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.

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

This was something I had been thinking about for a while. But, I was concerned I just wouldn’t get the same effects as I do from regular shampoo and conditioner.

I have now taken the step and bought one of each of the bars. I went to Lush, as I had heard a great many good things, and they recommended two bars for me. I went for the ‘Honey I washed my hair’ shampoo bar and ‘jungle’ conditioner bar. I also purchased two metal tins to keep them in. While it was an initial expense, they last much linger than traditional bottles, so will save me 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 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 

However, for longer trips I definitely recommend using 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 used. Have a look at my recommendation here.

The other bottle I want to invest in, is a life straw bottle, have a look here.

Lifestraw bottle 

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. I will definitely be taking one of these of Egypt and Jordan next year.

No straws

This one was very easy for me. I actually don’t feel the need to use straws ever. But I know that some people do like the idea of sipping cocktails with a straw. So I have heard good things about a metal straw.

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

Shopping Bags

The easiest one on the list! I have canvas bags after canvas bags roaming around my flat, my car, my office. But I always make sure I pack these when I 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.

Even when I was in Africa, we often stopped for supplies and I always used my bag rather than taking a plastic one.

Shopping for clothes

I always try and go into a shop to buy any clothes, shoes, bags, swimming wear etc I want to get before going on a 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 my trusty canvas shopping bag, I am eliminating this.

Collapsable coffee cups

I think we are all guilty of getting a take away coffee in a disposable cup. I am getting better at taking my reusable cups with me I am home. But when I travel I often find myself getting a coffee (ok, chai latte) at the airport. Reusable coffee cups take up a fair amount of space in a hand luggage bag. So I was really pleased when I came across this:

Collapsable coffee cup

These cups fold down, into a much smaller size ready to pop in your hand luggage. Perfect! Plus, Starbucks 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 I still haven’t found a good way of reducing waste when travelling. In particular some liquids. But instead of always buying the small travel items, I have bottles I decant into.

This is for my shower gel, make up remover, suncream and moisturisers. The little bottles to decant into save on space, money and also help with reducing waste when travelling! I really rate these silicone bottles.

Reusable cutlery

I now always carry a spork around with me. This spoon / fork means when I am eating a salad or street food when I am away, I don’t need to use plastic disposal cutlery. Mine even has a little knife edge, so I can cut things if needed. The one I use can be found here.

I also know a lot of people who like to take wooden cutlery sets with them, a lot like this one!

Bamboo toothbrush

Every single plastic toothbrush that has been manufactured on this planet, is still on this planet. By using a bamboo toothbrush, I hope to 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.

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, I find they often do give me a new towel. But not allowing the room to be cleaned, I 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, I much prefer packing it all in advance, rather than trying to sort it out at the airport.

My next steps to further reducing waste while travelling

While I had made a few 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!

Reusable make up pads. I never use make up wipes, but I am guilty of using cotton pads and liquid make up remover. I am looking to invest in some pads, that can be washed and used again.

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! 

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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


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