Zero Waste Travel Essentials

25 Zero Waste Travel Essentials [Plastic Free Swaps]

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I think it goes without saying that many of us have a genuine respect for our surroundings and planet, which is what inspires us to explore zero waste travel options in the first place.

The reality is, when you’re travelling you don’t always have the luxury of a car or home to store all of your items. This can get a little tricky, making it easier for people to lean towards single-use disposable items in the name of convenience and saving space. I get it, I used to live on the road in a shoe box (aka caravan) where space is prime real estate!

However, with these zero waste travel essentials, you’ll be able to travel lighter in many respects.

You certainly don’t need everything on the list here, so have a look through and see which items would work best for you.

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Zero Waste Travel Essentials

Insulated Water Bottle

Travel Stainless Steel Drink Bottle

The most well-used of the zero waste travel essentials is the humble water bottle. I recommend getting yourself a good quality water bottle made from insulated stainless steel.

If you’re travelling to a hot region (think north Australia), you want to make sure your water stays cool, so that you can stay refreshed and hydrated throughout the day and night.

While visiting cold places, you can use your insulated water bottle to hold hot drinks if you want to as well, without having to carry an additional item. Once it’s empty, rinse it out and refill with water.

Montiico Stainless Steel Drink Bottle
Insulated Drink Bottles →

Insulated Water Bottle benefits:

  • Saves money buying water
  • Eliminates plastic water bottles
  • Can ask hotel or cafe staff if they’ll refill it for you with filtered water (if the local water isn’t good)
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BYO Coffee Cup

Reusable Coffee Cup

Just to inspire some motivation for taking your own reusable coffee cup every time you go to grab a takeaway latte, let’s look at some of the harrowing figures.

According to news.com

☕️ 1 billion coffee cups go into landfill each year in Australia.

→ That’s 2,700,000 per day or…
→ 50,000 coffee cups per second!

Wait, aren’t paper coffee cups recyclable?

Contrary to common belief, paper coffee cups are not recyclable.

Why not? Well, for the paper cups to be waterproof, they are lined with a membrane of polyethylene (i.e. plastic). So, not only are they not able to be recycled with the other papers and cardboards, they also aren’t biodegradable either.

Montiico Coffee Mug
Reusable Coffee Cups →

BYO Coffee Cup benefits:

  • Sometimes get a discount for bringing your own coffee cup
  • Eliminates disposable coffee cups
  • Can make your own tea or coffee for the road
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Stainless Steel Straw

Stainless Steel Straw in Drink

Pretty much every bar, restaurant and cafe that you order a drink from is automatically going to slide a disposable straw into your glass. Thankfully, paper straws are becoming much more widely used, although plastic is still very much on the agenda.

Let’s look at why that single, seemingly innocent, plastic straw just isn’t a good thing. Here are some ever-changing facts:

? Australians use 3.5 billion straws a year.

→ That’s 10,000,000 per day!
→ Each one is used for around 20 minutes, then tossed away forever.

And if you still need a little more convincing, think about this – the very first straw you ever used is still in existence somewhere. Maybe it’s floating around the ocean, or it could be sitting on a forest floor, otherwise it’s probably buried in a landfill pile.

While paper straws are a far better option, the resources to create paper in the first place have to come from somewhere. Most of the time, it’s coming through deforestation, much like the mainstream toilet paper. For more on that, check out the Who Gives A Crap review below.

? READ: Who Gives A Crap [toilet paper] >
Stainless Steel Straw & Brush
Reusable Straws + Brush →

Carrying a stainless steel straw in your purse or bag really doesn’t add any extra weight or bulk to your pack. You can also get bamboo, glass and silicone straws, if you’re not into metal ones.

Alternatively, if you don’t have a reusable straw or don’t want to carry one, just say, “no thanks,” to the straw, next time you order a drink.

