9 Tips For A Low Waste Road Trip

It might be easier to live a low waste lifestyle at home, at least once we get used to it, but a low waste road trip might require a little planning. Although, once you get used to it, it is not going to be difficult. It just requires a few extra steps before leaving, mainly related to your choices of what to pack.

Choosing a road trip instead of flying is already saving resources, since driving is less taxing on the environment than flying. Though for overseas trips we still fly, for most vacations we started replacing flights with road trips in the past few years.

It is tempting to forget about saving the planet, and indulge while on vacation. But in the end, if you are used to a low waste lifestyle at home (which most often leads to a much healthier lifestyle), it is more comfortable to do the same on the road.

To be fair, we don’t always follow our own tips either. There are times when convenience wins, and we sit down at a restaurant and forget we have our own reusable containers for the leftovers. Or we forget the reusable coffee cup in the car, and get a cup of coffee in a single-use cup. But as we are getting used to the new low waste travel style, these occurrences are fewer.

The following are a few tips for a low waste road trip that work for us.

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1. Bring Your Reusable Water Bottle

This is the easiest thing to do. You can find fill up stations everywhere, and have fresh water in your own container all the time. At this point I’m fairly sure everyone has a reusable water bottle, but if you don’t, you should buy one. Some also have built-in filters, like the LifeStraw Go water bottle. If you have one of those, you don’t need to be too picky about where you fill it up.

If you prefer a Camelbak water backpack instead, it works just as well. As long as you don’t buy water in single-use plastic bottles. In fact, even if you just think of your health, drinking from the single-use plastic bottles might do more harm than good. Especially if they were left out in the heat at some point (and how would you know they weren’t?). When hot (or if frozen), plastic from those bottles leaks into the water. And why would you add plastic into your body?

And, especially if you travel through desert areas, keep in mind that conserving water is a necessity, so even on the road, use the same habits you (hopefully) developed at home.

2. If You Drink Coffee, Bring Your Reusable Coffee Cup

Coffee drinkers don’t need to waste single-use cups from the stores, either. Some coffee shops sell their own reusable cups, and they may even refill them for free. If you prefer to carry your own (like I do), try not to forget it in the car. Just make sure the coffee you order is the same size or smaller than your cup.

Coffee shop owners and employees actually enjoy filling up your cup, instead of using theirs. I’ve only had positive comments when I handed them my cup to fill.

Some are even insulated, like the  Klean Canteen Coffee Mug, which means they keep your coffee hot longer. In fact, we usually make coffee at home and carry it in an insulated coffee mug like it. Since it’s larger than what we usually drink at once, it lasts at least two days.

3. Bring Your Own Utensils And Reusable Containers For Take-Out Food

This is also easy enough to do, it just requires a bit of planning before leaving. Pack a set of silverware, and some reusable containers when packing for the road trip. If you are a camper, just take it from your camping gear. If you don’ have a set, it is a good investment.

You can choose from bamboo or metal sets, depending of you preference. We have both; I prefer stainless steel, since I find it easier to clean. However, the bamboo is much lighter. 

This bamboo travel cutlery set comes with a case, in your choice of color. 

If you prefer stainless steel, this portable stainless steel utensil set comes with an added steak knife and two mini salt and pepper shakers, besides the usual spoon, fork, knife, and foldable straw.

4. Bring Your Own Snacks In Reusable Containers

Packing your own food, at least snacks, also go a long way in the pursuit of a low waste road trip. Besides being more environmentally friendly, it is also healthier most of the time. Buy snack foods in bulk, and carry them in reusable containers or bags.

If possible, use environmentally friendly snack bags, like the reusable snack bags from PlanetWise.  

5. Bring Your Own Toiletries

Even if staying in hotels, you can bring your own toiletries, so you don’t use the little single-use packs from the hotel: hopefully they can just leave them for the next guest. Or, if you have a choice, stay in hotels that use refillable containers for body wash, shampoo, and conditioner in the shower.

And speaking of bringing your own, try to use shampoo, conditioner, and body wash bars, instead of liquid stored in plastic containers. Many companies make them now, and they are just as good, or better than their liquid counterparts. They are also easier to pack, being less bulky, with no need to worry about them spilling everywhere.

6. Drive A Fuel-Efficient Car

Unless you have a hybrid or an electric car, try to drive a fuel-efficient one. You can also make it more fuel efficient by having the wheels fully inflated, and everything in perfect working order.

7. Eat And Shop Local, If Possible At A Farmer’s Market

For a low-waste road trip, it helps to eat in locally owned restaurants and eateries, and shop at local farmer’s market. The food there will be fresher – and thus healthier anyway. An from a low-waste standpoint, they don’t ship their food from far away, so by shopping local, you don’t add to the pollution of the huge trucks that bring good across states and countries.

8. Combine Camping With Hotel Stays

Camping is definitely the best low-waste road trip choice. And by camping I mean tent camping. RV-ing doesn’t count as camping, at least not from a low-waste travel style. After all, the vehicles themselves use up a lot of resources – at least gas.

However, not all of us can handle camping for days during a road trip.

But combining camping with stays in a hotel makes the trip more comfortable, while also more memorable.

9. Choose Locally Owned Hotels

When staying in hotels, when possible, skip the chains, and stay in locally owned (preferably by a family) ones. Again, just as with restaurants and food stores, they don’t need to ship their necessities from far, adding less pollution to our atmosphere.

Besides practicing low-waste travel, you also help the local economy.

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