Lower-Waste Hotel Stays When Traveling

by Texas Homesteader ~
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Recently RancherMan & I traveled to a city about 4 hours away from our ranch so that we could attend the 2-day Mother Earth News Fair. I’d never been to their fair before and OH MY what a great time we had!!

But since it was a two day seminar and because it was an 8-hour round trip, we decided to get a hotel room close to our destination for the weekend. Now we prefer Comfort Inn Suites because we’ve found the quality at their hotels is pretty consistent. And we like the complimentary hot & hearty breakfast that their chain of hotel offers.

Although hotel stays can be notoriously wasteful, there are a few ways RancherMan & I have easily & comfortably reduced some of the waste that would typically be produced by a hotel stay.

LOWER-WASTE HOTEL STAY: Hotels can be notoriously wasteful but there are a few ways we easily & comfortably reduced some of the waste #TexasHomesteader

In-Room Coffee Bar Trash

The hotel rooms all have these tiny coffee makers in them. But their super-slow percolating and the eensy amount of coffee it offers up frustrates me. Coffee in the mornings is a non-negotiable part of my existence!

I’ve always hated all the trash those morning hotel javas produce, but although I do love me some morning coffee,

I.  HATE.  Styrofoam.


It’s used a very short time & then into the trash it goes, and of course once it hits the landfill that stuff never goes away!

But the in-room coffee bar’s where lots of trash is made: The heavy packages that the single-tiny-pot coffee pods come in, as well as the grounds & pods themselves. (..times the two packets they allow you. Those pots don’t make enough coffee in a single pot do do anything but whet my appetite!)

And of course there are those blasted styrofoam (groaaan…) cups. And each one is shrink-wrapped in plastic. Plus, thankfully we drink our coffee black – there’s so much trash in those little packets of coffee amendments! A plastic bag with sugar and creamer packets, plastic stir sticks, napkins and the like.

And once you open that plastic packet all of those things are wasted whether they’re used or not and must go into the trash! (sigh…)

Sure I could probably take home the unused items previously shrink wrapped in plastic & use them here at home, but tiny single-use things are NOT my cup-o-tea…

But here’s our easy solution. By far the easiest thing we do to eliminate two styrofoam cups every morning is that each of us brings our favorite travel mug to the hotel with us. So each morning RancherMan grabs our travel mugs and slips over to the breakfast area and fills them both up to the brim.

Ummm…  plenty of piping-hot coffee, NO WAITING, NO TRASH!

A tiny thing but think about it, on this two-day stay that’s FOUR styrofoam coffee mugs not tossed in the trash just because of this one easy thing. Although we don’t travel much I think it’s safe to say over the years we’ve eliminated hundreds of styrofoam cups from being trashed.

Disposable Trash From Hotel Restrooms

The coffee bar’s not the only wasteful place – what about plastic trash in the bathrooms. There are those cute little single-night stay lotion/shampoo/conditioner combo things. Although they come in fun scents, I’ve brought refillable travel bottles with my favorite travel supplies: eucalyptus-scented shampoo and conditioner.

In previous days I used to use and also take home those tiny complimentary bottles whether they were ever used or not. I figured “Hey, these are FREE, I should take them!”

Until I stopped to think about it: Free isn’t necessarily good.

Those tiny bottles do me no good at home. The amounts contained in them are a mere tablespoon of product!

Now I leave them untouched at the hotel so that I’m not adding all those single-use tiny plastic bottles to the landfill. I will often unwrap one of the bars of soap to use during our stay. Then I’ll allow it to dry the morning of our departure and tuck it back in its wrapping so I can bring it home. I know used soap would probably just be thrown away and this way at least we can finish using it up.

Maybe for future trips I’ll bring my own homemade soap from home instead. I love the lavender/rosemary scents we’ve used this year! One less thing unwrapped during our hotel stay…

Mountains of Trash at Hotel Dining Rooms!

Now here’s my next challenge – breakfast! I noticed that this is a lot of trash for a single meal!  Although we are still using our refillable coffee mugs at the breakfast table I’m shocked at the amount of dinnerware & containers I’m using for a very short time and then throwing away.

