Waste Reduction while Travelling

As I type this, I am sitting at the Calgary airport at 7:19am, on my way to Denver for a work conference. This is the second of three work trips I will be taking this month. As mentioned, I was in Banff last weekend for a work conference, Denver this weekend (on election day!), and a three-day meeting in Canmore next weekend. It's a busy, busy time for me.

I wanted to touch on a few things to try to reduce the waste impact while we travel. Specifically, I have been thinking about the impact of staying in hotels and eating a lot of meals out.

Here are a few things I do to try to cut back on the waste created by my trip:
  • Put up the Do Not Disturb sign. If I'm staying in a hotel for less than a week, I see no reason to have my room cleaned or my bed made. Typically, rooms come stocked with more than enough towels to make it through my stay, and if I only change my sheets once a week at home, I don't think I need them changed more often in a hotel. So I put up the "Privacy Please" sign and just keep the room to myself. This cuts back on unnecessary garbage bags, cleaning supplies, and toiletry wastage.
  • Bring my own toiletries. I used to have a bad habit of collecting all of those miniature shampoos and conditioners they give you in hotel rooms. In fact, I still have a big supply of tiny bottles to use up in my bathroom at home. Now I just bring my own toiletries at home, which I think are better quality anyway. If I can get away with it without being spotted, I will sneak the toiletries from my room back onto the cleaner's cart so that I know they won't go to waste. If not, I just move them out of the bathroom so they won't get all wet and ugly, and hope that they hotel staff will re-use them for the next guest. Putting up the Do Not Disturb sign helps prevent more of these toiletries from appearing.
  • Manage my garbage bag usage. Garbage bag wastage really bothers me. The thought of plastic bags whose sole purpose is just to sit in a landfill just eats at me a little bit. If the garbage bins in my room don't have bags in them, I will use them. If they have bins, I will often take my garbage out of my room to a public bin, which will be emptied anyway. That makes one less wasted garbage bag.
  • Take my recycling home. I never really know the recycling polices of hotels that I stay at, as they are rarely blatantly advertised. If I have room in my luggage, I will just bring my recyclables home with me (plastics, paper) and put them in my own blue bin.
  • Reduce food waste. It can be hard to reduce the waste from meals when I can't do any cooking and have little access to grocery stores. Where possible, I will eat whole fruit for breakfast, and sit-down meals instead of take-out. Often when I am travelling with work the meals are catered, so it is a bit easier to manage waste for those meals.
  • Avoid eating and drinking on airplanes. Airplanes are the worst! Even your soda has to be put in a plastic cup for some reason. Usually if my flight is reasonably short, I just refuse anything given out on airplanes to avoid all the plastic waste.
I admit that it's not always easy to reduce waste while we travel. I do my best, but I'm not perfect. Sometimes if I'm travelling alone, I don't really want to sit by myself in a restaurant, so I eat take-out. And sometimes I just get lazy like everyone else.

Do you have any waste-reduction tips for travellers? Leave a comment!


  1. Great post Heather. Another thing to consider about waste when traveling is the quality of waste removal services at your destination. Some places burn their garbage so it is wise to cut down on waste and not bring aerosols or other things that could explode.

    1. Yeah, that's a good point. I will see what I can learn about Denver.


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