Zero Waste Traveling Tips: Flying and Airports

Flying and zero waste in the same sentence is kind of an oxymoron. However, that doesn't mean we can't take strides to make it less wasteful. It's not about perfection; it's about making better choices. I will echo it again and again and again. 

Going Zero Waste: Zero Waste Traveling Tips: Flying and Airports

My original travel post was great for a weekend trip. But, when you're spending 10 days somewhere you're going to need a little bit more than just a mason jar and a cloth napkin

I fully believe flying internationally every weekend is excessive. I think we should try and limit our emissions, but you will have to physically fight me if you think I should never see my family again. (trust me some people have emailed me about it. ;)  

Telling people to stop traveling is not viable. It's silly to think everyone will stop going on vacation.

I think traveling and getting outside of your normal routine is really important for developing a rounded personality. It's important to experience other cultures to grow your world view. 

Instead, let's focus on doing it less and traveling better.

Instead of traveling frequently for short periods of time, opt for fewer trips for longer periods of time. This will help to cut down on emissions.

Of course, there are a lot of small things we can do to make flying more sustainable too. 

I have flown twice since going zero waste. Once for business and once to see family. I cringe when I think about the amount of trash created on a plane... all of the little bottles, cans, and individual snack wrappers, etc. 

Here are my top tips for avoiding waste for flying. 

1. an empty water bottle 

Empty is the very key word here. DO NOT try and bring a full water bottle through security. Do not bring a full water bottle into the car with you thinking that you're going to drink it all before you get to security.

You'll go through security. You'll have forgotten about your full water bottle. You will get stopped in security. You will be unable to pour said water down a drain. You will have to choose between chugging it or throwing it in a trashcan.

Sticking to your zero waste principles, you'll obviously have to chug it. Then you'll have to re-go through security. You'll be late for your flight forcing you into a middle seat.

You'll have to pee so bad, but you're trapped between two people and don't feel comfortable getting up.... all of this could have been avoided if you just brought an empty water bottle. 

Obviously.... that was a purely fictional story.... I would never have done something that foolish.... 

So just, double check and make sure your water bottle is empty. M'kay. 

After you're through security, fill up your water bottle. There should be water fountains by the bathrooms to fill up your water bottle. If not, just pop into a cafe and they can fill it up at their soda fountain. 

2. a cloth napkin

You know how I feel about cloth napkins. Most restaurants have real plates and real silverware, but not everyone has real napkins. Bring your own. 

It can double as a plate in a pinch, and you can wrap up delicious bakery treats in the airport or really anywhere on the go. 

3. a tiffin or mason jar

I covered this and the cloth napkin extensively in this post. This is also great for grabbing food on the go. If you plan on eating out during your vacation you can use this to take home leftovers. Or you can use it to grab food to-go in the airport or if you don't have time to sit down for a meal. 

I have a set of light-weight nesting tiffins. I bring them with me because they have so many uses. 

4. handkerchief

I know what you're thinking. Can't the napkin and handkerchief double? As a minimalist, I would love to tell you yes. But, I can't. At least not on an extended trip. I feel like these things should be separate because you're not going to have the downtime to wash and dry them. 

You're not going to want to wrap your croissant up in a snotty rag. And, they aren't going to want to put your croissant in it. EW. 

5. a snack or two or three 

Doesn't an airport feel like a stadium? Like you can't bring food or drink inside? I know it feels that way but it's not true. Well except for the drink part - see number 1. But, you can definitely bring food with you on a flight. 

Also, what is it about flying that makes you want a snack? I feel like they've conditioned us. 

I can normally go three hours without a snack on a normal day. Why is it when I fly I want one? So, pack your own snack based on the time you'll be gone and your own personal hunger/preference. 

I brought a small mason jar full of dried blueberries and nuts. 

6. quart-sized liquid bag

I want to highly dissuade you from checking a bag. So much can go wrong with checking a bag. It takes so much more time and creates more weight meaning more fuel. If you aren't checking a bag, it means you have liquid restrictions. 

You'll have to keep all of your liquids under 3 oz and they will have to fit inside of a clear quart-sized bag. Now, you probably don't have disposable quart-sized bags in your house anymore. So, they sell TSA approved quart-sized, clear plastic bags with a zipper. I have had mine since I was in highschool. Take good care of it and they will last. 

They typically come with three or four 3oz bottles on the inside. Use these and fill them with the products you already have. No need to buy travel sized bottles! 

7. entertainment

I try to hit the library up before I go, but I read pretty fast. The average flight time home is around 7 hours. That's easily two books. I would have to bring 5 books with me two for the flights there, two for the flights back, and one for the downtime in between/before bed. That weight adds up. I often times bring my e-reader. 

But, did you know libraries have a selection of e-books too!? You can download books on your e-reader and go to town without the weight. 

8. patience

This is the most important thing to bring with you. Flying isn't very enjoyable, so pack a little extra patience. Things aren't always going to work out exactly how you want them to. So take a deep breath and roll with the punches. 


I hope you find these tips useful especially if you're heading home for the holidays. I've attached an easy checklist for you to reference in the future. Have you flown since trying to reduce your waste? What are some of your tips? 

Going Zero Waste: Zero Waste Traveling Tips: Flying and Airports

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