You might be surprised to know that I was a big traveler in my past life. I spent five years living in Russia. My husband and I jaunted through 11 countries in the former USSR and Central America in our first year of marriage. Now I’m a bit more settled – and a lot more conscious of the ramifications of travel – but I still know how to pack a minimal bag like a champ.
Sure, I’m more used to packing for a year abroad or a three-month backpacking trip, but packing for a zero waste weekend trip is totally in my wheelhouse. Striking the balance between having everything you need to fight waste and staying minimal is tricky, but absolutely possible.
Check out the four steps I took to pack my tiny backpack for a long weekend away.
Travel is a highly wasteful act. Be sure to check out the full how to rock zero waste travel post for even more in-depth tips, but the big thing to remember is if you can afford to travel, you can afford to buy carbon offsets. We can’t totally make up for the short and long term damage you do to the environment with our travel, but we can try to diffuse our carbon footprint somewhat. You can read more about buying individual carbon offsets here.
1. minimize your zero waste kit
My zero waste kit (AKA the stuff I have in my bag when I leave the house) is pretty much the same as always, just a bit pared down from what I might haul down to my office space. I try to bring just enough to help me avoid waste, but not so much that I feel overwhelmed by everything I have to lug around!
To create a minimal zero waste kit for your weekend trip, ask yourself:
- What kind of waste will I likely encounter? Your needs will be very different based on where you’re going. Will you be staying in a hotel, eating out every day, or staying in a home with full amenities? Will you be going out or just relaxing? What you do should inform what you bring to combat the waste you’ll encounter.
- What sort of items will I have access to while I’m there? The less you’ll have access to, the more you’ll need. For example, if you’re staying at a friend’s house you can grab one of their mugs on the go instead of bringing your own!
- Realistically, how focused can I be on zero waste? Depending on where you go and who you’re with, it may be difficult to focus on your zero waste awesomeness. Think ahead of time how much brain power you can devote to staying low waste.
My zero waste weekend trip kit includes:
- bamboo fork
- stainless steel straw
- large cloth napkin
- Stojo collapsible mug
- Stasher bag, lighter and easier than a hard storage container
- glass jar for water, leftovers, or whatever
2. streamline your toiletries
For a zero waste weekend trip (or long weekend) there’s really not need to pack the whole bathroom. Pare down to the essentials you reach for every morning and not those “oh I’m on vacation, I’m going to do something fun and different” items. Tour my bathroom here and see all the usual toiletries I have around.
To curate the perfect toiletry bag, ask yourself:
- What do I actually use on a day-to-day basis?
- What products won’t be able to travel – and what can I do about it? For example, I didn’t bring sunscreen as I’d need way more than I’d be allowed to carry on so I’ll figure it out when I get there. I’ll probably try to get something relatively eco-friendly but not worry about zero waste packaging. (Protecting my ghost skin is more important than a plastic bottle!)
- How well will my low-waste products travel? Try to switch your products away from liquid as much as possible. While I have several oils in my routine, I’m only bringing one multi-purpose oil; there’s nothing worse than opening your bag to find your clothes covered in oil.
My zero waste weekend toiletry bag includes:
- metal tin with soap and shampoo bar
- FIG+YARROW tooth powder and bamboo toothbrush
- DIY deodorant
- jojoba oil – I’ll use this for makeup remover, facial lotion, and hair oil
- makeup – I’m bringing eyeliner, mascara, and lipstick. You can see a full post about low-waste makeup options in this post.
3. mindfully gather clothes
Clothes are tricky as it can be hard to gauge what exactly you’ll need as you head somewhere new. Luckily, I have a very small capsule wardrobe which makes it pretty easy to pack. If you only wear five shirts, it’s easy to toss one or two into your bag and call it a day!
As I mentioned in my longer rocking zero waste travel in seven easy steps post, there are a few questions to ask yourself as you pack clothes:
- If I want to buy something new, what in my closet can do the same thing? Very rarely are we undertaking expeditions that require specialized clothing, no matter how much brands want us to believe. 9 times out of 10 you’ll already have something you need. These specialized items can also be difficult to source second-hand, meaning you’ll likely purchase new.
- What will I be doing on this trip? In terms of shoes and formal wear, bring only what actually makes sense. Don’t throw those heels and dress in just in case if you know you won’t be doing anything that requires looking nice.
- Can I get away with not washing anything? On a weekend or even long weekend trip, you should be able to get by with a few items and re-wearing if necessary. If you will need to wash clothes, choose ones that can be washed in a sink and dried quickly.
Here’s what I brought for a hot trip to Florida:
- Miakoda slouchy romper
- second-hand dress
- t-shirt and shorts for sleepwear
- second-hand swimsuit
- Pakt bra & underwear
4. plan for the extras
This is where it gets a little hairy as you gather up all the odds and ends of your needs. Luckily, a short trip is pretty simple and you can usually get away with forgetting a few things. All the odds and ends I brought on my recent weekend trip:
- phone and portable charger
- laptop to get some work done
- linen towel – small and portable, perfect for the pool and beach
- wallet and ID
And that’s it! Packing for a zero waste weekend trip should be easy breezy! What do you always pack to help you stay as low waste as possible while traveling?