Travelling Zero Waste

October 14, 2016

I just moved out of my family’s home for the first time, this has lead to a lot of trips in the past month between Rome (Italy) and Cambridge (UK) because of various exams and family occasions. 

All this travelling has helped me better understand how to travel in a zero waste way (especially on airplanes which was the trickiest thing!).

Since I did the actual move out by car (with my boyfriend’s low emissions natural gas Panda!) but I traveled back and forth mainly by plane I decided to divide this post in these to categories.


Travelling by car:

Travelling by car remaining Zero Waste is of course not that hard, especially if you’re travelling with someone that shares your values.


To get from Rome to Cambridge it took us 3 days, the first day we travelled from Rome to Lucerne where we stayed at a friend of ours.

Unfortunately we had to buy a big water bottle as our two 1/2 l Klean Kanteens (water bottles) weren’t enough for a full day of travelling. I regret this decision since with a better organisation I would have probably been able to avoid this plastic purchase by either bringing two 1 l glass bottles or by using a couple jars as extra water bottles. Unfortunately I had to organise my move out (packing+buying what needed+loading the car) in one afternoon, but after making that mistake I started thinking about reusable/plastic-free alternatives and I now feel prepared for the next long trip!

The other mistake was not bringing our own lunch (but only on the first day) again because of the time issue, luckily this error didn’t make us produce any more landfill waste as we simply bought two sandwiches that came in just a light paper bag, which we were able to recycle. We then had dinner at our friend’s place where he prepared for us a delicious dinner! 


Since our friend (@litterquitter on Instagram) shares our environmental concerns and is himself trying to move to a zero waste lifestyle he bought us some bread and some salami to make sandwiches with that we then packaged in a stainless steel lunchbox and beeswax wrap. He also made us some banana bread (with bananas that were being thrown away at his workplace) to eat during the trip and refilled our 2l plastic bottle and two Klean Kanteens.

The second day we travelled from Lucern to Calais, where we stayed in a lovely hotel which only used reusable sourced energy (and even had fast and normal charge stations for electrical cars!). For lunch we simply ate the sandwiches we brought with us and for dinner we ate at the little restaurant in our hotel. 


The third day we travelled from Calais to Dover by ferry and then we drove to Cambridge. Since we were travelling pretty early in the morning we decided to have breakfast directly on the ship which served breakfast on reusable plates with reusable utensils and allowed us to use our Keepcup for coffee instead of the disposable cups! We arrived in Cambridge around noon so we ate at a nice pub.


In general I would suggest to simply pack a couple of sandwiches and snacks in lunch boxes or using beeswax wraps, to bring enough water and look for eco-friendly hotels (or to have awesome eco-friendly friends to host you!)


Travelling by plane:

My first plane trip since going zero waste was actually this summer, when I went to Rio. I had to take three different flights (it was the cheapest option) which was a bit annoying but I made it to make an almost zero waste trip!

I refilled my water bottle at water fountains in each airport and asked the hostesses to refill it when on board (which they gladly did). I also brought my Keepcup (reusable cup) to avoid disposable coffee cups. The long distance flight was with the Brazilian company LaTam and I was lucky enough to have the meals served mostly plastic free. In fact for each meal the main was served in a ceramic plate, with just the dessert and small salad in plastic packaging, they gave us steel utensils and a real glass! I refused all the snacks that they offered us during the trip as they were packaged.


During this first plane trip as a zero waster I started thinking how I could be more zero waste, for example by bringing my own meals but later realised that it wasn’t a good idea.

In fact when travelling with companies with included meals if you refuse their meals they are simply going to throw all the food away because of the crazy hygiene policies that they have to follow. But what you can do to at least reduce a little bit the waste produced by on flight meals (since they’re usually packaged in plastic) is to bring your own reusable napkin, utensils and water bottle and some snacks, in fact snacks served on board are usually dry packaged goods which (as opposed to regular meals) can be reused by the company in the following flights.


For what regards short trips and low cost companies it’s actually a lot easier and this is because nothing is included which results on less waste!

I was therefore able to bring my own meal and snacks (I didn’t even know that it was a possibility before going zero waste!) and I refilled my water bottle before boarding.


Since a lot of airports still don’t have water fountains (which was my case both in Rome and in Stansted) I found out that if you go to a coffee shop and ask them to refill your water bottle with tap water they will usually do it gladly, and they won’t even look at you in a weird way!!


The other big issue when travelling by plane is the boarding pass, which can result a pretty annoying waste of paper! The best thing in this case is to do the online check-in, most Airlines provide the possibility to have a QR code boarding pass that you can add to your "Wallet" (this is the name of the iOs app but all smartphones have this kind of app), this is the best option as the QR code is clear and made to be used on a phone,but when this option is not provided I found that you can simply save the boarding pass file and zoom in at the moment of the boarding so that they can scan the barcode.


Pictured above: Onyx Containers' Lunchbox (Divided Airtight Food Storage Container), a 18oz/532ml Bamboo cap Stainless Steel Klean Kanteen water bottle, Life Without Plastic foldable spork and a reusable cotton napkin.



In conclusion I would say that the essentials to travel (and live) zero waste are: 

A water bottle, I chose the 18oz one because it fits into all my purses

A reusable napkin made with natural fibres

A foldable spork, or small fork (portable bamboo utensils are another great solution)

A good airtight lunchbox/container, which I also use to get takeaway food, sandwiches or anything else without packaging

A reusable cup

These last two items can easily be replaced by an airtight wide mouth Mason jar to avoid spending too much money in stainless steel lunch boxes etc


If you have any comments, suggestions or want to share your zero waste travelling stories feel free to contact me or to comment this post!!



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