Zero waste travel: {useful} French for travelers

If there are two things I’m passionate about, they are zero waste and language. I speak four languages, French being particularly near to my heart, and have found a home in the zero waste community. This post is a perfect intersection of those interests.

I lived in Paris for a year while nannying and attending university; it was there I was first introduced to zero waste, although I didn’t start going zero waste until a year or so later. It’s no news to anyone that French is beautiful, but it’s not a particularly forgiving language because the pronunciation and the written word seem….unrelated for new learners. While I was still learning I had experiences with being told I was saying something entirely wrong due to having an accent, which isn’t quite untrue, since very small variations in pronunciation can more drastically change the meaning of something in French than in English. I digress.

The mother of zero waste, Bea Johnson, is French; online there are a ton of resources in French )from Youtube to written blogs) for living a zero waste lifestyle. These awesome resources are great for anyone living in the countries they pertain to as well as for anyone who speaks French, but if you’re reading this post for phrases and words that may help you reducing your waste traveling in France, those resources might not be understandable to you and also might not be quite what you need to know as a traveler.

So for your next trip to a francophone country, here is your guide to zero waste French for travelers:



The good news is that in a grocery store in France, you won’t be given a bag. They are available for purchase but you aren’t asked if you need one. Beyond that, you will be dodging plastic bags anywhere you’d expect to be dodging them in the USA. They’re common for produce, clothing and other things, so pay attention and make sure to refuse the bag!

Can you give it to me like that, without a bag?

No thanks, I don’t need a bag.

Can you put this in my bag?

Could you weigh it without a bag?


I can’t imagine going to France without enjoying the cuisine and eating more than my fair share of croissants aux amandes. That being said, eating out can create its own set of waste. If you’re dead set on leaving nothing behind, be sure to skip the sugar packets they bring with your coffee, too.

I want a carafe* of water.

*in contrast to bottled water

Without a straw, please.

I don’t want the straw.

Take-away // eat in





Finally, some general phrases and vocabulary you may need or come across talking about zero waste or navigating the francophone world as a zero waster.

Where can you refill a water bottle?

Zero waste



Bon voyage and safe travels!