The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

January 16, 2009

Cutting Waste While Traveling… It’s not so hard.

Aloha from Waikiki! This is my brother David Terry who wanted to help me show you some ways to cut down on waste, plastic, and otherwise while traveling. Displayed are a few essentials that I bring with me everywhere, as well as some things I brought just for the plane.

First, my trusty Klean Kanteen. Yes, you CAN bring an empty Klean Kanteen through security and then fill it up at the drinking fountain in the airport once you get past the guards. This is perfectly legal. The security agents did ask me a couple of times if the bottle was empty, but they didn’t bother looking inside it. And liquids you obtain in the secure area of the airport are never questioned.

But, of course, you can only carry so much water in a Klean Kanteen. This one is 27 ounces. Perhaps I should have borrowed one of Michael’s 40 ouncers.

I also brought my travel mug for coffee throughout my visit. Last year, when I visited my parents here on Oahu, I had no trouble presenting it to cafe staff to fill, and I don’t expect any problems this time. On the plane, I filled up with coffee, and then several hours into the flight, after finishing the water in my Klean Kanteen, I was parched again from the dry airplane environment.

I could have waited until the end of the flight for water, but instead, I decided to go ahead and have some of the airline’s bottled water. To mitigate the plastic waste, I asked the flight attendant to pour the water into my travel mug, saving a plastic cup. Maybe next time I’ll drink a lot more before I get on the plane so that the water in my Klean Kanteen will see me through. The point is that we can only do the best we can, and bringing a reusable cup is never a bad idea.

How many of us think to bring back the headphones we bought on our last flight? If we’re using an iPod or CD player on the plane, we’ll have standard headphones with us. But if we want to watch the airline movie, we might be out of luck. Some planes have connections for standard headphones, but others require the model with the two prongs. And often, you have to buy them from the airline. So I brought not only a set of standard headphones but also the ones from my last flight on Aloha Airlines. It turned out they were not necessary on my United flight this time, but it’s nice to be prepared. Who needs a big collection of two-pronged headphones that are only useful the few times most of us fly?

And of course, here’s my handy To-Go Ware utensil set with added GlassDharma drinking straws, which I actually had the opportunity to use last night during my mom’s birthday dinner. The Bubba Gump’s waitress was very impressed with my straw and asked if I used it instead of plastic “for environmental reasons.” To which my dad barked, “Yes! Yes, she does!”

The meal was great fun. Especially the joy on David’s face as he scarfed down his favorite meal and on my mom’s as she clapped and danced to the Happy Birthday serenade.

At the end of the meal, I scraped my leftovers into the blue Tupperware container I had brought. Yes, it’s plastic. Normally, I would bring stainless steel, but the size and shape of the Tupperware container just fits so much better in my purse while traveling. Oh, how I’d love to find a stainless container the same size.

I also brought my cloth napkin, provided by The Green Cat, but unfortunately, I forgot to use it last night! With all my focus on plastic, sometimes I forget about wasting paper. Need to get better about that.

David took some leftovers too in a cardboard to-go box and then asked for a plastic bag in which to carry the box. I tried to talk him out of it unsuccessfully. I’m hoping to fit in a trip to Turtle Beach where I can let him see the sea turtles and explain to him how they are harmed by plastic bags. Plus, sea turtles are cool. Who doesn’t want to see them?

Aloha. What tips do you have for cutting waste while traveling?

01/17/09 Hotel, Motel, Holiday Inn: I should have mentioned that I’m staying in my parents’ home on this trip, so I haven’t discussed the hotel aspect of traveling. But be sure and check out the comments to this post. Many readers have good ideas about how to cut the waste while staying in hotels.

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Besides all the great tips already mentioned, the one big thing we do is scout out a local health food store or even Wholefoods before we make the trip. We always try to get a room with at least a fridge if not a whole kitchen. This allows us to avoid the over packaging of convenience foods or take out. The bonus here is that my kids function much better on their reg. diet then the typical vacation trap food.


