Ways to Start Reducing Your Waste When You Travel

April 24, 2018

Travel More Sustainably: 5 Easy Tips to Implement on Your Next Trip | Reduce Your Waste With These Easy Tips | Sustainable Travel | Travel Sustainably | Ways To Reduce Your Waste While Traveling | Photography by @elanaloo + +

Lately, the amount of consumer waste we produce and use ONCE has been all I can think about. The signs are everywhere here in the islands and it’s heartbreaking and unnerving. Because travel is so important to me, I thought I would share 5 SIMPLE CHANGES we can make to reduce our waste + participate in sustainable travel.  If you’ve been reading my work for years, or are just reading for the first time, something to note: I am very passionate about is sharing small ways we can make BIG impacts – whether that’s in entrepreneurship, wellness or travel.

I’m sure you’ve noticed, as have I, that tourist destinations all around the world tend to see the worst of it when it comes to pollution, waste and devastation to the natural environment. Out here in the middle of the pacific ocean, as you walk the beautiful beaches in Hawai’i you see as much plastic as you see seashells. I’m not joking. In other places of the world, people are snorkeling surrounded by floating trash + plastic bags. Right at home where you’re reading this, I’m sure you notice the effects of our wasteful global society too.

I shared some imagery that demonstrates the stark reality of our consumer waste + the effect here in Hawai’i recently on my Instagram story (view them by watching my ‘Travel’ Highlighted Story) that stirred up so many amazing, eye-opening conversations. Which then led to me wanting to share this article here on my site!

The knowledge you’ll gain below is going to empower + equip you with tangible, impactful ways you can change the way you travel to reduce your waste! Don’t worry, you can still leave your stress behind + get into ‘vacation mode’ while being mindful of these tips and caring for our planet. Let’s dive in shall we. . .


When you’re packing your suitcase, be sure to pack your own reusable water bottle and reusable bags when you travel! The water bottle is a great reminder to stay hydrated and wildly reduces your use of plastic throughout your trip! They don’t take up much room so this is an easy one. We often aren’t aware of the waste management + recycling process in other countries so rather than relying on them to recycle, simply reduce your impact and waste by USING LESS. Reusable bags, whether cloth or straw, are wonderful for shopping in local markets and can double as a beach bag.

Eliminate absent-minded waste:

  1. Stop using single-use plastic + styrofoam! It seems daunting at first but with a few easy swaps, you can significantly reduce your waste in this department.
    • Refuse plastic straws when you go out to eat (make sure to tell them when you order).
    • Grocery shop with reusable bags + reusable produce bags!
    • Refuse plastic every time it’s offered – I politely decline and don’t allow retail stores to give me plastic bags which doesn’t bother anyone.
    • Eat at places that use dinnerware instead of one-time-use containers.
    • Bring a coffee mug to your local coffee shop or get your coffee to stay (instead of to-go) and sit in the coffee shop, enjoying the view.
    • Buy wood or metal utensils that you can bring with you.
    • Avoid buying individually packaged foods.
    • Fill up your reusable water bottle (I love my LARQ water bottle because it purifies water in 60 seconds) instead of buying or accepting water available in plastic bottles.
      It’s not hard to do *any* of these actions, it just takes focus to be conscious throughout our day.

  2. STOP USING K-Cups + other plastic coffee pockets. The inventor himself is quoted saying that “he wishes he never created them because of their impact on the earth.” WHOA! These K-Cups generate an insane amount of plastic waste that does not biodegrade and cannot be recycled which is horrific for the environment!
  3. Bring snacks with you! I’m always hungry when traveling and since eating out can add up and can cause a lot of waste, we love to buy protein powder, protein bars, trail mix and other easy snacks in bulk and pack them in our bags. Swap out your single-use ziploc baggies for these rad reusable ones.

Travel More Sustainably: 5 Easy Tips to Implement on Your Next Trip | Reduce Your Waste With These Easy Tips | Sustainable Travel | Travel Sustainably | Ways To Reduce Your Waste While Traveling | Photography by @elanaloo + +

Shop Local:

Buy LOCAL food + goods. Processing, packaging and shipping goods is straight up wasteful. One of the easiest ways you can reduce your waste is to shop local, so when you’re buying food (without plastic packaging or a huge carbon footprint to get to you) you’re literally purchasing from the hands of someone who grew it or goods that are made right in that location.