Reusable Straw benefits:

  • Eliminates disposable straws
  • Nicer to drink through than paper straws
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Reusable Cutlery Set

Bamboo Travel Cutlery Utensils

If you’re one to be eating out and on the go while travelling, you’ll no doubt have noticed that plastic cutlery is the norm in those situations.

The best way to avoid disposable cutlery is to have your own handy reusable set in your bag.

There are a few different styles you can go for, which really depend on how compact you want the utensils to be in your bag and what items you think you’ll need.

Reusable Cutlery Styles

The Retro Kitchen set below includes a fork, spoon, knife, chopsticks, straw and straw brush. All items are stainless steel and come packaged in a fabric bag, which then gets stored in the tin. I love this set because it caters to every need, plus you can hygienically stow everything away until you can wash them later.

Reusable Cutlery Set Retro Kitchen
‘Carry Your Cutlery’ set →

If you really want to save space in your bag, go for the 3-in-1 spoon, fork, knife. The benefit is that you don’t have to carry multiple items, although only having a single piece isn’t going to be as easy to eat with. But, it’s all about what you get used to, right!

Be sure to check the size of the item before buying anything, some of the all-in-ones can be up to 20cm (7.8 inches) long.

3-in-1 Spoon, Fork, Knife
3-in-1 Utensil (eBay) →

Reusable Cutlery benefits:

  • Eliminates disposable cutlery
  • Always prepared for your own eating needs
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Cloth Napkin/ Bandana

Cloth Napkin

The uses for carrying a cloth napkin or bandana are many. If you visit a bakery and grab a pastry or roll, you can get them to put it directly into your napkin, instead of needing a bag.

Having your own napkin means being able to easily wipe your hands without needing paper serviettes. It’s also handy to be able to put a bandana down on a public table to create a clean space for yourself if need be.

If you’re in a pinch and need to blow your nose, pull out your cloth napkin! Sweating it up in the humidity? Yep, a bandana will do the trick.

I personally prefer a bandana purely for its larger size, but whatever fits in your bag better is the way to go.

Cloth Napkin
Cloth Napkins (eBay) →

Cloth Napkin/ Bandana benefits:

  • Eliminates paper towels & napkins
  • Always prepared for nose blowing, wiping hands, having a clean surface and being able to wrap up food.
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Reusable Bag

Reusable Bag

It’s always handy to have a fabric reusable bag rolled up and ready to pull out whenever you need it. Plastic bags with purchases are not always free any more, so having your own saves money and also saves on plastic resources.

Fabric Reusable Bag
Reusable Shopping Bags (eBay) →

Reusable Bag benefits:

  • Eliminates disposable plastic bags
  • Always handy to have a spare bag
  • Saves money – no need to buy plastic bags
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Reusable Container

Stainless Steel Lunch Boxes

Having a reusable container or two with you are great zero waste travel essentials.

Being able to pack your own lunch and snacks for the day will save you a heap of money. Another reusable container perk is being able to say ‘no’ to disposable bags and containers when you buy food on the go. Just ask the cashier to put it straight into your container instead.

You don’t have to go for stainless steel here. If you have a handy Tupperware container at home that you can pack, that’s perfect.

Bento Stainless Steel Lunch Box
Stainless Steel Lunch Box →

Reusable Container benefits:

  • Eliminates disposable food packaging
  • Can pre-pack lunch & snacks
  • Saves money – buy once, use forever
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Beeswax Wraps

Beeswax Wraps

If you’re not keen on carrying a container around in your bag (let’s be honest, they do add more bulk), then pack yourself a set of beeswax wraps instead.

They fold flat and can be used for many different things. You can store sandwiches and snacks for the day and wrap any leftovers along the way.

Beeswax Wraps
Beeswax Wraps (eBay) →

Beeswax Wraps benefits:

  • Very compact & lightweight
  • Versatile for wrapping and storing food
  • Saves money – buy once, use for years
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Silicone Zip Lock Bags

Another option for storing food, snacks and even personal items are the reusable silicone zip lock bags. The great thing with these guys is that you can wash them out, let them dry and use them over and over again.

