The Complete Guide to Zero Waste Travel

Whether I’m exploring new and exciting places or traveling for work, I do my very best to be as sustainable as possible when I travel. It’s easier to reduce waste when I am somewhere familiar, so being away from home adds another level of difficulty to reducing the waste I produce. I constantly feel guilty every time I get on a plane, like I’m being a hypocrite asking.

I’ve teamed up with Hilton to share my top tips to being zero waste while traveling as well as show you the steps Hilton is taking to lower their overall environmental impact by 2030.

Your Hotel Matters

It’s important to also find a hotel that upholds the same environmental standards as you. Look for a company who has a green initiative, plans for eco-goals for the future, and is transparent with their overall impact. You often see tips about how to reduce your impact while staying at any hotel but what about considering the overall impact of the hotel itself?

Hilton’s 2030 Sustainable Goals – Travel with Purpose

I was recently invited to get a behind the scenes look at Hilton’s sustainable efforts at two of their beautiful hotels in San Diego – the Hilton Bayfront and Hotel Del Coronado. The hotel chain has some pretty impressive goals to reach by 2030 but are determined to lead the way in sustainable travel. I know I have always been curious as to how hotels manage their waste so I was happy to finally get a first hand look to report back to you all.

Plastic Waste Reduction

We all hate plastic waste. In addition to working towards reducing the overall plastic in guests’ rooms, Hilton is also eliminating all straws at all of their properties by July 2019. The turtles will be happy.

Energy Savings

Upgrades to guest rooms’ ventilation systems, thermostat sensors, and adding advanced monitoring technology has allowed Hilton to conserve enough energy to power 5,700 homes for an entire year. One of the most innovative enhancements to Hilton’s sustainable mission is the introduction of LightStay, Hilton’s award-winning sustainability data report system that allows its properties to track, analyze and implement energy efficiency changes. I was thoroughly impressed with LightStay’s ability to completely control a room’s environmental impact through technology as well as allow a completely automated GUI for hotels to not only track and measure their sustainability indicators, but to also allow comparison to other properties and provide important analytical data over time for progress measurement. You could say I was “nerding” out a bit. The guest and conference rooms that are equipped with this system are monitored and adjusted accordingly based on multiple factors like if someone has left their guest room and left the lights on. When guests leave, the lights are turned off and the temperature is adjusted. It’s amazing. All hotels should have this!

Water Conservation

Hilton Water Reclamation System

By 2030, Hilton hopes to reduce overall water consumption by 50% which would be enough water to fill 6,000 Olympic sized swimming pools. Some of the ways they plan to accomplish this is by installing low flow shower heads, half flush toilets, and utilizing water reclamation systems in hotels and other low temperature washing methods.

While visiting the Bayfront, I was able to get a closer look at the water reclamation system on site and was thoroughly impressed by how much water was actually reclaimed during washing.  This system…”reclaims 70% of the water from the laundry and filters it for reuse for additional wash loads. This system reduces the amount of energy used to heat the water by 50% (This project saves enough water to provide electricity for 58 typical homes and enough natural gas for 36 homes for a year! So far this initiative has saved over 31 million gallons of water!)

Carbon Emissions

Hilton Travel with Purpose

By 2030, Hilton also hopes to reduce it’s overall carbon emissions by 61% through carbon offsetting and by investing in clean energy sources. 40+ of Hilton’s Asian based hotels offer the The Clean Air program which works to reduce the environmental impact of meetings and events. The LightStay system is used to calculate the carbon emissions generated by all meetings and events and purchases carbon credits to offset these. The credits fund different projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions including wind energy, hydro power, rain forest restoration, and many more.

The Complete Guide to Zero Waste Travel

zero waste travel

Forget those Disposables

Travel with a few reusable items if you can. Swap out those plastic bottles of water for a reusable bottle, carry a reusable bag, and keep a few hankies on hand. This will allow you to travel minimally but yet still have a few key tools to being prepared to refuse those darn single use disposables.

Bring Your Own for the Plane Ride

Zero Waste Nerd - Travel

Bring your own package free snacks and a reusable bottle to fill with water once you get past security. I’ve even asked flight attendants to fill my bottle on the plane which they were happy to do. This is a “per airline” situation because I’ve heard that some site health reasons for not refilling. However, most airports have water fountains in the terminals.

Choose Sustainable Toiletries

It’s so tempting to go to Target and stock up on all of the little cute soaps and what-not. Don’t. They don’t last long and are straight up wasteful. Get some reusable containers and fill up with your toiletries from home. Or pack some sustainable, package free goodies.

