Zero-Waste Travel: What You Can Do to Help

zero-waste travel productsWe wish we could tell you how to completely eliminate your carbon footprint on your next trip but that might not be totally possible since some things fall outside of your control. However, there are steps you can take to decrease your carbon footprint and reduce physical waste during your next trip. See what you can do to contribute to the zero-waste travel movement with these four eco-friendly travel tips.

1. Eliminate Physical Waste While Traveling

It’s no surprise that the top waste products that accumulate when traveling come from eating and hygiene products. Shannon Kenny, founder of Mama Eco, suggests these methods for eliminating waste:

Eco-Friendly Travel Products for Avoiding Waste While Eating:

  • A reusable shopping bag (like Baggu) for avoiding plastic bags when picking up food or souvenirs.
  • A reusable sandwich/snack bag (like StasherBag) for eliminating the need for Ziploc snack bags or picking up snacks wrapped in plastic.
  • A reusable spork for avoiding single-use plastic utensils while eating on the go.
  • A reusable water bottle to avoid buying bottled water and for avoiding plastic cups and bottles on plane rides. Many airports also have water refill stations so you can fill up your water bottle after going through security. (This is a money-saver since airport beverages are some of the most expensive you’ll ever encounter.)
  • A cloth napkin for avoiding the need for disposable napkins while eating on the go.

Eco-Friendly Travel Products for Avoiding Waste During Your Bathroom Routine:

  • A shampoo and conditioner bar and a bar of soap for avoiding hotel toiletries that are packaged in single-use plastic (and for eliminating any worry about TSA liquid restrictions).
  • A bamboo toothbrush, again for avoiding hotel toothbrushes that are almost always made of plastic.
  • Non-toxic sunscreen that’s also reef-safe—most sunscreens contain toxic ingredients that are proven to be responsible for much of the coral bleaching happening around the world.

2. Stay in Eco-Friendly Hotels

In addition to eliminating waste, another way to pursue eco-friendly travel is to book your stay at “green” hotels. These hotels are actively making an effort to lower emissions. Here are some of our partner hotels that our doing their part to protect our Mother Earth.

proximity hotel_greensboro north carolina

Proximity Hotel

The Proximity Hotel in Greensboro, North Carolina is the first hotel to be certified LEED Platinum by the U.S. Green Building Council.  LEED is a third-party green building certification program and is the globally recognized standard for the design, construction, and operation of high-performance green buildings and neighborhoods. With oversized windows to provide natural lighting, recycled building materials, and an elevator system that runs on its own recycled energy, the Proximity Hotel is truly the pinnacle of eco-friendly hotels.

Just some of the ways Proximity Hotel incorporates eco-friendly practices:

  • Using ultra-efficient materials and the latest construction technology, the building uses 39.2% less energy than a conventional hotel/restaurant.
  • With 100 solar panels covering the 4,000 square feet of rooftop, the hot water is heated using solar energy.
  • Salvaged, solid walnut trees that came down naturally through storm or sickness were used to make the bistro bar. Service trays are made of bamboo plywood.
  • Geothermal energy cools the refrigeration equipment, saving significant amounts of water.
cala luna boutique hotel_costa rica

Cala Luna Boutique Hotel and Villas

The Cala Luna in Tamarindo, Costa Rica, is a beautiful, sustainable boutique hotel located on Tamarido Beach. The hotel recently implemented a mass solar panel installation on its path toward entirely renewable energy. The project, which is one of the largest solar energy undertakings in Central America, was completed last December and will provide Tamarindo’s premier eco-boutique hotel with 1,400 solar panels estimated to offset 34 tons of the hotel’s energy usage.

In addition, they reduce the use of plastic by providing guests with bamboo straws. The hotel offers a unique culinary experience with ingredients from their organic farm, La Senda. Other sustainable practices include:

  • Organic and locally sourced ingredients 
  • Eco-friendly cleaning products 
  • In-house production of furniture 
  • Featuring only in-season produce on restaurant menus
post ranch inn_big sur california

Post Ranch Inn

At the Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur, California, there are no plastic water bottles; guests use steel water bottles that they fill with chlorine-free filtered water. The only room with a television is the library. The 40 guest rooms were designed using wood from wine barrels for the interior paneling in the newer guest rooms; metal public-school doors create the entrances at the original guest rooms. The lavender soap in the guest rooms comes from a local farm and hand-woven rugs are made by indigenous weavers.

In March 2009, Post Ranch switched on a 990-panel solar installation, the largest hotel solar project in California and one of the largest in the U.S. The solar array reduces the inn’s carbon footprint and allows much of the hotel to run with energy generated at the hotel.

hotel felix_chicago illinois

Hotel Felix Chicago

The Hotel Felix was the first hotel in Chicago, Illinois, to obtain Silver LEED certification thanks to its use of USBGC-approved, Earth-friendly cleaning supplies, lower energy-use lighting, and state-of-the-art recycling room. Even the hotel’s location aids it in being eco-friendly, as its southern exposure helps heat the building naturally in winter months. Other ways Hotel Felix earned its LEED certification include:

  • Cork floors in meetings rooms and the business center
  • A paperless front desk
  • Motion sensor heating, ventilation, and air conditioning in all rooms
  • Carpets made of recycled materials
  • Free-trade coffees and chocolates

3. Offset Carbon Emissions

Just one round trip flight from New York City to London produces more than half the amount of carbon produced by the average person in a year. According to Sustainable Travel International, travel and tourism is a significant contributor to climate change, accounting for approximately 5% of all global carbon emissions.

To minimize your carbon emissions, you have to effectively neutralize with a carbon offset. As the Carbon Footprint explains:

“A carbon offset is a way to compensate for your emissions by funding an equivalent carbon dioxide saving elsewhere. Our everyday actions, at home and at work, consume energy and produce carbon emissions, such as driving, flying, and heating buildings. Carbon offsetting is used to balance out these emissions by helping to pay for emission savings in other parts of the world.”

Some airlines offer carbon offsets, like Delta and United Airlines, but you can also neutralize your emissions by purchasing carbon offsets from companies like Carbon Footprint or the American Carbon Registry.

4. Support Hilton’s Commitment to the Environment

Hilton International announced in 2018 that they will cut its environmental footprint in half and double its social impact investment by 2030. The worldwide hotel chain will become the first hotel company to “institute science-based targets to reduce carbon emissions and send zero soap to landfill.” In addition, the company will double the amount they spend with local and minority-owned suppliers. Some of the efforts Hilton is taking on include:

  • Reducing carbon emissions by 61%, in line with the Paris Climate Agreement and approved by the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi).
  • Reducing water consumption and produced waste by 50%.
  • Removing plastic straws from managed properties.
  • Sustainably sourcing meat, poultry, produce, seafood, and cotton.
  • Expanding existing soap recycling program to all hotels and sending zero soap to landfills.

You can book all of these eco-friendly hotels and more when you use Roomkey to search for hotels. Simply type in your desired destination and we’ll show you all of our partner hotels in the area without the gimmicks and runaround that other travel sites put you through. And when you’re ready to book, we’ll take you directly to your chosen hotel’s website to secure your room, rate, and loyalty points, too. Ready to book your next zero-waste vacation? We’ll be waiting to help you find the perfect hotel.