Minimalism is a part and parcel of green living. When you reduce things in your life, you reduce waste, start to recycle and reuse. You start to buy things which you are going to use, without following the consumerist lifestyle of buying without a purpose. While traveling also, you can follow a minimalistic approach, leading to greener travel. Pack minimally and pack green, and here’s a guide to help you how to do it for zero waste minimalist travel.
Guide for zero waste minimalist travel
Why is minimalist travel zero waste?
We have not reached the stage of 100% waste less travel, but when you travel in a minimalistic way, you can achieve close to that goal. Being minimalist is about ‘less is more’ and when this concept is used in travel, you will travel with an eye on consuming less and thus your waste would be less.
Living in a minimalist way means you focus on the things in life which hold true meaning for you. For example, when you decide to stop buying any more branded jeans or beautiful but unrequired décor items, that money can be saved to buy healthy, organic food, and over time, maybe even go for a vacation!
And on ultra minimalist travel, when you have a few objects and clothes to manage, you will be able to spend time on more sightseeing or being able to visit more places when you don’t have a heavy load to lug around.
Rethink your needs
When we pack to go out of town, there are numerous things we pack in case of ‘eventualities’. Most of the time, these eventualities do not arise. But we end up packing a lot of stuff which just increases the weight of the luggage. For example, packing sneakers in place of hiking boots is more sensible. In fact, wear sneakers the entire time of travel, and maybe pack one formal shoe pair if you are going to attend a formal event.
Pack a light travel iron, but leave the hair dryer, as most hotels provide hair dryers. Ask in advance if the hotel will provide hair dryers and so on.
Pack clothes which can be co-ordinated
Minimal packing of clothes involves packing clothes which complement each other. Make sure that all the clothes you pack can be worn interchangeably. Pack colors like black, grey and blue for trousers, jeans and skirts – just three are enough for a week long or ten days trip. Then floral, striped and solid tops can match with all of these. Teach your children and spouse also to pack in this manner. Besides, whenever you go out of town, you always end up buying a few things from the destination, including clothes and mementos.
One backpack can actually carry everything for one person. Or else, pack a backpack for essentials such as toothbrushes, toiletries, reusable mug, steel straws, glass, and cutlery, change of clothes, book, and tablet/laptop. A small size suitcase would be enough for clothes and shoes, which you can check in, and the backpack can stay with you as hand baggage. So even in the airport, after checking in the luggage, and on the plane, you can travel in zero waste minimalist travel, and used your reusable mugs and glasses etc.
Bamboo toothbrushes, wooden hairbrush, organic lip balm and other herbal/organic makeup, chargers and phone can be in your backpack. You need to skip that extra-heavy camera, unless you’re a professional or really into photography, because smartphone cameras are quite good these days. Besides, while traveling, you’d have to always keep an eye on safety of the camera, which would take away from the entire experience of the vacation.
Pack light even when traveling for business
If you’re traveling for business, follow the minimalist style of packing clothes, so that you can travel light. Pack a button down shirt, two formal trousers and a few different shirts you can wear with jeans casually when out of office, and with office wear as well. Depending on how many days your trip will be, you have to plan wisely to leave out fancy ensembles that will add weight to your luggage.
Packing light can save you money
When you pack light, you can save a lot of money. You never have to pay money for extra luggage! Some airlines may have their ticket prices low, but they charge you heavily for checked in baggage, especially on transatlantic flights. So if you have only backpacks which can be put in cabin, you save a lot of money.
If you and other eco conscious, minimalist travelers travel light, then the plane will require less jet fuel, and thus conserving fuel as well as money.
Another way in which sustainable travel helps to save money is that you don’t require big cabs or rental cars while traveling in your destination, or if you have to travel by road quite a way to reach your actual destination. Smaller vehicles have less emissions, and thus in a way, less waste in emissions.
Pack a reusable bag
On travel, the usage of plastic goes up invariably, as you’re handed plastic bags or paper bags to hold various things. To have a really fruitful zero waste journey, you should always carry reusable bags, or at least one reusable bag made of cloth. Ask shopkeepers to put the stuff in your bag, instead of any plastic or paper bag.
Do carry your own reusable straw
You do need to cool down or warm up with various beverages. Keeping a few reusable, biodegradable straws will be a small but impactful step in reducing that little bit of plastic. If millions of people started using reusable straws instead of plastic, then you can imagine the amount of plastic that will be saved from landing up in the ocean, and in landfills.
Pack a steel razor
For sustainable travel, you could make the switch to a steel razor instead of plastic razor. More than a whopping 2 billion plastic razors are thrown in the trash every year in the US. This is enough to actually wrap around the planet 6 times! And when you pay 6-10 dollars every month, you are spending more money, as steel razors cost about 20 dollars and last all your life!
Change to a steel razor for all these great reasons and pack them for your travel too, in your check in baggage. Or else buy a new razor when you get there, if you don’t have check in baggage.
Bring your reusable bowl and mug
The best way to avoid plastic or paper plates is to carry a reusable bowl and mug. This could be a bamboo bowl/mug, or else a synthetic material bowl/mug which you had bought earlier but instead of throwing it, you can use it several times. Carrying a bowl is better than carrying a plate, as a bowl can hold gravy and liquids, but obviously a plate cannot.
Don’t be shy to ask the restaurants to give the food/beverage in your bowl/mug, and they will agree mostly. As more and more eco conscious people are traveling with their own utensils and cutlery, restaurants and hotels are slowly getting used to travelers carrying their own reusable cutlery, so your demand will be quite in order.
Carrying your own mug actually saves a lot of plastic and paper. Most disposable cups, even paper ones are lined with plastic or wax, so that the paper does not dissolve. This makes the paper cups un-recyclable. They can’t be composted either. Beside, the coffee or tea or juice cup lids are made of polystyrene, which is a carcinogen.
Even if you forget to carry your mug, request your coffee or tea to be served in a reusable mug.
Carry solid toiletries instead of liquids
Regular shampoos, shower gels, soaps and deodorants are largely water based. This uses quite a bit of clean water on the planet which could be put to better use. The water in the products is only to make them liquid. You can start using solid shampoo and conditioner bars as they are just as effective, do not require any plastic or glass bottle packaging, thus reducing the waste generated during your travel.
Sustainable bars are better than chemical laden liquid shampoo bars which do not have palm oil, and when they are shipped, are shipped using compostable materials. Even the wastewater from your shampoo and soaps would have less impact on the environment than the conventional products.
Carry a stainless steel bottle
Water bottles fit perfectly into your backpack. You can fill up your bottle from your hotel and from tap water if the country or place you are visiting has tap water which is safe for drinking. Carrying your own bottle would help you avoid the many plastic water bottles you would otherwise have to buy.
The last and most effective thing you can do to offset the carbon footprint of your travel, including the flying and travelling by road is to contribute financially to companies which are engaged in planting trees and other environmental projects. And it’s not very expensive either.