When moving to the Big Island of Hawai’i, I romantically pictured local farmers and side of the road fruit stands for our entire food source. Sadly, 90% of the food on this island is shipped in and most of it parishes ridiculously quickly because it’s been on a boat for such a long stretch of time. Also, a lot of the stores import goods that don’t support local tradition or artisans but instead create a lot of packaging waste and emissions from the importing. We must be aware of these practices and choose to support local agriculture and families.

When traveling, buy from local farmers, artists and makers. Shop at local farmer’s markets and ask them about their growing process. Shop at health food stores that stock local farmer’s produce and products.

Travel More Sustainably: 5 Easy Tips to Implement on Your Next Trip | Reduce Your Waste With These Easy Tips | Sustainable Travel | Travel Sustainably | Ways To Reduce Your Waste While Traveling | Photography by @elanaloo + +

Switch Your Toiletries:

  1. Consider the packaging of toiletries. I know it’s tempting to buy those teensy, cute ‘travel size’ toiletries but instead, I recommend buying a few reusable go toobs or reusing glass jars and filling with your favorite products. You can reuse those containers trip after trip, meaning less plastic waste and also, you can bring your favorite quality products that often don’t come in travel sizes!
  2. Bring a shampoo bar. Yes, companies like LUSH! are taking zero-waste efforts to a new level by offering bars of shampoo and conditioner instead of products in a bunch of packaging.
  3. Time to rethink your teeth. Replace your toothbrush with a bamboo toothbrush or one made with recycled materials. And switch out your toxic toothpaste for one that comes in a glass jar and is full of ingredients that are cleansing + good for your body!
  4. Ladies, listen up! Make the switch to a menstrual cup. Take a second and think about it. . . your tampons come in a cardboard/plastic box, in a plastic wrapper, with paper instructions inside the box and then you end up tossing the tampon itself away! Needless to say, this is a lot of waste for one female and one cycle. Now think about all the women all over the world and how much trash that’s making. Consider switching to a medical grade silicone menstrual cup. They last for years and they are small and easy for travel! I love mine.
  5. Use one wash for everything. Body wash, shampoo, face wash, etc. Do we really know what the difference is? By using one product for many uses, you can cut down on packaging + shipping while saving space in your suitcase or backpack! Dr. Bronner’s is a great example of this. While their soap is still in plastic packaging, their bottles are 100% post-consumer recycled and I love that they list allll the ways you can use their soap.
  6. Limit your towel use in hotels. This tip is simple but something I don’t think we consider when we’ve switched over to ‘vacation mode’… Don’t use a lot of towels! Follow the instructions on the cards if you’re staying in a hotel. Think about how many rooms are in just one hotel and how much water it takes to wash allll of the towels in that hotel. It’s insane and not sustainableInstead, only use what you NEED and leave the rest alone.

Travel More Sustainably: 5 Easy Tips to Implement on Your Next Trip | Reduce Your Waste With These Easy Tips | Sustainable Travel | Travel Sustainably | Ways To Reduce Your Waste While Traveling | Photography by @elanaloo + +

Use Reef Safe Sunscreen:

Especially if you’re traveling somewhere you’re going to get in the ocean, wear reef-safe sunscreen. I recommend switching over even if you’re not going into the sea because the ingredients in mainstream sunscreens are disgusting. Read all about this topic here!

There you have FIVE SIMPLE WAYS we can all travel more sustainably on our next trip to reduce our waste and make an impact. Those were all pretty simple and actionable, don’t you think?
Remember, the best way to predict the future is to create it.

Would love to hear your thoughts on the above + see you implementing these ideas during your travels! Be sure to post to your Instagram story (or anywhere on social) 
tagging me @elanaloo so I can see + cheer you on in your efforts!
You are amazing for caring about our earth and doing anything you can to preserve it. We can start to effect change today. Mahalo nui loa for reading! Please feel free to share.

Ready to learn the next steps to reducing your environmental impact while traveling?


Thanks for reading! I'm a photographer, writer & environmental advocate excited to be sharing regenerative solutions, ideas & concepts for our lives & businesses with you. 


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  1. Julie Wilhite

    April 25th, 2018 at 8:24 AM

    Such great tips!!

Although each of us is but a drop in the ocean, we can set off a ripple effect with a global impact.


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