Silicone Zip Lock Bags
Silicone Zip Lock Bags (eBay) →

Silicone Storage Bag benefits:

  • More compact than containers
  • Washable & reusable
  • Can be used for anything to create compartments (including toiletries)
  • Saves money – buy once, use for years
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Face Washers

Washcloths

I always carry a few face washers with me as they’re most definitely zero waste travel essentials. Even if I’m just travelling for the night, I’ll pack at least one washcloth.

Face washers are perfect for removing make-up, washing hands, face, feet and even your entire body if need be.

You can pre-dampen a washer and store it in a waterproof pouch (or a silicone bag, like the ones above) as a reusable travel wipe.

Face Washers
Face Washers (eBay) →

Face Washer benefits:

  • Versatile – can use to wash anywhere on your body
  • Use to remove make-up
  • Easy to hand-wash & dry while travelling
  • Pre-dampen for DIY travel wipes
  • Eliminates disposable wipes
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Cloth Make-up Pads

If you prefer to have separate make-up pads, get yourself a set of reusable cloth ones. I personally prefer to keep my products to a minimum, so just use face washers, but each to their own.

You can easily hand-wash fabric make-up rounds while you’re travelling, so that you can keep reusing them on the go.

Make-up Rounds
Reusable Make-up Pads (eBay) →

Reusable Make-up Pad benefits:

  • Eliminates disposable make-up rounds
  • Easy to wash & dry on the go
  • Saves money – buy once, use for years
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Soap Bar

Natural Soap Bars

A bar of soap in a tin or container is a much more sustainable option than liquid soap in a plastic pump bottle. Plus, a bar of soap is more compact, making it perfect for washing while travelling.

For truly zero waste soap, buy it unpackaged. If that’s not possible, go for soap bars that are packaged in cardboard, which can be recycled.

Soap Tin
Soap Tin (eBay) →

Soap Bar benefits:

  • Eliminates plastic waste
  • Compact
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Shampoo & Conditioner Bars

Much like the bar soap, solid shampoo and conditioner bars reduce the waste of plastic bottles.

I’ll admit, I tend to have a greasy hair type and not all shampoo bars are as effective for me as liquid shampoos. So, it may take a bit of trial and error to find a brand that works well for you.

You can store your solid bars in soap tins or containers, which take up way less space than pump bottles.

Shampoo Bars
Shampoo & Conditioner Bars (eBay) →

Shampoo & Conditioner Bar benefits:

  • Eliminates plastic waste
  • More compact than pump bottles
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Zero Waste Deodorant

Zero Waste Deodorant

The ultimate zero waste deodorant is to make it yourself from regular kitchen ingredients. If you can fill up your kitchen ingredients at a bulk food store with your own containers, that’s even better.

Here’s a simple DIY deodorant:

  1. Mix 1 tsp baking soda and 1 tsp arrowroot flour in a small bowl.
  2. Add in small amounts of liquid coconut oil and mix until desired ‘paste’ consistency.
  3. Add in a few drops of essential oils for scent.
  4. Store in a small jar or container.

If you’re not keen on making your own, there are plenty of great zero waste deodorants on Etsy. Look for ones that are stored in glass or metal pots, or cardboard push-ups.

Natural Deodorant
Natural Deodorant (eBay) →

Zero Waste Deodorant benefits:

  • No nasties going onto your armpits or near your breast tissue
  • Less disposable waste
  • Cheaper (whip up a batch whenever you need it)
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Bamboo Toothbrush

Bamboo and plastic toothbrushes

Okay, I think we can all agree by this point that plastic is the product we’re trying to avoid here. It’s a finite resource, which is petroleum-based.

Thankfully there are other resources, which are much more sustainable, such as bamboo and hemp, just to name two.

