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Traveling Light: How to
Reduce Your Waste on the Road

Before You Leave

With a little planning and a few simple changes to your habits, you can make a big difference when traveling.

  • Stop your newspaper subscription while you’re away. Some newspapers will let you donate these papers to a school or other group. Check with your newspaper publisher.

  • Use electronic tickets whenever possible for plane, train, boat, and bus trips. They gener­ate less waste and cost less to replace.

  • When planning a road trip, make sure your vehicle is “road-ready” to improve fuel efficiency, prevent pollution, and save money. Make sure your engine is prop­erly tuned and your tires are properly inflated. If you change your own motor oil, be sure to recycle it at any “quick lube” shop, gas station, or auto parts store that accepts used oil for recycling.

  • When booking your guestroom, campsite, or meeting location, consider locations within walking distance of planned outings or that are easily accessible to public transportation.

  • If you have one, remember to take your own camera, so that you don't have to rely on a disposable one. To reduce packaging waste, try to use film with more exposures since 12-exposure film uses the same amount of packaging as 36-exposure film.

  • “Down-size” your toiletry items for travel by reusing and refilling small bottles and jars you already have with products you already have, such as mouthwash, shampoo, or other necessities.

Hotel Tips

Many hotels have waste reduction and energy conservation plans. Book your trip with one that does. Otherwise, try these easy things to help hotels reduce waste.

  • Participate in the hotel’s recycling program. If they don’t have a recycling program, ask them to start one.

  • Let the hotel know that it’s not necessary to change your sheets and towels every day.

  • When you’re out of your room, turn off the lights, radio, TV, computer, and other electric devices, and adjust the air conditioner and the heat to use less energy.

  • On cold nights, draw curtains to keep heat in the room, and similarly on hot days, draw curtains to keep the heat out of the room.

  • If the hotel provides a complimentary newspaper, or if you buy your own, ask the hotel to see that it’s recycled.

  • Take partially used shampoo, soap, and other complimentary hotel items with you when you check out; leave unopened items in the room.

  • If available, use the hotel’s electronic check-out program on the television or over the telephone to reduce paper waste.

Sightseeing, Outings, and Dining

Dining brochures, food, and packaging account for most of a traveler’s trash. By taking some simple steps, you can eliminate or reduce this kind of waste, as well as cut down on other types of pollution.

  • Plan sightseeing activities where you can use public transportation or the hotel van, or walk, bike, or rideshare.

  • Don’t litter. Carry your trash with you until find a waste container.

  • Buy recyclable products for your trip, or as sou­vnirs. Be sure to recycle them when you’re fin­ished using them.

  • Dine at “eat-in” restaurants and hotel dining rooms whenever possible to decrease the number of disposable items associated with meals.

  • When eating at carry out restaurants, take only the condiments, napkins, and utensils you need. Try skipping a straw altogether, or declining a bag when you don’t need one.

  • Take reusable plates and flatware on picnics.

  • Clean up after picnics and other outings. Dispose of all waste in trash receptacles to pre-vent debris—especially plastic—from acciden­tally fouling the land, the water, or harming wildlife.