Zero Waste Soap

Did you know that as a part of Hilton’s 2030 sustainability goals they aim to reduce soap waste to zero. They will be working with the Clean the World program to distribute bars of recycled soap and hygiene kits to communities in need. So far, the hotel has already diverted more than 397,000 pounds of waste from landfills.

Go Digital

There are so many ways to reducing transactional waste. Whether it’s a boarding pass, ticket, or luggage tags, there are ways to avoid them entirely.

Use a Digital Boarding Pass

Trade your boarding pass in for a digital copy on your phone. Many airlines now have apps that keep all of your flight details at a fingers reach. In my opinion, this is way better considering I am less likely to lose my phone then the paper boarding pass I printed out the night before.

Use eTickets When Possible

Going to a show or visiting a museum? Most organizations offer the option to “go digital” with tickets. Purchase them ahead of time and keep them in PDF form on your phone. They scan just the same.

Use Digital Room Keys

Ever think about the plastic that goes into creating room keys for hotels? Yea, I didn’t either. That was until Hilton showed me that by being a Hilton  Honors Member, you can use your phone to unlock your room. How awesome is that?! All you have to do is download the Hilton Honors app, check in and choose your room, select Digital Key in the app, and stand within a few feet to unlock – viola. Click HERE for more information about Digital Key.

Consider Food Impact

Eating on the go and in an unfamiliar place can pose some challenges to reducing waste.

Eat Local

Eat Local

Eating local will always have a lower impact than opting for food shipped from afar. Have you considered your food’s food miles? A food mile is a mile over which a food item is transported from producer to consumer. Look for local restaurants that focus on farm to table options like Hilton’s Bayfront restaurant, Vela and their restaurant at Hotel  Del Coronado.

Sustainable Food - Hilton

These hotels work with local growers to sustainably source ingredients. Hotel  Del Coronado even has an on-premise garden where the chefs can utilize freshly grown herbs, veggies, and edible flowers.

Del Coronado Hilton

On premise garden at the Hotel Del Coronado.

Look For Local Farmer’s Markets and Bulk Stores

Farmer's Market

Being in a place you are unfamiliar makes it difficult to know where package free options are. My advice is to do your research beforehand. I have a pretty hand bulk location map HERE to help you out with your package free travels. Also, ask your hotel’s concierge. They may know where the best places are.

Sustainable Transport

Obviously flying less is better for the environment. I, like the normal human, like to explore the world around me. I also have to travel for work on occasion. But unfortunately, traveling is bad for the environment as aircraft travel accounts for 12% of all U.S. transportation greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and 3 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions. For some of us, flying is a major portion of our carbon footprint. Instead of saying, “If you want to be sustainable, you can’t travel at all.” I’m going to give you some tips to lessen your impact a little.

Zero Waste Nerd Travel

Fly With Sustainable Airlines

Some companies like United Airlines are using bio-fuels on some of their flights to hopefully reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent. Bio-fuels are derived from living matter like crops. Corn is a very popular crop that is made into ethanol. Some of you probably even drive vehicles that can use a combination of regular fuel and ethanol. Bio-fuels reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and reduce overall carbon emissions. However, it’s still not a perfect solution.

Buy Carbon Offsets

A carbon offset is a reduction of carbon dioxide or greenhouse gas emissions used to compensate for or to offset emissions made from travel. But how do they work? In theory, it means that you would offset the exact amount of carbon damage you create by investing in a carbon “repair” somewhere else like planting trees or investing in carbon reducing initiatives via environmental organizations.  A few good sources for carbon offsetting are:

Pack Minimally

I used to travel with the biggest suitcase I could find and stuff literally my entire closet then some into it when I went anywhere. I probably wore 20% of the items I packed. Packing liter lessens the overall weight of your luggage – obviously. The heavier the cargo, the more fuel is used to transport it. That is why carry ons are free and checked baggage costs more. For tips on how to pack minimally, check out my post: How to Pack like a Minimalist

Utilize Public Transit

When you get to your location, use public transportation or other means of low impact transport if you can. Doing this not only reduce the overall emissions you produce but gives you another unique experience or perspective to your trip. You may even meet some locals that could potentially give you some great recommendations for things to do or places to chow down.

Lime Electric Scooter

All in all, I was excited to see what Hilton is doing to lessen their overall environmental impact. They have so many more sustainable initiatives they are working on that you can find HERE. Though they do still have areas to improve, companies have to start somewhere and Hilton is setting a pretty good bar for others’ to follow. What’s next? In room composting? Cradle-to-cradle textile management? I can’t wait to see.

How do you Travel with Purpose?

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