Usually on vacation, or when you’re out to eat with family and friends, the last thing on your mind is trash. You don’t think about what you’re disposing of when you go to a restaurant or the amount of waste produced at your hotel. These outings are all about relaxation – a time to not worry about the stress and struggles of everyday life. But you may be wasting more than you realize when you’re out on the town. How can you go zero stress and zero waste when you go out?
When you’re at home, you have control. You know what you’re buying, what you throw away, and where it’s going. You have a system, and all the tools you need to go green. So what happens when you step foot outside your door? Well, you can still have control of what YOU waste! Wasting less may take more effort away from home, but it’s not hard to do if you plan ahead.
Planning a Weekend Getaway to Waste Less
You can avoid waste at the place you stay:
- If you’re taking a longer trip, consider choosing a place to stay that has a kitchen.
- Check with the hotel you want to stay at whether they offer recycling in each room, and whether they offer a program to let you skip getting your towels and sheets changed every day.
- Bring your own toiletries to avoid using the small containers offered by the hotel.
- If you can choose a centrally-located place to stay, you can plan to take public transit or walk instead of needing to rent a car.
Here are some more tips from meredithtested.com to make it easier to waste less on a weekend getaway.
- Bring an empty water bottle to the airport and fill it after you go through security. Many airports have special water bottle filling stations, or you can fill it at a drinking fountain. I’ve also had success asking flight attendants to fill my water bottle on the flight.
- See if you can use electronic boarding passes at all the airports you’ll be traveling through.
- Use a permanent luggage tag instead of paper luggage tags.
- Skip the individually-packaged in-flight snacks. Instead, pack items purchased in bulk in reusable containers, such as cloth snack bags or small tupperware.
- For longer flights without meal service, you could bring your own meal in tupperware, that you can then use to store leftovers during your trip, whether you eat out or cook for yourselves.
- Check whether the airline you’re flying on recycles their in-flight waste before you order a drink (for example, local airline Alaska Airlines does separate recyclables). If they don’t separate recyclables, consider bringing your own cup (a reusable tumbler or mug can also be useful during your trip) or skipping drinks other than water.
Waste Less When You Eat Out
Most travelers find themselves eating out more often than at home. A straw here, a paper cup there – hardly anything to worry about, right? Except everyone uses a straw here and a cup there – and it adds up fast! People in the United States sip through 500 million straws per day. A disposable cup of coffee a day adds up to 23 pounds of waste a year. The average office worker uses 500 disposable cups every year – that’s two every work day! Producing a year’s worth of paper cups uses 12 billion gallons of water. It adds up so much that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean.
I’m going to say that again.
More plastic than fish in the ocean.
Change your restaurant and coffee habits – at home and on the road
Although lots of single-use items are recyclable or compostable, getting them to the right place doesn’t always happen, especially when you’re away from home. The best thing to do is to cut out unneeded single-use items, either by skipping them altogether or replacing them with durable items.
- When you go out to eat, ask for your drink without the straw. If you’re a straw-lover, you can get metal or glass straws to bring yourself.
- Hanging out at the coffee shop? Ask for a “for here” cup instead of paper.
- Can’t survive without your morning coffee? Ask the coffee shop to fill your reusable mug or thermos. Iced coffee lover? You can get reusable tumblers too. Don’t have room for a whole mug in your purse or travel bag? Tuck a reusable cup sleeve into your bag so you can skip the paperboard sleeve.
- If you’re like me, you almost always overestimate your appetite at a restaurant and have leftovers. Next time, bring your own Tupperware to bring them home in.
- Say no to plastic takeout bags, even if you’re getting your leftovers in a clamshell – carry it by hand instead, or pull out your trusty reusable bag.
- Try to always eat out somewhere with real plates and utensils.
- Getting takeout? Ask them to hold the plastic fork and paper napkin, and bring your own durable utensils and cloth napkin.
Pack the Ultimate Zero Waste Travel Toolkit: What’s in Your Purse?
It seems like every time I watch TV, I hear Samuel L. Jackson’s voice asking me “What’s in your wallet?” in promotion of Capital One. Maybe the tagline for zero waste in our world should be “What’s in your purse?”
Although it may seem like you would need to drag a suitcase around to have the right ‘equipment’ to be green in our world, you really only need few essential items in your purse.
- A reusable bag that packs down is easy to fit in your purse for unexpected purchases. We give away Chico Bags, but there are tons of options for collapsible bags. By using a reusable bag, this significantly reduces the amount of plastic going to the environment and, if you’re a Kirkland resident like me, it saves you five cents. Woo-hoo!
- Also worth carrying: a reusable napkin and reusable utensils. People Towels are small cloth napkins that can be easily transported wherever you go. Mini bamboo utensil kits are easy to use and easy to carry!
- And lastly, my favorite and most handy reusable item: a reusable water bottle. Water is something you need every day, so why waste plastic every time you drink 17 ounces?
Everyone’s days are different – these are just a few items that I have found useful in reducing my waste. Try out different reusable items to see what fits your lifestyle. Plastic Tupperware instead of styrofoam takeout clamshells? Mason jar or ceramic mug instead of to-go cup? The options are endless.
Even just trying out a couple of these tips will put you on track to going zero waste out on the town. So next time you’re headed out, ask yourself, “What’s in my purse?”