22 Smart Tips for Low Waste Travel Ditch wasteful attitudes and behaviours

22 Smart Tips for Low Waste Travel


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“At present, we throw everything away. But now we know that there is no ‘away’.  Waste is just a waste and when it accumulates, it becomes damaging. Live in a more modest economic way, as an ambition, and don’t waste things. Think this world is precious, think your time is precious, think the rest of the natural world is precious and all those things need cherishing. That’s the fundamental attitude. The world is not a bowl of fruit from which we can take what we wish. We are a part of it, and if we destroy it, we destroy ourselves. STOP waste … STOP waste of any kind … STOP wasting power, STOP wasting food, STOP wasting plastic. DON’T WASTE THIS PRECIOUS WORLD. CELEBRATE AND CHERISH. This is our last chance. This is not only a long term problem, this is the biggest problem humanity has ever faced. Please examine it and please respond.” urged Sir David Attenborough (A Life on Our Planet and Blue Planet I/II)

We were doing better in the fight against pollution waste until the coronavirus pandemic hit in 2020 and uncertainty became our new reality. Containing the Covid-19 virus became a “greater priority” than environmental concerns, and we have to make difficult and often necessary changes to the way we live and consume.   This massive “back step” for the environment will need three huge steps forward to minimise the repercussions of a very wasteful year. As before, changing attitudes and behaviour will be our biggest challenge.

Covid-19 is still a rampant concern in 2021 as travel restarts, but our health isn’t the only thing we need to worry about. While our travel have positive impacts for many communities, it has enormous negative impacts as well. From the often ignored carbon emission pollution waste, to the massive amount of plastic and packaging waste generated by our travel by air, on water and on the ground; and the energy and water waste from our unconscious and lavish behavior.

Low waste travel has a lower impact on people and planet. Use the power of your wallet and demand better NOW!


1. Travel less, travel direct and stay longer in the destination. Think twice about flying. Travel is all forms of mobility, whether we are travelling in our own village, city, country or abroad. Unless we are travelling by foot, horse, kick scooter, bike or electric vehicle powered by renewable energy, we emit carbon dioxide (CO2) and this is the worst climate pollution! CO2 outranks soot, methane and even hydrofluorocarbons in terms of long-term global warming. If you are someone who does fly, air travel will make up a much larger share of your personal carbon footprint.  If available, consider travel by train or electric vehicle instead of short flights.

2. Decarbonize your travel. Find, track and directly book extraordinary hotels, resorts, retreats and reserves you can trust to provide a truly sustainable travel experience and take responsibility for their impacts on communities and the environment with accountability and transparency. Find them in the NOW Sustainability Tool.

Reduce and offset your air or ground travel carbon emission with NOW Offset Carbon Tool. ”Carbon offsetting is not a solution but only a band-aid that gains us time. When people buy carbon offsets, some think that their emission did not ‘matter. However, the plane still took off and added carbon into the atmosphere. What the offset does is help someone else reduce their emissions. This is a relative benefit compared with the alternative scenario where the flight happens and the traveller still emits carbon as well. It is an improvement, but it will not get us to net zero. That will only be achieved if people fly less. It is still our view that if we have to fly (or emit carbon for any other activity), it is better to offset than not offset. And that is where it is critical that the provider has integrity.” Dr. Susanne Becken (Director of the Griffith Institute for Tourism)

3. Pack and travel light. Quite simply, the lighter you travel, the less your carbon emission pollution waste, and the less fuel the plane has to use to carry it.  Use a light, stylish, and durable travel bag and accessories. Harnessing new technologies to create a range of 100% recycled products, GROUNDTRUTH’s RIKR range includes the 24L backpack, technical tote, camera bag, laptop bag, tech pouch, travel wallet and card holder.  They are made from 100% recycled plastics with a 15 year guarantee and carbon neutral with bluesign® manufacturing. Purchasing the entire RIKR range will have removed a total of 284 bottles of plastic from the environment.



4. Turn off.  Be mindful of leaving the lights, TV and the air conditioner on in the room for the day.

5. Travel without digital devices or digital detox. This may result in serious withdrawal symptoms, so start by turning off your mobile apps when possible to lessen your carbon emission pollution waste which increase with travel abroad. Our everyday browsing has a carbon footprint and total carbon emissions scale up fast with billions of users worldwide.  The ‘cloud’ may sound weightless, but there is a physical infrastructure that props up the wireless world  that needs 24/7 cooling and power, often from a non-renewable source. Streaming requires electricity for our digital devices and data centers, and the mammoth carbon emissions have an environmental cost. John Harris in The Guardian tells us that communications data storage alone will soon have a bigger CO2 footprint than the entire aviation industry, even with the promised use of renewables.

6. Use sun power.  Bring your own stylish solar power accessory for your digital devices and avoid using batteries or electricity.  Little Sun Charger is a stylish reliable solar charger with a handy inbuilt lamp that can be used to charge your phone, Mp3 player or camera on the move. Perfect for travellers and everyone on the go.

Little Sun Original is a solar-powered LED lamp perfect for camping, festivals or at the beach – kids especially love the bright and cheerful design and usability.