A styrofoam plate, plastic fork, plastic cup for juice, tiny plastic tub for single-serving jelly, plastic tub for single-serving yogurt and a plastic spoon to eat that yogurt. Along with a couple of paper napkins for each of us. All into the trash for about 15-20 minutes worth of meal for one person.  Hummm…

Dining trash at hotel. LOWER-WASTE HOTEL STAY: Hotels can be notoriously wasteful but there are a few ways we easily & comfortably reduced some of the waste #TexasHomesteader

I’m really not sure how to avoid this easily. I’ll be working on some subtle non-weird-looking solutions to this for our next hotel stay. I’m thinking there may be no way around the disposable plate. But I may opt to wait enjoy my own homemade yogurt once I get back home instead of this little disposable plastic tub of the commercial stuff while we’re on the road.

And perhaps one of our coffee mugs could be rinsed before coming to the dining room & used for orange juice instead. That way we could share both orange juice and coffee.

Possible Solution To Some Dining Trash?

But regarding the plastic utensils & napkin – what if I used a cloth napkin from home home and made a fold at the bottom & sewed a couple of slots into it to tuck a fork and spoon into? I could roll the flatware into the napkin, and tie it securely. If needed I could tuck it into RancherMan’s shirt pocket on the way to the dining room until we were ready to unroll & use it.

At least that would eliminate the plastic cutlery I hate so much as well as the paper napkins since the cloth napkin ‘carrying case’ would also serve as my napkin for breakfast. I don’t think that would look too weird in a crowded breakfast area, do you?

Although they sell portable cutlery like * this  on Amazon for cheap, I’d rather use what I have at home & make it myself.

UPDATE: I’ve made a Zero-Waste Dining Out kit for myself. Inside a repurposed pencil case I’ve tucked 2 cloth napkins, 2 forks & spoons, a wooden knife and even a couple of stainless straws.


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15 thoughts on “Lower-Waste Hotel Stays When Traveling

  1. Katy SkipTheBag

    Wow, yes there is a lot of waste in hotels. Fortunately there are ways to avoid some of it. Thanks for sharing on the #WasteLessWednesday blog hop.

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      I’m finding sometimes it just takes thinking outside the box to reduce waste. ~TxH~

  2. Danielle @DIYDanielle

    I always worry they’ll throw out the unused shampoo etc! I usually take it home and use them for homeless care packages. Thanks for linking up at #SustainableSundays

  3. Jean

    Back when I worked outside of the home I used reusable containers and a Sig metal flatware set (had a fork, spoon, and knife hooked together (sometimes even used the knife when plastic ones would cut it). Perhaps bring homemade trail mix, dehydrated meat, bars, or meals with you in reusable bags. I know some people I follow do that because they are gluten intolerant or vegan. Reuseit.com has good tips as well as sells reusable items or Eco-friendly like bottles, food storage, lunch boxes, shopping bags, and even gift wrap.

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      It’s a game to me Jean, almost like a competition with myself, to look outside the box and see how far I can go. Right now my focus is on plastic and styrofoam, but I’ve also focused on water and electric waste when staying at a hotel. Some of those things bleed into my daily living and not just when traveling, such as the glass water bottle I bought and take with us when our church has their weekly shared meal – no styrofoam cups of tea for RancherMan & me, we fill our glass water bottle with ice before we go & pour our own tea. I’ve since purchased stainless steel straws that I’m getting used to bringing. One step at a time. ~TxH~

  4. Judith C

    We use the big Stanley thermos and our own travel coffee mugs for car trips too. Our family has been staying in AirB&B places here of late. Most of the time they are less expensive than hotel rooms. (We go the whole house/apartment route.) They come fully equipped with coffeemakers and such. Although on my last trip with my sister-in-law to Miami, she packed her electric kettle and pour over coffee maker! She will also pack a blender because of her nutritional needs.

