Monday, August 26, 2013

how to travel with less plastic waste

My husband and I took our honeymoon to Ireland and England this past month, and I was immensely disturbed by the amount of disposable plastic that was present throughout our flights.  Believe it or not, you can make it through a trip abroad without consuming much, if any, plastic--you just have to take a little time to plan ahead.

(With help from our cat Ollie!)
On the plane

1. Bring your own food.  Is this even allowed?  The answer is yes (just as long as it's not a liquid).  We packed our own reusable bags of almonds and dried fruit so we had something to snack on instead of stale pretzels wrapped in plastic.

2. Bring a reusable water bottle and mug for hot drinks.  Yes, you can bring your own water bottle, just make sure it is empty when you go through security.  You should also take it out of your luggage to go through the x-ray so that they can see that it's empty.  Once you are past security, fill up your water bottle at a water fountain, and you're good to go.  When you are on the plane, you can also ask for the flight attendant to put your tea or coffee in your own travel mug.  They have no problem doing this, and I didn't even get a weird look!

3. Reuse your quart size plastic bag.  When you are done with your trip, do not throw this away!  Keep it with your luggage for the next time you have to fly.

4. Find alternative containers for liquids.  I was determined to find an alternative to the 3.4 oz plastic bottles for my carry on.  And I did!  I initially thought baby food jars might work, but they ended up being too big.  (Side note: I was the crazy person measuring a jar of baby food at the store calculating its volume).  However, I found that Target sells small glass bottles of spices.  I bought three bottles, emptied the cinnamon into a mason jar, and used them for my liquids in my carry on.  And they even had metal lids!

Unfortunately, Target doesn't list them on their website, but they are in stores, under the Archer Farms brand.  Here's a picture:

When you are at your destination

1. Don't use those little bottles of shampoo.  I know it's tempting, but use your own shampoo and conditioner.  Those little bottles are an enormous waste of plastic (and those shampoos are never very good anyway).  Which gets me to my next point...

2. Bring bar soap and shampoo.  We've all used bar soap before, but a shampoo bar?  There are several companies that make solid shampoo bars that work just as well as their bottled alternatives.  (Chagrin Valley is my favorite--they are a small family run business out of Ohio).  This way, you only have the soap wrapper to deal with, instead of a plastic bottle that will never go away.  My husband also brought his bar of shaving soap.

But how to pack them away when you are traveling back home, or to another destination?  I just wrapped ours in washcloths and stuck them back in our suitcase.  Super easy.  My favorite thing about this is that it means less liquids you have to take through security.

3. Use reusable utensils when you are eating out. Traveling (especially out of the country) usually means more eating out than usual.  If you happen to grab a quick bite to eat, you don't need to use the throw away plastic forks they give you--bring your own! I packed my own bamboo utensils, and they took up hardly any room in our luggage.

Traveling should not be an excuse to start recklessly using disposables that you would not normally use when at home.  You do not need to shop at the travel aisle at the pharmacy with tiny, plastic bottles.

Now, one more thing I would suggest--if you will be on a long flight, eat at the airport before you get on the plane.  The meals they serve you on the plane are entirely wrapped in plastic, and I was quite hungry on the way home, I have to say.

Are there any things you have done to reduce your plastic waste while traveling?  Anything I missed?  Please share!


  1. Great tips Elizabeth, I do, however, have just one set of the travel shampoo bottles, but I never throw them away, I just refill them. I let my bar soap dry and put it back in cardboard box it came in, and keep it with my other wash stuff, makes my suitcase smell good too! Thanks for sharing, good things to remember, especially the water bottle! We were bad in Florida with those.

    1. Thanks Mindi! Absolutely-you should reuse the plastic bottles if you have some! We didn't, so I tried to find a better solution. The soap definitely makes everything smell good! :)

  2. Nice blog and hooray for plastic free living - here are our plastic free travel tips

    1. Thanks! I love your blog, you have so much great information!