.  So yummy.  I love having roasted veggies leftovers for lunch the next day too!
  4. Buddha bowl!  Is it okay to use that name?  I saw the general idea of this dish at and we LOVE it.  It’s basically a grain (like quinoa or rice) plus veggies & tofu or TVP in a bowl.  We like to include roasted brussel sprouts or broccoli, plus fresh carrots & cucumber, sometimes avocado.  Then we drizzle it all with homemade tahini dressing.  So delish!
  5. Sushi bowl!  Kinda self-explanatory, but we make sushi rice, then add in avocado, cucumber, carrots, and baked/sliced sweet potatoes if we have them.  Plus TVP (I like the beef-strip style for this dish) tossed in a homemade teriyaki sauce.  Add a little soy sauce & mayo – so yum!  We don’t usually have any nori with it – so much packaging – but that’d be delicious too.
  6. Tacos!  Everyone’s favorite Tuesday dinner.  We love homecooked pintos, tortillas (in plastic usually, but we’ve done homemade too), homemade pico de gallo salsa, guacamole, shredded cabbage with vegan mayo, and brown rice.  This is a staple.  We soak the beans the night before and cook them in the pressure cooker.  


So that’s what we’re eating the next several days or so!  I hope this gives you some ideas for how to cook low waste vegan dinners for your family too.  

And I’d love to hear what you’re eating too!  Leave a comment below!


Thanks for reading & for all that you do for the planet.




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Homemade gift ideas for Father’s Day – 12 super easy projects!

Homemade gifts are perfect for someone who’s got everything or is impossible to shop for. A useful, thoughtful, handmade present shows that you’re thinking of them.  And these projects are perfect for practicing your sewing skills too – very beginner friendly!


If you’re looking for homemade gift ideas for Father’s day, I’ve got 12 easy projects.  Let’s get making!

  1. A handkerchief.  This is super easy and fast to sew.  You can make a hankie in any size.  I made one that’s about 17” x 17” from a scrap of fabric, but you could make it way smaller – down to 10” x 10”.  You can sew one of these up using a serger for the edges or a zig zag stitch on a regular machine.  Or do a rolled hem stitch on your machine if you know how to do that, or a rolled hem stitch by hand – both are really nice ways to finish the edges.  


2. A bandana comes together just like a handkerchief but it’s larger, about 22” x 22”.  Find a fabric that your dad would like at your local fabric store. Sew the edges with a serger, or zig zag stitch, or do a rolled hem on your machine or by hand.


3. A bookmark is another simple project that you can sew up with scraps of fabric.  I made one that’s about 2” x 6” with a little ribbon at the top. Here’s how:

    1. Start with 2 pieces of fabric & some batting or interfacing (optional) that all measure about 3” x 7”. You can add a little ribbon or fabric tie to the end if you like. Place the fabric with right sides together & put the batting on the back. Pin the ribbon so that it’s pointed down in between the two layers of fabric at the top of the bookmark.
    2. Using a ⅜” seam allowance, stitch around the bookmark, making sure to leave an opening of about 3 inches on one long side so you can turn it right side out.  Trim the corners and any major bulk on the sides of the seam after stitching.
    3. Turn it right side out, poke out the corners, press the opening closed, & top stitch all around all 4 sides.  Ta-da!


4. A snack or sandwich bag for him to tote his lunch is handy.  I’ve got tutorials for these on YouTube & on my blog if you want to watch and or read how to do that.


5. If the dad in your life is a big bread baker, a homemade bread bag is a great idea. I’ve got a video for that right here.


6. A coaster is a nice easy project.  These are about 5” x 5” with some light cotton batting inside.  They were sewn up just like sewing up a bookmark, but without the tassel.

    1. Start with two pieces & fabric and batting that measure 6” x 6”. Place the fabric with right sides together & put the batting on the back.
    2. Using a ⅜” seam allowance, stitch around the coaster, making sure to leave an opening of about 3 inches on one side so you can turn it right sides out.  Trim the corners and any major bulk on the sides of the seam after stitching.
    3. Turn it right side out, poke out the corners, press the opening closed, & top stitch all around all 4 sides.


7. A cozy is another nice gift.  This one fits around a coffee cup or a 12oz can to keep his hands warm or cool.  I’ve got a free pattern below so snag it if you want it!

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8. Cord keeper is another nice gift.  The pdf pattern below includes the cord keeper & cozy so get that below.


These last few more projects are a little more complicated but still very beginner friendly:

  1. A lunch bag. There are tons of tutorials online for making a lunch bag. And you probably know exactly the size the dad in your life would find useful – large, smaller, square bottom, rectangular bottom. Use your insider intel to find a design just for him.  You could make one with a zipper, or a super minimalist lunch sack design that just folds down like a brown paper sack.


  1. A face mask.  These are here to stay for a while! I’ve got a video tutorial & a blog post on how to sew one. Pick out some fabric that your dad likes and get going.  I’ve also got a kit for sale in the shop to make your own.


  1. A zipper pouch. There are tons of uses for a simple zipper pouch – bike tools, toiletries, art supplies, and more.  I’ve got a tutorial on how to make a zipper pouch right here. And I’ve got a kit in the shop to make one.


  1. Boxer shorts! I did this one year and it was way easier than I thought it’d be. There are free patterns online but I actually used an old pair of his boxer shorts to create a new pattern for him. I just traced the boxers onto paper and then cut out the new shapes to create the pattern.  They turned out great and are still holding up. It doesn’t take a ton of fabric.  Just a little patience. And some wide elastic.


So there you have it!  12 easy homemade gift ideas for Father’s Day. I hope this gets your creative juices flowing!  Do you have any ideas to add?  I’d love to hear in the comments below!


Thanks for reading!

Liz @ No Trace

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