Zero waste travel tips

Right now it’s summer time, which in my house means family trips!  Traveling opens doors to new experiences and perspectives and I really value our family trips.  It also changes up our routines and takes us from the comforts of home, which creates a few challenges for our zero waste goals.

 

So, to help us all cut down travel waste, I’ve put together my top 4 tips for zero waste travel.  These steps are simple enough for even the busiest families and individuals, so check them out and give them a try!

 

Here are my top four tips for zero waste travel.

 

1. Prep a simple travel kit.

 

If you’re traveling with your family or friends, it’s a great idea to have at least some of these things for each person.  Here’s what we pack in our zero waste travel kits.

 

  1. Water bottle – and fill it up after security if you’re traveling by plane!
  2. Napkin, handkerchief, or both – say ‘no thanks’ to paper napkins and tissues.  You can even wash this in a small sink during your travels if you can’t easily run a load of laundry.  Check out my napkin & hankie offerings here or find some at your local thrift store!
  3. Small fork, knife, and/or spoon (or, my personal fav – a spork)!  Note that you don’t want to bring knives if you’re traveling by plane!  Airport security doesn’t like that :). I got us each a little set at a local camping/outdoor gear store in Santa Cruz.  
  4. Mason jar – perfect for leftovers, a smoothie, juice, you get the idea :).  We usually bring one with us when we go out to eat to avoid the doggie bag/box, which can be made of plastic.  
  5. Sandwich bag or beeswax wrap – great for bringing along a sandwich or picking up a pastry or cookie when your out and about.  You can buy a sandwich bag made by me here and a beeswax wrap here.
  6. Travel coffee mug – if you need some caffeine in the morning like me, this is a great way to get it to go and avoid disposable coffee cups and lids.  Your kids may not need to bring one along, but hey, maybe they’d like some hot cocoa in the morning!
  7. Market bag – again, maybe kids don’t need this, but I would recommend bringing along at least one bag for shopping.   Our market bag often doubles as our kit bag. I’ll ask the kids to carry their own water bottles, and usually I’ll toss a few napkins, utensils, mason jar, etc., into the market bag.  I try to bring this along for our outings in general, and especially if we are going to be out and about for the day or going to eat somewhere. And of course, I make a market tote that you can see here.  
Part of my travel kit from my recent trip to Seattle

2. Bring extra snacks.

 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to buy some last minute packaged treat because we didn’t have enough snacks!  For example, ever have a morning bike ride that was supposed to end before lunch? And suddenly it’s 1pm and everyone is losing it?  Been there. Or that flight that was delayed now that you’re in the airport surrounded by shiny packaged treats? Been there too. So, I try to bring snacks that travel well (i.e., the opposite of a peach).  Think nuts, granola, carrots, apples, and banana chips. What’s available in your local bulk bins or farmer’s market that will hold up well on a journey? Or, can you squeeze in an hour to make a tin of cookies or granola bars?

 

One more thought about snacks – I try to bring snacks that are a little extra special – good enough to compete with roadside and airport junk food.  I’m sure that’s different for every family, but try to find some options that everyone will get excited about.

 

3.  Check out nearby bulk foods, farmers markets, and natural food stores.

 

Look into bulk shopping options wherever you’re headed!  There might be some fun and unique offerings, and I’m pretty confident that you can find bulk options almost EVERYWHERE.  Bea Johnson of zerowastehome.com has a cool bulk finder app to help you find something wherever you’re headed. Check it out here.

 

If you’ll be visiting somewhere long enough to shop for food, you might want to bring along some reusable bags and jars to avoid waste.  I’ve got some made by me with love for sale here, but you can even use an old pillow case or make your own!

4.  Consider your compost options.

 

Anywhere you travel, you have some compost options.  Some cities have curbside compost pick up, making it super easy (yay, San Francisco!).  Other cities have composting services you can check out. Santa Cruz, for example, has a local business that will come pick up your compost for you – by bike!  How cool is that? Check them out here. The local farmers market might collect compost as well.  If you’re staying with friends or family, maybe they have a little compost pile you can add to, or maybe you can inspire them to start something simple.  You can purchase some compost bins for under $50. Some folks also recommend burying your non-meat, non-dairy food scraps (think eggshells, fruit and veg peels) in the dirt, at least 10 inches deep.  My cautions, though: 1. You need to be aware of possible pest issues – you don’t want to burden your host with an onslaught of new critters in their yard. 2. You need to be careful of nearby plant roots and landscaping.

 

Another option, which we do whenever we camp or road trip, is to collect your scraps in a bin or bag and bring them home to compost.  We’ve done this for up to a week of waste scraps with no issues – no smell, no pests. We’ve used a big cooler as our bin before, or a big plastic tupperware, or even a big plastic bag when we forgot our bin in the past.  Back at home, we just add it to our compost bins and voila! Soil! (months later 🙂 )

compost after a week of vacation with 2 other families

So there you have it – my top 4 tips for zero waste travel.  I hope you found these helpful! Do you have any to add? Have you tried any zero waste travel tips?  I’d love to hear, so share in the comments below!

 

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

Liz

Groceries have traditionally been one of my family’s largest sources of landfill waste every week – all of that food packaging! Since we started incorporating more zero waste principles into our lives, we’ve been able to eliminate a huge amount of that waste. I thought I’d take a minute to share with you our shopping routines.

