Good for you. You are actively trying (and succeeding!) to minimize the production of waste in your life, and that means you’re doing better than the average American. This lifestyle takes a lot of thought, preparation and sometimes inconvenience. Unfortunately, all of this is magnified when you’re away from home and can’t control everything that comes your way.
While you will have to accept that you’ll most likely be turning out more waste when you are on the road, there are several things you can do to keep yourself on track everywhere you go. Here are nine tips and tricks to reducing waste on the road so that you can stay stress-free and garbage-free and continue to help the environment.
On the road
1. Tote a tote: An over-sized purse or tote bag is a necessity on the road. This way you can not only fit all the things you will be bringing as a waste-free fanatic, but you also will not have to walk into a restaurant with reusable containers in your hands or openly carry a roll of toilet paper on your way to the bathroom.
2. Pack shopping bags: Stock up on reusable cotton shopping bags and bring them everywhere: to the grocery store, shopping mall and even to the hotel room to use as a recycling bin. Keeping bags both in your car and in your bag will ensure you’re always equipped for impromptu shopping trips!
3. Rethink & recycle: Although recycling is a last resort for many waste-free enthusiasts as it technically is not a waste-free process, it sometimes is necessary, especially on the road. As mentioned above, shopping bags can be used as a makeshift recycling bin when you are on the go. Often times, hotel rooms and other lodgings do not have recycling bins available and may not recycle at all. So, bring an extra bag that you can reuse time and time again.
Dining at restaurants
4. Go straw-free: This one is most likely a no-brainer for those who are familiar with the waste-free lifestyle. Straws are a huge hazard when it comes to animals, especially aquatic animals that end up living with a lot of the trash that gets dumped into the ocean. Straws can easily be choked on by our animal friends. So, next time you are getting a beverage at a restaurant make sure to ask for no straws upfront (don’t forget to make eye contact!).
5. Bring storage containers: Big or small, having multiple containers on hand will be a lifesaver when you’re on the road. If you have leftovers from dinner, you will have a reusable container to put the contents in instead of those awful plastic or Styrofoam boxes. Just be sure to let the waiter know that you brought your own so they don’t think you are trying to steal food. The containers can be used over and over to carry all types of things, whether that means food or socks. Try out Preserve food storage containers, which are made from 100-percent recycled plastic.
In the bathroom
6. Transport your toilet paper: The bathroom may be one of the most difficult places to keep up your waste-free lifestyle, but there are ways to make your visit as environmentally friendly as possible. Invest in an eco-friendly toilet paper and toss an entire roll, or a generous stack of squares, into your over-sized bag wherever you go. Seventh Generation 100% Recycled Bath Tissue is made from at least 50 percent post-consumer recycled paper so you can go guilt-free! You can also look for tube-free toilet paper so there is nothing left once you have used it all up.
7. Keep hand towels on hand: Bringing your own cloth napkins and hand towels is a sanitary, waste-free way to dry your hands off after using the bathroom, which can be a breeding ground for wasted paper towels (and germs!).
8. Opt for a menstrual cup: Tampons and pads are responsible for a mountain of trash every year, and women can use close to 17,000 tampons in her lifetime! Menstrual cups are the newer, greener solution and aren’t as intimidating as they seem. One cup can be used for 2-3 years and up to 12 hours at at time. They are much easier to use than they appear and end up saving you a ton of money in the long run.
9. Take your own toiletries: Play around with DIY body scrubs, deodorants and toothpastes and always have some with you when you travel. Hotels produce immense amounts of waste just from the shampoo and lotion bottles alone, so bring your own and your hair, skin and the environment will thank you.
Editor’s note: For more tips and tricks for avoiding single-use items and reducing food waste, check out our Zero Hunger, Zero Waste initiative.