Reducing waste when travelling

by Charlie - Where Charlie Wanders

This post (likely) contains affiliate links, including Amazon Associates links, and I may receive a small commission if you click one. This is at no extra cost to you.

Reducing waste when travelling

Zero waste travel is a huge buzz topic right now, and with the focus being on how to reduce the waste we produce, in particular plastic. I wanted to share some simple first steps I have taken to reducing waste when travelling. Although, a lot of these I do use in my day to day life as well. I know there are quite a few blog posts of a similar nature out there at the moment, but the more we share the more we will start making an impact.

image of waste on beach - reducing waste when travelling

How to start reducing waste when travelling

Shampoo and conditioner bars

Using shampoo and conditioner bars is really very simple and definitely not as much of a transition as you might thing.

Lush have some great options, and they will recommend bars to suit. Two recommended are the ‘Honey I washed my hair’ shampoo bar and ‘jungle’ conditioner bar. You can also buy two metal tins to keep them in. While it is an initial expense, they last much longer than traditional bottles, so will save you  money over time. It might be slightly less convenient, and I do find the conditioner more of a challenge, it is not enough to go back to bottled hair care.

Plus, when you travel, they don’t take up as much space in a bag and if you are going hand luggage only they don’t count as a liquid!

Water Bottles

I was actually way ahead of the trend here – check me out! For years I have been using a metal, re-useable bottle I was given one by our amazing accommodation in the Selous game reserve in Tanzania when I was on safari (you can read about this trip here). It is insulated so kept my water nice and cool when out on game drives.

Taking a re-usable water bottle with you when you travel is such a great way of reducing waste when travelling.

For insulated bottles I highly recommend S’well. My family all use them and swear by them. For various reasons, I would only buy these over competitors and urge you to the same. When flying with hand luggage only, they do a great smaller version. Take it through security and then fill up using the water fountains in airports. Sometimes the larger ones are tricky to fit under the taps!

Small 260ml Swell Bottle 

image of s'well water bottle to assist with reducing waste when travelling

However, for longer trips you might want to consider taking a larger one. They are useful to fill up in the morning and can last you the good part of the day. Again I would recommend S’well, their larger ones are the same size as I use. Have a look at my recommendation HERE.

The other bottle you might want to consider investing in, is a life straw bottle, have a look HERE.

Lifestraw bottle

image of lifestraw bottle to help reduce plastic waste when travelling

This excellent bottle removes minimum 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria, 99.9% of waterborne protozoan parasites, and filters to 0.2 microns; surpasses EU and EPA filter standards. It removes E. Coli, Giardia and Cryptosporidium oocysts, and many other waterborne contaminants.

Perfect for when you want to stop using bottled water, but don’t quite trust the local water supply.

No straws

While some might simply say no to a straw, others do like the idea of sipping cocktails with a one. If is you, then a metal straw is definitely something to bring with you to help with reducing waste when you travel.

If straws are something you feel you can’t give up, invest in one of these and keep it in your bag!

Reusable Straw


image of blue, foldable reusable straw


Shopping Bags

The easiest one on the list! Make sure you have a few canvas bags in your house, your car, your office, wherever you might need one. But also always make sure you pack these when you travel. If you are staying in an airbnb or the like and are going to be doing your own food shopping, then definitely use one of these for groceries.

Some countries, including Kenya, have now banned bring in plastic bags to the country, so a canvas tote bag is an excellent solution to this.

Canvas Bag

Image of canvas tote bag for reducing waste when travelling

Shopping for clothes

Always try and go into a shop to buy any clothes, shoes, bags, swimming wear etc you want to get before going on new trip. By going into the shops themselves, not only do you get to try the clothes on, but you reduce plastic waste. Think of how much packaging retailers send their clothes in – and often it is plastic. By going in to the shop, with your canvas shopping bag, you are eliminating this.

Even better is to buy your clothes second hand from charity shops etc. This way, less items are being produced.

Collapsable coffee cups

We are all guilty of getting a take away coffee in a disposable cup, and even more so when we travel at airports, train stations etc. Reusable coffee cups can take up a fair amount of space in a hand luggage bag. So this one below is a really great solution:

Collapsable coffee cup

image of collapsable travel cup for reducing waste when travelling

These cups fold down, into a much smaller size ready to pop in your hand luggage. Perfect! Plus some chains such as Starbucks and Pret have started charging 5p more if you use one of their cups, so a good way to start saving money.

Decanting liquids

There are some items that still aren’t easy to find a good way of reducing waste when travelling. In particular some liquids. But instead of always buying the small travel items, invest in some bottles to decant the liquids into.

This is for things like make up remover, suncream and moisturisers. The little bottles to decant into save on space, money and also help with reducing waste when travelling! These silicone bottles are really handy.

Silicone Bottles

image of silicone bottles

Reusable cutlery

Another great tip is to always carry some of your own cutlery with you, such as a spork. This spoon / fork means when you are eating a salad or street food when travelling, you don’t need to use plastic disposal cutlery. Some even has a little knife edge, so you can cut things if needed. Find one HERE.

Alternatively, if you like to eat with actually cutlery consider investing in a wooden cutlery set:

Wooden Cutlery

image of wooden cutlery set

Bamboo toothbrush

Every single plastic toothbrush that has been manufactured on this planet, is still on this planet. By using a bamboo toothbrush when you travel, you will be cutting down on this.

My one advice – do your research! The first one I purchased arrived in two plastic seals and then fell apart in my mouth on the third use.

