What To Pack?: Different Zero Waste Kits for Different Trips

Reusable Nation - zero waste kit.jpg

For any day, road trip or holiday overseas to be low waste, planning ahead is an important step! Here’s how we ensure we have what we need on us to refuse and reduce waste without having to carry all our reusables on us.

What reusables you need to have on you depends on what single-use items you are going to need to replace through a particular day.

We think about and plan and pack what we will need before heading out so that we will have what we need on us, but won’t be carrying around things we are not going to need.

Obviously, this will differ from person to person. If you always get a smoothie, bubble tea or afternoon treat, you’ll always need the right reusable to get this waste free on you.

Read on for some examples of different outings and what we pack in for each one. You’re welcome to use them as cheat sheets or lists to check before a trip or as a daily reminder.

Day to Day

What I carry on a day-to-day basis varies greatly depending on what I’m doing that day and how prepared I am for the week ahead (have I done my meal planning or am I going to need to get lunch from a cafe or restaurant?).

But, I generally always have these on me every day:

Reusable Nation - daily reusables checklist
  • reusable shopping bag

  • reusable water bottle

  • cutlery pack with reusable straw, chopsticks, and cutlery

  • napkin

  • hanky

I sometimes pack in these too if I am going to need them:

If I need to get a takeaway meal for lunch or a snack during the day, I take along my tiffin or sandwich pouch or zip-up baggie. Or I take a packed lunch with me in my tiffin or a tupperware container (we’re still using our old plastic containers and will keep using them until they are unusable and we need to buy something new and will then replace them with steel or glass or bamboo containers).

If going out at night to a restaurant, I add in my tiffin or a tupperware container to bring home any leftovers.

Obviously, if I’m going grocery shopping, I also pack in my produce bags and any jars I might need, as well as extra shopping bags. You can read more on zero waste grocery shopping here: How to Do Your Weekly Grocery Shop Plastic / Waste Free.

Road Trips

When we head out for a road trip on the weekend, we take our usual reusables as well as extra reusables for treats, with every road trip starting with a takeaway coffee for the road and involving a stop at a bakery somewhere.

Also, since we’ll be using the car instead of the usual day-to-day public transport, we have more space to throw things we may need in the footwell or boot and don’t need to worry about heaviness.

For road trips we pack in:

Reusable Nation - road trip reusables checklist
  • reusable coffee cups or a flask of tea or coffee

  • reusable water bottles

  • reusable shopping bag

  • cutlery pack

  • fabric napkins

  • hanky

  • sandwich pouch and/or tiffin

  • snacks in jars, beeswax wraps and/or produce bags

  • lunch in reusable containers

We also pack in some snacks for the road and sometimes a picnic lunch too. This saves us from getting the munchies and having to stop for a packet of chips at the petrol station. And packing our own lunch can save waste that may be created when buying lunch.

If it’s unplanned, we quickly grab some soy chips, vegetable chips, or bbq corn in bulk in produce bags or jars on the way; if it is planned, I’ll make banana muffins, sandwiches, or popcorn or something similar and pack it in reusable containers or wrap it in beeswax wraps, with popcorn going in our bread bag.

Festivals and Sporting Events

When going to events like music festivals, you want to be your bag to be as light and small as possible and to be able to dance away without reusables hitting you in the ribs. Most events like these, including sporting events and concerts, check your bag and don’t allow you to bring glass in for safety reasons, so you also want to make sure you choose glass alternatives to take.

You don’t want to buy anything new, so look in your cupboard and use what you already have. If you definitely need something new, look secondhand first.

When going to festivals, we simply pack:

  • reusable water bottles

  • reusable cutlery

  • fabric napkins

We usually take the water bottles that David usually uses for running as they are soft plastic and completely flatten when not filled with water. They are very similar to these. There are a couple of collapsible silicone water bottle options on eBay.

Staying hydrated is a must, so definitely pack a water bottle, and having your own cutlery - whether it is wooden or your usual metal cutlery from home - and fabric napkin allows you to refuse any plastic cutlery and single-use napkins.

We don’t take the tiffin or any container for food because all of ours are too big. If you have one of those collapsible ones, they are perfect for festivals and events though. We suss out which food stall has either real plates, compostable plates (if there is a way to compost them), or recyclable plates (if there is no way to compost the compostable ones).

If going to a sporting event, we may also pack in a plastic reusable cup for drinks as these are usually served in single-use plastic cups at the bars at these events.