Bamboo toothbrushes are great. Once they get to their end of life, you can burn the timber handle after pulling out the plastic bristles. Unfortunately there are no other bristle types on the market that I’m aware of.

Bamboo Toothbrush
Bamboo Toothbrush (eBay) →

Bamboo Toothbrush benefits:

  • No plastic handle
  • Usually sold package-free or in cardboard
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Zero Waste Toothpaste

You can find zero waste toothpaste in three different forms…

  1. Paste
  2. Chewable tablets
  3. Powder

Rather than using toothpaste from a plastic-lined toothpaste tube, these three options offer healthy alternatives, which are often stored in metal or glass.

To use the tablets, you just pop one in your mouth, chew it up, then start brushing. For the powder and paste, you can dab a bit onto your damp toothbrush and brush away.

As for which one suits you the most, you’d have to give them all a go and decide for yourself.

Zero Waste Toothpaste Tablets
Zero Waste Toothpaste (eBay) →

Zero Waste Toothpaste benefits:

  • Eliminates plastic
  • Choice between three different styles
  • Can make your own paste at home
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Zero Waste Lip Balm

Homemade Lip Balm

For a zero waste lip balm, look for ones that are stored in a metal tin, glass jar or cardboard push-up. The idea is to avoid plastic containers and plastic wrappings.

You can even make your own lip balm with melted shea butter, coconut oil and melted beeswax. Melt it all down in a double boiler on the stove, then add a few drops of essential oil for scent.

Homemade Lip Balm
Natural Lip Balm (eBay) →

Zero Waste Lip Balm benefits:

  • Natural ingredients
  • Eliminates plastic
  • Can make it yourself
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Stainless Steel Ear Picks

Rather than using disposable cotton tips to clean your ears, grab a set of stainless steel ear picks. They literally take up no space in your toiletry bag and can easily be washed and used over and over again.

I know most people are used to using cotton tips to clean the wax out and drying inside the ears after a shower, but they really aren’t necessary.

A towel will help to dry your ears, as well as allowing them to air dry naturally. Using a stainless pick to clear out the wax is a different sensation to a cotton tip, but again, it’s all about what you get used to.

Stainless Steel Ear Picks
Stainless Steel Ear Picks (eBay) →

Stainless Steel Ear Pick benefits:

  • Eliminates plastic waste
  • Reduces the need to produce disposable resources (e.g. cotton)
  • Stainless steel is very hygienic
  • Saves money – buy once, use forever
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Safety Razor

Safety Razor

Swapping out disposable razors for a single stainless steel safety razor is really easy. You’ll also need a box of metal blades, which are inserted into the safety razor for use. Once that blade is blunt, it can go straight into the recycle bin, then slot in a new blade for next time.

✂️ Every year, 100 million disposable razors end up in Australian landfill alone.

A good safety razor is an investment that will last you a lifetime if cared for properly. Plus, you’ll no longer be contributing to plastic razors going into landfill.

Another great zero waste hair removal method is laser. After around twelve treatments (once every 4 – 6 weeks), you’ll be hair-free forever! It’s not as painful as it sounds. I’m very sensitive, but still rock up to my laser appointments with a bounce in my step, knowing that this shit is permanent – I love it!

? READ: Eco Hair Removal [5 methods] >
Safety Razor
Safety Razor (eBay) →

Safety Razor Benefits:

  • Eliminates plastic
  • Saves money – buy once, use forever
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Wooden Comb & Brush

Wooden Brush & Comb

When it comes time to replace your brush or comb, opt for wooden items rather than plastic. Unfortunately, sometimes the wooden brushes still have plastic bristles, but at least the handles aren’t. When your brush or comb gets to the end of its life, you can burn the wooden pieces and put the plastic bits into the bin.

Remember, the most zero waste item you can use is the one that you’ve already got. Switching out your plastic items for things made from more sustainable resources (wood, hemp, bamboo, metal, etc.) is ideal once they need to be replaced. It’s a step-by-step process.