Reusable make up pads

Instead of using wipes or cotton pads to remove make up, invest in some reusable, washable make up pads which can be used to remove make up. They can be washed so can be used time and time again.

reusable make up pads

image of reusable make up pads

Other tips

When staying in hotel rooms, put the do not disturb sign on the door. As much as hotels have the ‘hang up your towel if it doesn’t need changing’ policy,  they often do still give a new towel. But not allowing the room to be cleaned, you am cutting down on the amount of washing needing to be done.

Reusing the plastic bags for liquids in airports. Again, by using an old one each time, it reduces the amount of plastic bags that are being wasted. Plus, it means you can do all the packing it all in advance, rather than trying to sort it out at the airport.

Next steps to further reducing waste while travelling

Even with these changes there are still further steps towards reducing waste when travelling.

Firstly, I am looking for a package free deodorant. I am still a little dubious about this, so if anyone has found a good one they can recommend – please let me know!

I also want to investigate a way of not using toothpaste tubes. If anyone has got any tips on this, let me know!

Have you got any tips for reducing waste when travelling? Or will you implanting any of the above? I’d love to hear from you! 

If you liked this post, please don’t forget to pin it for later!

You may also like


Jess November 1, 2018 - 11:50 am

Loving the blog Charlie, I need one of those folding coffee cups and I love tour take on the shampoo bars.

I use reusable cotton pads at home and they came with a netted bag so they are easy to stick in the washing machine. I can’t remember the brand though as it was at least a year ago now. I can highly recommend the switch though!

With the huge environmental impact of the fashion industry, buying second hand is a great idea. I’ve got so many nice pieces from the likes of eBay. It takes more time and is sometimes hit and miss but 100% worth it!


Charlie - Where Charlie Wanders November 1, 2018 - 5:02 pm

Thanks so much 😊

I definitely need get some make up pads! I would really recommend the shampoo bars, I’ve found them really good to use.

Sarah November 1, 2018 - 4:37 pm

Excellent post! I’m always looking for ways to be more green especially when traveling! Thank you so much for sharing 🙂

Charlie - Where Charlie Wanders November 1, 2018 - 5:02 pm

Thanks so much! Hope you’ve found some useful tips!

Bodhisattva Travels (@Bodhisattva_trv) January 5, 2019 - 3:11 am

Thanks for sharing !! These were some practical and easy to do first steps any traveler must undertake while on the move !!
Beautifully written !!

Charlie - Where Charlie Wanders January 5, 2019 - 8:25 am

Thanks so much! Hopefully it will inspire a few to make a change

Kerry January 5, 2019 - 5:51 am

Love that you have written this! I’ve been trying to reduce waste in general particularly plastic, and some of these tips are such easy changes. Thanks for spreading awareness!

Charlie - Where Charlie Wanders January 5, 2019 - 8:25 am

Thank you for reading! I hope you can make some changes, every little thing helps!

Sarah January 7, 2019 - 8:49 pm

These are excellent tips and not just for travel. Most, if not all of these can be applied to every day life as well.

Charlie - Where Charlie Wanders January 8, 2019 - 10:46 am

I hope they help! Definitely useful for day to day life as well 😊

Coffee and Corfu February 18, 2019 - 9:10 pm

This post is everything I dream about 😍 in Greece, there is a huuuge crisis when it comes to recycling. Its almost impossible not to use bottled water as tap water isn’t readily available to drink. There are ways around it but as I have such a sensitive stomach, I tend to find water from Wells etc in the community will give me awful stomach ache! So I try my best to reduce in other areas and I just love the travel mug! I have one that I use but it doesn’t collapse like that 😍
Great and insightful post, I might have to pitch this post over the summer months to tourists!

Jess xx

Charlie - Where Charlie Wanders February 21, 2019 - 3:08 pm

Thanks so much! I hope it helps. Definitely have a look into the filter bottles, they are great for not using bottled water!

Coffee and Corfu February 21, 2019 - 3:33 pm

I’m on it! Thank you for your advice!

kristinacarrodeguas February 26, 2019 - 1:53 pm

Oh those are such great tips! I hadn’t even thought of the shampoo and conditioner bars because I dye my hair red (and it’s a difficult color to maintain). Have you noticed anything positive or negative after using the bars?


Charlie - Where Charlie Wanders February 26, 2019 - 3:17 pm

I haven’t really noticed any difference 😊 I guess it’s slightly hard to wash. But the effect is just the same, and I absolutely wouldn’t go back to bottles now

Katie & Gaurav May 7, 2019 - 8:43 am

Have you heard of charcoal pills to replace toothpaste? We’ve been researching brands to use once we’re done with our current toothpaste. Some of them seem pretty great, come packaged in glass, reusable jars, cardboard packaging for easy recycling too. 🙂

Charlie - Where Charlie Wanders May 9, 2019 - 7:19 am

I have heard of them, but haven’t used. Would love to know more. As I really want to give it a go!

unattendedgrandma June 6, 2019 - 1:33 am

I found a collapsible offer cup, without a lid, at a dollar store, hoping it does the trick! I also have a travel coffee press, great for long train trips. Only three parts to it (outer ‘cup’, plunger, lid, makes it super simple to clean – I even use it at every pday home.
Make up removal: cotton pads, my daughter uses them, they wash up easily. However, the best solution, stop wearing make up! It is so bad for the environment.

Charlie - Where Charlie Wanders June 6, 2019 - 6:11 am

I have a collapsible cup too! Take it every time I travel


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More