7. Reuse bathrobes, sheets and towels.  You do not replace these at home every single day, and you do not need to do that at the hotel.

8. Be mindful and do what you would do at home.  Be conscious of filling the bathtub/jacuzzi daily or keeping the faucet water running as you brush your teeth, or wash dishes. When visiting island resorts, be aware that water supply competes with local communities and struggles to meet the tourists’ demand, especially during peak seasons.

9. Avoid unsustainable golf resorts. An 18 hole golf course can use up to a whopping one million gallons of water in an average summer week, according to The Alliance for Water Efficiency USA. This is the equivalent to having about 20,000 baths each week!


10. Coffee, tea or plastic? Tea and coffee-to-go often comes in a paper cup with a plastic lid and less than 1% is recycled.  Use your own BPA-free light, portable, leakproof and well-insulated cup for hot drinks.  If you’re not moving around too much, there are umpteen cup options that come in a myriad of shapes, sizes and materials, from bamboo to biodegradable materials,  ceramic models, and even temperature-controlled cups connectable to a dedicated app.

Most tea bags are not recyclable and made of the same plastic as PET and could leach plastic particles into the brewed tea. Billions and billions of them according to  researchers at McGill University who tested four kinds of plastic tea bags in boiling water, and found that a single bag would release more than 11 billion microplastic and 3 billion nanoplastic particles.  You would not be able to see the contamination with your own eyes; the researchers had to use an electron microscope. But it’s there! Bring your favorite tea leaves in properly sealed containers and tea infusing balls or spoons. Tea balls are a great choice for tea leaves that don’t need to expand, great for green tea, pu’erh tea, some black tea, and most herbal teas. You shouldn’t use them for oolongs or loose leaf teas or rooibos which have very small particles that will end up in your cup.

11. Bring your personal drinking bottle. The best is a socially-responsible and environmentally-friendly, ultra-light reusable bottle made from stainless steel, glass, or safe aluminum. For adventures where safe drinking water may not be available, take with you the Lifestraw range of refillable water bottles with built-in filter technology to make contaminated water safe to drink. For cool drinks, a collapsible cup will save space when not in use or travelling.

12. Reusable cutlery & straw. Carry reusable utensils and straw to avoid using the disposable plastic variety provided with take-out or delivered food.  Consider using reusable cutlery made from bamboo to further reduce weight and just remember to clean them once you’re done eating!  Our homes or office or lodging place already have cutlery and do not need the plastic cutlery that is delivered with food orders! Plastic cutlery is too small and lightweight and one of those items that won’t get recycled even when you put it in the recycling. It’s considered contaminated, so the 40 billion plastic utensils delivered per year in the USA alone are a complete waste.

13. Nanoplastics down the drain. Clothing and trainers made from ocean plastic are great, just remember that microfibre plastic in clothes and shoes will release nanoplastics in the wash into drains to rivers, lakes and oceans! Wash in low temp and use a washing bag.

14. Bring a reusable shopping bag. Help cutdown on disposable plastic and paper bags. Do not buy goods that come in single-use disposable packaging. Instead bring your own reusable silicon ziploc bags. They are more durable, easier to clean for reuse, and great to store your toiletries and tasty, energy booster snacks. Less than 1% are recycled and most are made from Polyethylene that takes centuries to degrade. Some 10% of this plastic end up in the oceans. An estimated 300 million plastic bags every year end up in the Atlantic Ocean alone. Each ton of recycled plastic bags saves the energy equivalent of 11 barrels of oil.

The numbers are shocking:

5 trillion – number of plastic bags thrown out per year!

160,000 – number of plastic bags thrown out per second!

700 – number of plastic bags thrown out per person each year!

12 minutes – average amount of time the plastic bag is used!

1000 years – the time needed for a plastic bag to break down!


15. Do not waste food. Only order what you can eat or ask for a ‘doggie bag’, eat leftovers and compost organic waste. Food waste is the World’s Dumbest Environmental Problem. If food waste were a country, it would be the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind China and the United States.  We can help reduce climate change, save money, conserve energy and feed the hungry by stoping food waste. Beyond the moral and economic reasons to do so, food waste that end up in landfills produces methane, a greenhouse gas that is far more potent than greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide from fossil fuel use.

16. Avoid Restaurant Buffets.  All-you-can-eat often become all-you-can-waste when guests  are allowed to take more than what they can eat. As a result, only about half of the food was actually consumed. Cultural culinary journeys to taste local delicacies can be an adventure, but we often over-order or sometimes end up not loving it. Choose a la carte and take only what you need.

17. Explore vegan. Reducing or avoiding meat and dairy consumption is the “single biggest way” to reduce your environmental impact from food.  Explore plant based and vegan options.


18. Reuse Masks. Bring a stock of cloth masks made of 100% organic GOTS-certified cotton and locally produced if possible.  Travel in the near future will still require social distancing and wearing a mask, the two most reliable ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  Kayla Levy of New York Magazine reviewed the mask brand options for sustainably minded consumers, but noted that there is no company today that can tick all sustainability boxes on environmentally responsible production, have fair-labor practices, and produce locally from independent makers. Most mass-produced fabric face masks are produced by the fast-fashion global apparel-production supply chain, which is environmentally detrimental and rife with “chronic” human-rights violations, says Scott Nova, executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium.  Disposable masks are made from plastic that takes hundreds of years to decompose, and worse, a glut of masks are littering streets and are washing up on shorelines and trashing sea beds, choking and strangling animals and sea life.

