Zero Waste Tourist

Zero Waste Tourist

Travel is a great way to learn and experience other countries and their culture.  Many cities cater to tourists, and you’ll have different choices of food, shops, and activities.  Have more time?   Visit non-touristy areas! I believe that it’s a great way to learn more about the local culture and customs.

I worked on a tourist street, and during high season I noticed how many visitors create trash.  On a busy weekend, curbside trash bins overflowed with throwaway cups, plastic water bottles, to-go food boxes, and much more.

As I travel for a few months, I will be aware of the trash I create.   My goal is to produce as little waste as possible.

My zero waste travel kit


zero waste travel kit


Reusable water bottle:  It’s a must!  Even when not traveling, it’s the most useful item to have.

Reusable to-go-coffee cup: For those times when you want to grab a coffee and walk around aimlessly through streets and alleyways.

Tote:  The packable tote is convenient!  It stuffs into a small bag, so it doesn’t take too much space.  Use the tote for grocery, to carry extra things, and as a last minute catch-all when packing.

Cotton bags:  These are great for grocery shopping, putting freshly baked bread or pastry in it, or using it to carry snacks around.  They also double as a wash bag for delicate clothing.

Stainless steel food container:  This is useful to pack lunches in a while touring for the day.  You can also use it for leftover food from a restaurant or as a takeaway food container from street food vendors when you order something.

Bamboo utensils: You can say “no thank you” to plastic utensils that some street food vendors give away when you order.

Cloth napkin:  This is useful since some restaurants use paper napkins.  Instead of using their’s, take out your cloth napkin and use it.

The challenges of a tourist

If you’re traveling on a budget, dining out every day for every meal is not practical.  And if you don’t have a vehicle to get around, you are limited to where you can buy groceries.

Remember: You’re not going to be perfect!  The goal of zero waste is to reduce what you can with what is available.  

It might take some time finding a grocery store that you can shop in.  And you may have to buy at different stores for different items.  But I think that’s a great way to explore a new place and see how the locals shop and what type of food are available.

My grocery store experience

When I was in London, the first store I went to had everything in packaging. Even the fruit and vegetables came bagged in a large plastic bag. I searched for another grocery store for a couple of reasons:   One, that was too much food for one person for a few days.  Two, I wanted to avoid plastic.    That day, I found a co-op that sold fruit and vegetables individually without packaging!  The bonus: freshly baked bread!

So far, I find composting very difficult.  Some of the places do not compost.    Also, some places in the city have no yard to bury food waste.  I think if I stay longer in one area, I can do so research and see if any businesses take food trash to compost.  If you know how to compost while traveling, I would love advice!


Take the time to enjoy sitting in a cafe

At home, I usually had my reusable to-go coffee cup in my car because I was typically “on-the-go,”   But as a traveler,  leave it behind if you’re not in a rush to go anywhere.  Choose to drink in-house.  It will force you to slow down, people watch and perhaps start conversations with strangers about what are the “must-dos” while in the area.


Travel keepsakes

I don’t tend to collect souvenirs as I travel because I have no use for trinkets.  One of the “R’s” in zero waste is refuse.  Refuse things you don’t need.  Also, when moving with just a backpack, you tend to limit what you pack by how much you can carry.

Instead of buying things for friends that could end up stored away in boxes or the landfill, send them postcards.  Postcards are recyclable.  Also, nothing is sweeter than receiving a card in the mail letting them know you’re thinking of them.

As a souvenir for myself,  I take photos (lots of them.). I also jot down memories I want to remember in my journal.  On this trip, I’m going to collect recipes from the different countries I visit.  If you enjoy cooking, what a fun way to share your travels through food!  Each time you recreate them, you’ll be sure to remember all the fond memories.

Do you have any favorite zero waste “souvenirs?”