Traveling can be stressful. All the packing, flights, car rides… and it can be even tougher when you are trying to balance an eco-friendly lifestyle on top of everything. Plus, a lot of common travel accessories are made of plastic or single-use materials in the name of ‘convenience’. But have no fear! It is possible to read lightly when you travel – it just takes a little extra planning. Read the blog to learn how to leave no trace!
What You’ll Learn:
- How to travel plastic free and what essentials you’ll need
- Why traveling with minimal impact is essential in today’s world
- What brands and products can help to make traveling plastic-free easy
Plastic Free Travel
Fact: 9.1 BILLION Tons of plastic has been produced since plastic was introduced to us in the 1950s. This number is so staggering that the amount of plastic produced in one year is roughly the same as the entire weight of humanity. And this number is only increasing, day after day, piece by piece.
Now you may be thinking… “But what about the Seattle straw ban? What about the plastic bag tax? What about Starbucks going straw-free?” – and we totally hear you! There are a ton of amazing company and city-led initiatives popping up across the US and globally, but these bans or taxes often only address a portion of the real plastic problem. What is the real problem, you ask? Our single-use mindset!
It’s amazing that major companies are finally taking responsibility for their waste, but consumers must also be willing to take action. In practice, this means not just waiting for Starbucks to permanently ban plastic straws, but proactively bringing your own reusables as well. And while there are tons of ways to live a more sustainable life, in this blog, we’re sharing some of our favorite plastic-free, zero waste essentials for on-the-go. Whether you’re just on your daily commute to work, or a world traveler, you can make a more mindful impact on the planet with these 5 reusables!
There is no shortage of materials and styles of reusable straws out there, all offering a solution to the single-use straw crisis. They all have their own benefits and drawbacks, but when it comes to a true “travel” straw…. There’s simply no competition. The FinalStraw takes the cake because it’s collapsible into its own carrying case (which can be clipped to your keychain!) and contains its own straw brush and drying rack so you can easily clean it in an airport bathroom–not that we recommend that, though.
It’s made from stainless steel, so it’s practically unbreakable, but still comes in a bunch of cool colors so you can customize your look. Whether you just need a straw for your to-go iced coffee on the way to the office, or plan on backpacking the world, this little straw set is a huge game changer when it comes to kicking single-use straws to the curb. Not sold on this straw? Figure out which reusable straw is best for you here!
We talk a lot about plastic grocery bags when addressing the single-use plastic issue, but rarely address the silent killer–plastic Ziploc and snack bags! From packing snacks for the road, to keeping your toiletries from spilling into the rest of your suitcase, Ziploc bags are used often and without abandon when it comes to life on-the-go. An easy way to cut this waste out is with a Stasher Bag!
Made from extremely durable silicone, these bags won’t break or rip, and are 100% leak-proof (you can put water in the bag, then seal it and flip it upside down…then shake it. Trust us, we’ve tried it!) They can be put in the freezer and microwave for meal prepping and storage, but are also a great solution for toiletries, makeup, and other potentially spillable travel gear. Basically, this bag does everything, making it our #1 travel buddy.
A great way to save money when traveling is to pack your own meals! But, without reusables, this could lead to a lot of single-use packaging and waste being left behind on your journey. The good news is… we have a solution for that too! Containers like these are easy to travel with because they’re made from durable stainless steel, come in a variety of nest-able sizes for easy storage, and have a leak-resistant silicone lid to keep everything secure. Simply put a sandwich in one, a salad in the other, stick them in a bag and head out! Plus, they’re oven safe, so you can reheat your food without having to transfer it to another container.
Did you know that 1 million plastic bottles are bought every minute around the world? And less than half of those bottles will make it to the recycling center… which means that our landfills are being rapidly filled by water bottles that are used for 30 minutes… and last 300 years. By setting yourself up with a reusable water bottle (and/or coffee cup, if that’s your thing!) you can not only reduce the amount of trash produced overall, but you’ll get some personal benefits like saving money and drinking more water in general (we hope!) Whether you prefer a beautiful glass bottle, something stainless steel, or just want to make your coffee mug a 2-in-1 water bottle as well, there’s no shortage of solutions for this single-use problem. Whatever way you sip, just do it sustainably.
Now this may seem pretty obvious for a plastic free travel blog… but you’re going to need a travel bag (or two, or three!) Most travelers assume that they just need their suitcase and they’re good… but this often leads to them collecting single-use travel bags on the way. The three bags we know you’ll need for any awesome adventure are these: a backpack, a grocery tote, and a lunch/produce bag!
By having 3 varying sizes of travel bags, you can ensure you’ll never end up without what you need. The backpack, of course, is perfect for toting all of your larger “everyday” travel items, such as a laptop, notebook, camera–and all the reusables we mentioned above. Also inside this backpack will be the other two bags, tucked nicely away until you need them.
The grocery tote is a necessity so that you can go shopping, either for food or just for fun, on your trip without having to cave to single-use shopping bags. Roughly 100 billion single-use plastic shopping bags are used by Americans alone each year, and although most people know that these bags are bad for the planet, when you forget your reusables it can be hard to say no. By keeping a grocery tote like this one around, you’ll always have a place to store extra stuff–without just shoving more things into that backpack.
The final bag you’re going to need is a lunch bag or a produce bag! They can be used pretty interchangeably depending on your needs, and store neatly alongside the rest of the reusables in your backpack. This is where you will keep those reusable containers that are pre-packed with food, that loose banana or apple you grabbed on-the-go, or anything else that wouldn’t do well loose inside a backpack. That way, if you’re traveling and are ready to break for a snack, you don’t have to dig through your entire backpack–all you have to do is remove your lunch bag and you’re set. Learn more about packing a plastic free school lunch here!
Five plastic free essentials…. One massive impact. By simply preparing yourself with products like these, then making a conscious decision to bring them with you when traveling anywhere, you can drastically reduce the amount of waste you leave in trash cans on your travels. Once you’ve mastered these sustainable swaps, you can expand your zero waste initiative to your home, kitchen, laundry room, and beyond! Plus, check out 16 more of our favorite zero waste essentials for everyday here!
This blog was originally published on March 5, 2019 and was most recently updated on April 12, 2023.