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      We’ve noticed that as well Judith, sometimes B&B’s are less expensive (or close to the same cost as) a hotel stay and we enjoy the experience of a B&B more. I love that y’all are bringing those small things to make your stay more comfortable too. ~TxH~

  5. Patti

    I’m with you on those little coffee pots in the room. You really never know what people have put in them and they’re never cleaned out properly. Moldy gross coffee pot, we’ve seen many in our day. I’m so allergic to soy so I have never been able to par-take in those complimentary breakfast, sadly. Have a Happy Easter, Patti

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      The complimentary breakfast is one of the reasons we chose this hotel – we don’t often eat a formal breakfast at the Taylor Household so it’s a treat for us. But I’m going to have to figure out how to reduce that breakfast trash, it’s enough to ruin an otherwise delightful meal. ~TxH~

  6. Cynthia D

    We don’t travel much any more, but when we do we always stay where there is a microwave and refrigerator in the room. I bring mugs and bowls and silverware from home and make oatmeal and fruit for breakfast and we can heat water in the microwave for tea. We are not coffee drinkers. We travel with a cooler stocked with salad, meat, and cheese. Place these things in refrigerator when we get to the motel. We do go out and eat meals occasionally, but there are more things to see and do than sit in a restaurant. I like your idea about putting a pocket in your napkin and putting in a spoon, this would be great for picnics or traveling. I am going to make up a few of these.

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      I’m with you Cynthia. Sometimes it’s fun to enjoy a restaurant meal and we certainly do, but like you there are other things I’d like to do/see when traveling than the inside of a restaurant. So we enjoy a meal out when we feel like it, but have plenty of options when we don’t. ~TxH~

  7. ColleenB.~Texas

    When we Used (back in the day) to travel I would always fill up our insulated Stanley thermos with boiling water the night before leaving; just so it would warm up the thermos inside and the next morning, dumping the water into a bucket (to save for watering plants once cooled) I would fill it with hot coffee and take along our traveling mugs. Nothing like having your own fresh, Hot coffee with you when traveling. Also have a wide mouth insulated Stanley thermos so would put some hot doges in it; right from the package and then add hot water taking along buns and whenever we wanted a little something to eat, had hot dogs that where handy and heated through.
    Would always have along my own ‘picnic basket kit’; cloth napkins,our own silverware, non breakable dishes(not paper plates) Plates that where used over and over again and anything else I could think of to take along. Small cooler for cold items, etc. So basically we took along our own food which meant there was No stopping for food when traveling long distance like from Texas to Iowa. Would stop at a rest areas; eat a little something, maybe take a short nap and few potty breaks
    There have been times when I had taken my 4 -6 cup Mr. Coffee maker along with small container of coffee and would make coffee in our room ( using our own bottled water of course) if we stayed at a hotel/motel. If you prefer tea; no problem just take along some tea bags and instead of making coffee use the hot water that comes through the pot.
    We saved $$$ by taking our own food and drinks

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      You’re so right Colleen, lots of money to be saved by taking your own food & drinks. And lots of trash NOT produced by those inexpensive yet delicious meals too! I’m tellin’ ya, a good wide-mouth thermos is a lifesaver, no?? ~TxH~

  8. Anna of stuffedveggies

    I love that you carry your own coffee mug when you travel! I started carrying one in my purse (not a travel mug – just a regular one) for coffee hour at Church after our Priest preached a sermon on Stewardship of God’s Creation. In time, I have discovered that having my own mug not only saves a ton of trash – but also saves a ton of money – as it makes it so much easier to avoid buying water when traveling.

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      It just takes stopping for a moment & thinking about it, eh Anna?? RancherMan & I enjoy a weekly class at our church each week as well, and it includes the evening meal that we all share together first. Of course there’s styrofoam cups/ice and tea offered, but we take our own cup filled with ice, fill it with tea when we get there and RancherMan & I share it – refilling when necessary. So once a week every week there’s two more styrofoam cups not thrown away – 104 cups over the course of a year! It’s easy, it’s comfortable, it’s done! I’ve noticed a few of the other participants starting to follow our lead and bringing their own drink cups now. Yea!! ~TxH~


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