If you wanted to also leave the cutlery and napkin at home, you could choose a meal that doesn’t need cutlery, like a burger or wrap, and compost the paper napkin or wash your hands in some water after eating instead of wiping them on anything.

We were really impressed that Laneway Festival had a bin for compostable waste this year so we could compost the greasy cardboard bowl our vegan HSP was served in (although it was not well used by other festival goers).

We were even more impressed that all the food stalls at the Sustainable Living Festival were using real ceramic plates thanks to Wash Against Waste, which supplies events with reusable alternatives to disposable food and drink containers. Food vendors simply serve their food on their reusable plates and bowls and these are then returned by visitors and washed by a team of volunteers and reused.

Hopefully more festivals start using this incredible initiative!

Weekend Away

What we pack for a weekend away is very similar to what we pack for a road trip, but usually involves packing in more food, if we’re not going to eat out, and our grocery shopping reusables in case if we’re planning on buying food there.

It also involves packing in our zero waste bathroom essentials, which we’ve listed under overseas trips below.

What we pack for a weekend away:

  • reusable coffee cups

  • reusable water bottles

  • cutlery pack

  • fabric napkins

  • hanky

  • sandwich pouch and/or tiffin

  • snacks in jars, beeswax wraps and/or produce bags

  • reusable shopping bags

  • produce bags

  • ground coffee and/or loose tea leaves and infuser

If you’re going camping, check out our article on how we go camping without creating any waste: Leave No Trace or Trash: Tips for Zero Waste Camping Trips.

Overseas Trip

It’s a bit of a catch 22 when packing reusables for an overseas trip as you want to take everything so you don’t create any waste on holiday, but you want to take as little as possible and only light things so your bag isn’t too big or too heavy.

When flying, you want your bag to be as light as possible as the heavier a plane is, the more carbon emissions.

This is what I packed for our last overseas trip (we have another one coming up and I’m going to try reduce this and definitely won’t be taking the glass jar this time):

Reusable Nation - overseas trip reusables checklist.png
  • reusable coffee cups

  • reusable water bottles

  • cutlery pack

  • fabric napkins

  • hanky

  • sandwich pouch

  • tiffin

  • reusable shopping bags

  • produce bags

  • loose tea leaves and infuser

  • glass jar

Our overseas trip reusables checklist includes the best options for plane trips.

Collapsible food containers like this collapsible bento box (AU) and this To-Go Ware Stow & Go collapsible container (US/CAN) are great for traveling. Look for one secondhand or see if anyone has one you can borrow first. I’ll be borrowing one for my next trip to take instead of the tiffin.

I’ll also be seeking something I can use as both a water bottle and a coffee cup so I can use one thing for those two uses.

Sporks like this wooden one (AU) and this foldable steel one (US/CAN) are a more compact and less heavy cutlery option. If you’re after super functional and light gear, it is worth checking out camping gear like the Full Windsor The Muncher, which is a titanium multi utensil.

I will also take a big scarf to use as the reusable shopping bag - by making it into a bag (here’s How To Tie a Furoshiki Wrap (Or Scarf!) into a Bag) - and as a blanket on the plane and as a scarf. Three uses!

If you are traveling somewhere with questionable tap water, read our article on How to Avoid Plastic Water Bottles When You Can't Drink the Tap Water for some reusables you can take with you to purify the water so it is drinkable.

Our zero waste bathroom essentials include:

Reusable Nation - zero waste bathroom checklist
  • soap bar

  • face soap bar

  • shampoo bar

  • deodorant paste

  • bamboo toothbrush

  • tooth tablets

  • bamboo hairbrush

  • menstrual cup, period undies and/or cloth pads

  • natural makeup

  • natural moisturiser

  • reusable cotton rounds

  • reef-safe sunscreen

Bars and tooth tablets (we use Denttabs tooth tabs with fluoride) take up a lot less space and we take hardly any liquids now, so no more worries about leaking and travel sizes! And with our bathroom products being reduced to the bare minimum, we take a lot less hygiene and beauty products overall, saving us space and weight in this compartment.

For some less waste flying tips on how to reduce your waste during a flight, read our Less Waste Flying: 10 Ways to Minimise Waste When Taking Flights blog post.

It doesn’t take taking a lot of reusables to reduce your waste; it mainly takes taking the time to consider what you may need depending on where you are going. Take a few extra moments to save a whole lot of waste!

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