The main switch towards zero waste grocery shopping is that we now do the majority of our shopping out of bulk bins and the produce aisle, and at the farmer’s market. Santa Cruz, CA is really blessed with some amazing local grocery stores include Aptos Natural Foods, Staff of Life, and New Leaf, among others. We can shop for nearly everything we need in bulk at these stores. It just takes a little planning and prepping before we go out.

In a typical week, we’ll buy lots of fruits and of veggies to sustain our breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. We buy the loose, unpackaged fruits and veggies, and use our produce bags, as well as some I bought at Whole Foods and on Etsy (before I started making them myself – there are lots of great shops on Etsy!). These bags weigh very little in relation to the produce, but you could write down their empty weight and ask the cashier to subtract it if you like. Fresh fruits and veggies are probably the easiest items for you to start purchasing without packaging.

Fruits and veggies alone won’t sustain us for a week. Our proteins are generally eggs, tofu, cheese, peanut or almond butter, dried beans, and Annie’s cashew pimento spread – another local company and a delicious vegan cheese substitute! And we buy grains like bread, cereal, pasta, and oats, and we always need some snacks and sweets. And then there are usually some pantry staples on our shopping list like flour, spices, tea, oils, soy sauce, vinegar, etc. We are fortunate to find nearly all of these products in bulk in Santa Cruz – Staff of Life and Aptos Natural Food in particular have excellent bulk sections. In order to shop as close to zero waste as possible, I make a list of everything I will buy in bulk, and then make sure that I have the correct container for it. Check my instagram feed (no_trace_shop) for a picture of what I took to the store last time I went.

I had to get 3 liquidy/gooey things last time including honey, olives, and peanut butter. I brought 3 jars and wrote what I needed on the lid of each, and the tare weight. I got the tare weight at home with a little kitchen scale – it gave me ounces but just divide the number of ounces by 16 to get the tare weight. I also brought two beeswax wraps for the cheese. The deli staff will cut a chunk of cheese for you if you ask, and then I wrap it in my beeswax wrap instead of their plastic wrap. They usually give me a sticker, which I show to the cashier. I brought lots of bags for produce, fruits, grains, and other dry goods. And I bring my list and a pen so I can write down the bulk bin code for everything on my list.

There are a few speciality items that require a special trip. When I shop at the farmer’s market, I can get eggs from a farmer, and I can also return any of my empty egg cartons to this farmer. I also get eggs from my in-laws during the sunnier seasons. Otherwise I get eggs at the store and save the cartons for my next trip to the farmer’s market. Sometimes we get chips from a taqueria – at least one taqueria in Santa Cruz will let you fill your own container with chips. We got a medium bag for about $3 last time. We also just started getting our ice cream from a local ice cream shop – Marianne’s. They do hand packed pints for $5.50. It is a bit more than what you get at the store, but you can bring in your own pint jar or take out one their containers, which are paper and 100% recyclable.

Unfortunately, there are still a few things we can’t buy in bulk or from the farmer’s market. These include tofu (we recycle the packaging, though), Annie’s spread, salsa (although there might be taqueria that will let us buy this in our own container), maple syrup, Earth Balance (vegan butter), Veganaise (vegan mayo), mustard, ketchup, and yogurt. The worst of these is yogurt – we could easily go through a couple of plastic tubs a week. I’ve thought about making yogurt at home, but I am reluctant to add another task to my to-dos. We just started making homemade almond milk, though – that is really only 5 minutes! I’ll post on that in the future.

We are making some good strides, though in our efforts to unpackage our foods. I think of it as an interesting mental exercise, trying to get as much as possible without packaging. I’ve also found that our cupboards are less cluttered, look much more appealing, and have very few processed foods in them. You can sneak a peek of our cupboards on my Instagram feed (no_trace_shop). That in itself is rewarding, and also prevents us from stockpiling foods and overlooking older purchases. Have you changed the way you shop for groceries? I’d love to hear about it! Share in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!

Inspired by role models from the zero waste movement, in 2015 I started to consider what it would take to achieve a zero waste life and household.  Although I have recycled and composted the vast majority of my waste for the past 10 years, I still produce waste destined for the landfill, and the majority  of this waste is food packaging.  

Since my effort to reduce waste in my home, I purchase most of my groceries from bulk bins and the produce section.   I’ve also changed the way my family takes food on the go.  I’ve made simple changes in the way we move through the world to reduce our footprint, inspired by the zero waste movement.  This includes using washable bulk bags, snack bags, and beeswax wrap.  These three types of products help us reduce a huge portion of plastics and other destined-for-landfill materials from our everyday lives.  

In making this shift, however, I found that many of the products for purchase would eventually end up in the landfill.  

Reusable bulk bags with silk screen images, plastic tags, velcro, plastic buttons, polyester thread, or nylon lining (among others)  – these will all eventually end up in the landfill.  I found a need for reusable, washable products that, after their usable life is up, could be recycled or composted without introducing chemicals or other pollutants into the soil.  I decided to start making products that would leave no trace.

The manufacturing process also has the potential to create waste and contribute to pollution.  No Trace’s manufacturing process includes using raw materials with minimal packaging, recycling any plastic packaging, and using fabric and paper scraps for handmade paper.  No Trace products are handmade in Capitola, CA with zero waste and made with all natural, renewable materials.