Lucky you for being able to carry bottles through security when you fly! Here in the UK any bottle over 100ml (which is TINY) has to go in your hold luggage, or they will confiscate it. And all your 100ml bottles have to be put in a plastic bag to go through security. I asked if I could just hold my things the last time I went through and they looked very stern and said “NO!”
It makes me cross!


Not in Incheon Airport! I flew to Australia via Seoul last year with my trusty Sigg bottle. I had already finished the water in the first 10hour flight from London, so when I arrived inside the duty free area (very nice airport, if you are going) I filled it up again from the water fountain. Just as I was boarding the plane guards checked everyone’s handluggage and made me empty my bottle!!! So I had to use their tiny plastic bottles of water for the second flight. Very annoying, That was the only time that happened on the 12 flights… Read more »


oh, duh, just handing back seems obvious when you mention it! I’ll have to remember that!


Beth – maybe you can get your mother an organic hemp shower cap – or one made from recycled shopping bags or something. I know you’ll do the right thing. :-)

ps, did you get my picture text of my new SKOY cloth hanging by the sink? i used a hole-puncher to punch a hole in the corner and hung it from a suction hook.


Hope you have a wonderful trip! Your hotel, motel, Holiday Inn line cracked me up, because I always start singing that any time I say hotel. :)

I love traveling with my travel mug. It comes in so handy for hot and cold beverages when I’m out and about, and I’ve had people comp me beverages b/c I brought my own.

Beth Terry

MonkeyJen — Who uses a shower cap? My mom does! She gets her hair set once a week and uses a shower cap to keep it dry until her next appointment. Just like my grandmothers did!

Emily — If the plastic utensils come sealed in a plastic bag, perhaps you can hand them back to the flight attendant and ask that they be reused. It can’t hurt. I agree that if you leave them on the tray, they will probably be trashed. But I find that eye contact goes a long way.


emily — I agree, it’s very frustrating when “they” (be it the airline or other food service) doles out the plastic cutlery without you asking for it, because you know they’re just going to toss it whether you use it or not. Ugh!

These are great tips!


I fly trans-Atlantic about twice a year to see family (my husband and I are from different countries). That’s a good idea with the water bottle and coffee mug and I should do it next time I’m flying. But I always feel depressed when I get the plastic utensils with dinner on the plane. I could bring my own camping utensils instead, but what’s the point? The airline will toss my allotted plastic ones out anyways, won’t they, if they’re lying on a used dinner tray? What do you think?

Gruppie Girl

My good intentions always seem to fall apart when I am away from home.

You have inspired me!

plastic earthling

Hi Beth! Have fun in Hawaii; let me know if you make it over to the Big Island. Our clean-up was canceled due to weather. The next one will probably be in March, but I’ll let you know if we have any interesting net stories before then:)

Beth Terry

Tangledhair — Aloha! We should get together for breakfast before I leave. I was just online trying to figure out if there were any places to watch the Inauguration with other people on Tuesday morning. Know of anything? (I fly back Tuesday afternoon.) Email me at .


Aloha! Welcome to Hawaii. If you’re staying in Waikiki, I live only a short walk away from you. And I must say I was so pleased to see that you’re here. I feel all proud, like we got a distinguished dignitary on our island (I know you’re visiting family and not making a tour, but still, glad you’re here). I’m also glad you’re bringing around the to-go ware and tupperware. Every take out place, diner, and cheap food joint here uses styrofoam. I don’t know why it’s so common here of all places. But most places have no problem at… Read more »


I travel a lot for work by car so while I do bring a Sigg water bottle and my own travel mug I also create some waste. I keep everything I can compost or recycle with me in the trunk of my car so I can deal with it appropriately home. A little online research about nearby restaurants will also let you know where the good local places are that may be organic etc. If possible I stay at hotel’s with microwaves or fridges so I can bring my own food with me to eat. They are a little more… Read more »


This was a great post! Thanks! I love the straws!!!
Just last night I was thinking how straws are one thing I could never cut out of my life and that made me sad because I realize just how much plastic is waisted every time someone uses a straw. I can’t wait to buy some of those glass straws!!! Hope you’re having a nice trip!

