Living Minimal

Zero Waste Travel: What’s in my carry-on

Traveling is so exciting. But if you’re trying to lower your environmental impact, it can also be frustrating due to surprise waste and feeling unprepared.

After being on a lot of flights recently (I’ve been living abroad for the past four years and definitely still have the travel bug), I’ve learned a few tricks to help me reduce my waste (and stress!) while flying or traveling in general. Since flying is already not the best thing for the environment, it helps to make small changes to help counteract your flight’s impact.

*Keep in mind that nothing in this post is sponsored in any way (that way you know you’re getting the real deal for recommendations).

Here are my Minimal Waste Carry-on Essentials:

  1. Water bottle or Jar 
    • This is always number one. The majority of airports have a bottle refill station, and you can get your bottle filled on the plane. Just make sure to drink your water before going through security in the airport!
    • A jar is also a great option to store food scraps for compost, or leftovers.
    • I use a bottle that’s similar to S’well -the brand doesn’t matter as long as it’s glass or stainless steel to avoid leaching chemicals into your water.
  2. Neck Pillow
    • I currently have a blow-up neck pillow with a soft outer layer from an outdoor store in Australia – does anyone know of any non-plastic or more natural neck pillows?
  3. Eye Mask
    • I use this eye mask from Saje – it’s filled with lavender so it calms me immediately. I’ve had mine for 4 years and still going strong!
  4. Noise-canceling headphones (in-ear or over-ear)
    • These can double as earplugs and you can avoid the single-use airplane headphones that usually come in plastic bags. I have a pair from House of Marley made with sustainable materials.
  5. Solid face wash, soap and toothpaste
    • If you want to freshen up before landing, instead of buying travel bottles and having them spill or using single-use face wipes, find products in bar form! (While using up current liquid products, find small jars around your home to make a DIY carry-on size version. I used a small sample-sized tea jar to store my face lotion on a recent trip to NY).
    • I currently use this pink clay face cleanser bar from Herbivore, bulk soap from Whole Foods, and toothpaste from Georganics.
  6. Pen
    • Because you’ll likely need it at some point, and it’s better to be prepared! Bonus if it’s metal and/or refillable.
  7. Snacks 
    • If flying domestically you can pack any type of solid foods you like, and if you’re flying internationally and can’t bring veggies or fruit, I recommend bringing granola bars or crackers and nut butter. For long flights, if you have time and the resources, you can pack a full meal in a reusable container so you can avoid the packaging-heavy meals on the flight or in the airport. I use containers from U-Konserve that work well for almost anything.
  8. Looseleaf tea and tea ball or reusable tea bag
    • Just ask to fill your bottle or jar with hot water, add your tea and voila! Delicious tea with no waste. I have recently been loving David’s tea, Murchies, & any natural blends I find at local markets around home or abroad.
  9. Kindle or Book
    • Something to keep you busy so you don’t give in to buying magazines that will only occupy you for a couple of minutes. Tip: Some libraries let you rent books on your kindle – check out your local library to see if they have this feature in your city.
  10. Long warm socks
    • This isn’t a necessity or even technically minimal waste, but it helps me when planes get cold on longer flights! Plus, with warm socks and a jacket you won’t have to use the plastic wrapped blankets on the plane.
  11. Any Essential Oils
    • I use peppermint essential oil on my temples during a flight to avoid headaches due to the cold recirculated air, and an essential oil blend for to prevent colds and bacteria that I roll around my nose (linked here). This avoids needing to buy Advil or medicine on a layover (or vitamin C packets). I use the Rolling Pharmacy Kit by Saje.

**Bonus Tip: Check-in for your flight online and have your boarding pass ready on your phone so you don’t have to print one out – just make sure to show the actual boarding pass file and not a screenshot – the scanning machines don’t work with screenshots of boarding passes! (Yes, I tried).

What else could I bring on my flight to reduce my waste further? Have you had any great zero waste flight successes? Let me know in the comments.

Happy travels!

– jen

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