Wooden Brush & Comb
Wooden Comb & Brush (eBay) →

Wooden Comb & Brush benefits:

  • Eliminates a lot of plastic
  • Produced with more sustainable resources
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Menstrual Cup & Period Underwear

Menstrual Cups

A menstrual cup and some period underwear make great zero waste travel essentials.

Let’s be honest, the thought of reusable period items while travelling, doesn’t sound easy or appealing.

However, if you can get comfortable using a silicone menstrual cup, that time of the month can be really simple. You can empty them out in toilets along the way and give them a wash in the shower, in complete privacy.

Period underwear are great as well. You can give them a rinse out in the shower and throw them into the wash with the rest of your laundry. I also sometimes use cloth pads, but period underwear is much more discreet while travelling.

Zero Waste Period benefits:

  • Eliminates disposables
  • Saves money – buy once, use for years
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Zero Waste Moisturiser

Moisturiser

When it comes to moisturiser, look for natural brands that are packaged in metal or glass jars or containers. It’s handy to have a tiny moisturiser jar for travel, so that you can add in a bit of your moisturiser from home, rather than having to take a large container.

Coconut oil is also a great natural body moisturiser for many body types (and works as a lubricant as well), however it can clog up the pores on your face.

Zero Waste Moisturiser benefits:

  • Eliminates plastic packaging
  • Can eliminate chemicals from the product
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Zero Waste Sunscreen

Sunscreen

Many people make their own DIY sunscreen at home, which is a much less wasteful option. You can buy the ingredients in bulk and get many pots of sunscreen out of it.

However, I would enter the homemade sunscreen realm at your own risk. The SPF is lower and can vary from batch to batch. I’ve made it myself and found that it wasn’t always as effective as the commercial sunscreen, especially in the Australian sun.

Alternatively, you can go for a pre-made zero waste sunscreen, usually sold in tins.

? Reef Safe Sunscreen

The three ingredients to steer clear from, which damage and
contribute to coral bleaching:
1. Oxybenzone
2. Octinoxate
3. Octocrylene

Make sure you look out for ‘Reef Safe’ brands. Many of the commercial brands use a few ingredients that have been known cause significant damage and bleaching to the coral reef.

Sunbutter Reef Safe Sunscreen
Sunbutter Sunscreen (eBay) →

Zero Waste Sunscreen benefits:

  • Eliminates plastic bottles
  • Eliminates nasty chemicals
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Eco-friendly Flip Flops

Thongs Flip Flops Beach

A good set of thongs (or flip flops, depending on where you’re from) are absolutely zero waste travel essentials.

But, many flip flops are made from rubber or a plastic-based product. For a more eco-friendly option, look for flip flops made from natural rubber or recycled materials.

Etiko make natural rubber thongs made from a natural rubber tree, blended with recycled rubber. They even have a ‘take back’ program. Once your Etiko thongs get to the end of their life, you can send them back to Melbourne and receive a $5 voucher towards your next pair. The thongs will then be recycled into floor matting.

Etiko Thongs
Etiko Recycled Thongs (eBay) →

Eco Flip Flops benefits:

  • Reduces synthetic rubber from petrochemicals
  • Reduces landfill by recycling other rubbers
  • Return for a $5 voucher at the end of their life
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Eco-friendly Sunglasses

Wooden Sunglasses

For the last in this list of zero waste travel essentials, let’s talk about sunnies. Protecting our eyes from the harsh sunshine glare is super important, especially when on the road or travelling.

But, they don’t have to be old school plastic. Some sustainable resources, which are being used for sunglasses include:

  • Wood
  • Bamboo
  • Cork
  • Recycled plastic
  • Other repurposed products
Wooden Sunglasses
Wooden Sunglasses (eBay) →

Eco Sunglasses benefits:

  • Repurpose other waste products
  • Eliminates new plastic
  • Utilise more sustainable resources
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