Condo Blues

I tried doing last summer’s vacation as Zero Waste and I came pretty close. Instead of trying to write down everything we did here, I’ll post the URL to a post about it instead


OH YEAH – of course you have to wait until you go through security to fill your bottle – but make sure you fill your bottle BEFORE you get on the plane. The water in the plane bathroom in ‘not potable’. I’ll take Potent Potables for $5.00, Alex.


Hey Beth – You know I was recently traveling too.. I remembered to bring my (non-kleen kanteen) steel bottle and used it quite a bit throughout the week. I also knew I would be hitting the malls in NJ and PA so I brought my cloth shopping bag with me and refused plastic bags everywhere!! I stayed in a hotel for a few days; on the first night we called room service and got some plates, forks, etc and used them for the 3 days we were there. Fortunately there was a microwave and fridge so we weren’t eating out… Read more »


My challenge with reducing waste when traveling always comes with having kids along.1. Always pack snacks to bring with your so you don’t end up buying some along the way. I like to use the little 4 oz. canning jars or leftover tin containers (such as from Altoids to use for finger food.2. Bring along a re-usable trash bag for things like banana peals or other waste you might generate along the way (especially in the car).3. Bring some cotton rags along to use as a washcloth, tissue, cleanup rag – whatever you might need. (Rather than using those disposable… Read more »

Small Footprints

Oh thank you … those were fabulous travel tips. I especially like your utensil tool kit. Do you carry it onto the plane or do you have to pack it? I’m fascinated by those glass straws … what a great idea!

Thank you for sharing … I hope you have a wonderful time in Hawaii!

Small Footprints

Chiot's Run

We also carry water bottles and refill. We also usually pack a meal so we don’t have to buy at all, so we waste nothing.

Sunny Yukon

Thanks for the airplane tips! Our family of four will be taking a 2 week vacation, 1 week will be bouncing around between family homes, the other week in a hotel. I have been preparing to have each of us travel with only carry on luggage (Thank you and while many of the tips involve plastic (ie ziplock baggies etc) I am reusing existing items as much as possible. The freedom from worrying about lost luggage, all the time saved from waiting for your luggage to appear, the comfort of each of us being able to carry our bag… Read more »

Beth Terry

Jo! You rock. You did such a nice job of de-pasticking my birthday party. As I explained, I wasn’t so much thinking about plastic on the table as plastic in gifts. I really appreciated the efforts you made for me.

Okay, gotta go. The beach is calling.


Aloha Beth! It’s funny you should mention your canteen running out of water because I was going to ask you about that as I drink SOOOOOO much water all the time. I cant’ imagine that ever being big enough so am glad to hear there are larger ones. I just might have to go out and get one…. another way to help support this plasticfree quest. I also wanted to share and hoped that Beth might, that her office birthday lunch she was dreading (or whatever word she used to describe it) was almost entirely plastic free. I guess it’s… Read more »

Beth Terry

You know, I didn’t even think to write about hotels because on this trip I’m staying in my parents’ condo and don’t have to deal with hotel waste. But carry on… these are great tips!


My usual tips to save on waste is let the hotel know I don’t need to have my sheets changed daily, and most hotels I have stayed at recently have a policy to handle this and one to let the maid service know if you need new towels or such. Leave them on the floor they will be replaced hang them and the will leave them be. I alsso do not use the shampoos and soaps as i bring a mini bottle of Br. Bronners that I fill at home.That drives my Mom mad as she believes youshould take all… Read more »


Most of my tips are for how to reduce waste when staying in hotels, which I do a bit of for work. My assumption is that if something (besides the linens) looks unused, the housecleaning folks will leave it for the next person (I actually have no proof of this, but I hope it is true). * Bring your own toiletries, of course, and if you can’t/don’t, take the ones that you open home with you and use them there. Soap, especially. Let it dry if you can, or wrap it up in a dirty sock (you’re just going to… Read more »