19. Paperless Pronto. Go paperless. With the ease of technology and a smartphone, there is no need to print your plane/train/bus/metro ticket and boarding pass. Use electronic tickets and digital receipts for Expense Reports. Save trees by using eBook readers to read a book or a magazine, and recharge using a portable solar charger. Don’t waste paper if you don’t have to and be mindful to turn off the mobile app whenever possible.

20. Try Not to Buy a Vacation Wardrobe. If you must shop, only buy good quality clothing in natural fabrics that you can wear all year.

What we put next to our skin is as important as what we put in our body.  Our skin is much more than an external barrier, it’s our largest organ and the reflection of our inner self. Back Label – The WellnessWear – is a whole new way to transform nature into clothing with sustainability at its heart. Free from polyester or any other toxic substances, Back Label fabric is made from milk protein, bamboo, seaweed, sea island and organic cotton with GOTS certification. This fabric is an incredible material that feels like a second skin with smooth fiber that is naturally antibacterial, ph alkaline and absorbs humidity.

Credit: Back Label
Credit: Back Label

While natural is better than synthetic, a cotton shirt uses 1,700 litres of water compared to a linen shirt that uses 6.4 litres of water unless it is GOTS certified! While certification programmes aren’t perfect  due to lack of funding, the Better Cotton Initiative and Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) can help farmers significantly reduce water irrigation needs by up to 40% and reduce the use of pesticides.

According to the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the fashion industry accounts for about 10% of global carbon emissions, and nearly 20% of wastewater. And while the environmental impact of flying is now well known, fashion sucks up more energy than both aviation and shipping combined.  A single pair of jeans requires a kilogram of cotton that requires 7,500–10,000 litres of water. That’s about 10 years’ worth of drinking water for one person!

Globally, only 20% of discarded clothing are reused or recycled, and 80% are doomed waste for incineration or the landfill that sit there for 200-plus years, and as it decomposes and emits methane – a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon.

21. Detox toiletries. Travel with less toiletries, less beauty products and single-use items that we reach for daily and toss in the trash. Recycle what you use whenever possible, and if you’re in a place where you can’t recycle, take steps to reduce your waste. Say NO to harmful chemicals!

Avoid buying plastic mini toiletries and taking minis from hotels. Decant from bigger bottles from home, or bring lightweight shampoo and conditioner bars wrapped in paper to further save on plastic usage.

Purchase Jardin des Monts (meaning Garden of the Mountains), the most powerful, pure and natural Swiss alpine products from herbs grown in terraces where generations of farmers lived and farmed in the high alps. Founded by Charlotte Landolt-Nardin, she want to give these precious herbs new splendour so that you can rediscover them – as teas, syrups or cosmetic products, in which traditional knowledge, but also modern methods and new scientific knowledge about the natural active ingredients are expressed. Their natural and organic ingredients of the highest quality, contain no preservatives and inspired by traditional herbalism, are made by hand in an extremely gentle way. From their mountain garden and their love of nature to your wellbeing.

Buy chemical-free or organic toiletries to avoid overloading our bodies with chemicals!  Purchase sunscreen without chemicals that damage coral reefs. Aethic Sôvée is marine positive certified (doing more good than harm to the marine ecology) and use recyclable PE bottles made from sugar cane in a glue-less box made from sustainable Swedish paper with water- based food-grade inks and compostable clear film.

Truly ‘natural’ toothpaste in sustainably sourced packaging to travel with is hard to find. Georganics makes Natural Toothtablets, naturally foaming toothpaste tablets with Cream of Tartar that are gently flavoured with organic spearmint, peppermint, tea tree or orange oil and come in a recyclable glass jar, aluminum lid and compostable box. The 120 tablets will last 1 person 8 weeks if they’re used twice a day.

Dr. Bronners Pure-Castile Liquid Soap is a clever soap with no less than 18 uses, from a gentle wash for face, hands, body and hair to a clothes and surfaces cleaning product. A blend of organic extra virgin coconut, jojoba and hemp oils with pure essential oils, it’s packaged in 100% post-consumer recycled plastic bottles, and a little goes a very long way, for the soap is three times more concentrated than other “liquid soaps” on the market.

Ethical personal care ’L’ products appeal to women who don’t want to use harmful chemicals with chlorine or synthetic materials in pads and tampons.

Switch to reusable towel or handkerchief instead of disposable napkins or tissues, and ditch single-use multipurpose pads and replace them with reusable, washable makeup remover pads in organic cotton.

22. Souvenir momento & keepsake  Support local businesses that sell locally made artisanal products. Before purchasing an exotic souvenir, visualize it in your home and think of 5 places to display it to avoid buyers remorse.  Think twice before purchasing cheap, poorly made items or souvenirs made of natural and eco materials that take loads of energy and chemicals to make, then travel a huge distance to get to market.


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