Traveling Zero Waste: Successes and Slips


My husband and I recently got back from travelling Spain and London for 2 weeks. Our goal was to be as minimal waste as possible. However, we also did not check a bag because…#money. That means we had a firm weight limit and had to carry everything for 2 weeks in a carry-on sized bag. Due to the weight limit we could not bring travel mugs or to go containers. We did pack our travel cutlery set though and our reusable straws.

Our plan:

  • Eat in at restaurants and cafes, no to-go containers if you aren’t going anywhere!
  • Only buy plastic when absolutely necessary, and being a vegan in Spain there were a few “get me food immediately or I will be v hangry” moments.
  • Recycle any waste we do have
  • No straws

How we did:

  • Eating in at cafes was great! We ate in restaurants and had coffee in actual mugs so our food container waste was negligible. We also bought groceries for our bnb for snacks and breakfast and we put everything in our travel backpack so no plastic bags were used!
  • Like I said above..being a vegan in Spain there were a few times where I needed food ASAP and we had to buy a bag of trail mix or some sort of snack. We made sure to buy only items packaged in recyclable material though.
  • Spain, what it lacks in ham free dishes it makes up for with its recycling program. The bins are clearly marked and everything is separated. Props to you Spain you are light years ahead of Iowa.
  • Straws. Y’all this one was infuriatingly difficult. I speak semi-fluent Spanish and I would order all of my drinks “sin pajita” and showed the waiter my stainless-steel straw all of the drinks came with a mother flipping plastic straw. I honestly don’t know what else I could have done, I think it is just a cultural thing.


What we will do next time:

  • Bring reusable napkins. Napkin waste was a big one for us, and I wished I had a cloth napkin more times than not.
  • Bring our cutlery and straws (again), it was good to have and allowed us to eat lots and lots of helado while strolling the Plaza Mayor
  • Bring a small container for snacks so that I could pack snacks instead of getting into the danger zone for hunger and buying whatever is available.