As travelers we travel to the far corners of the world trying to witness the most beautiful landscapes. From lakes with perfect mountain reflections, crystal clear oceans filled with colourful corals and fish, to endless deserts, admiring nature’s beauty is the reason many of us hop on a plain, train or even decide to hike for hours through the wilderness. But slowly many of these natural sights seem to be overflown with waste and those beautiful bounty beaches are now covered with plastic straws and bottles, plastic waste that is not only ruining sceneries but also killing wildlife all across the world, both underwater and above water. These are just mere examples of the damage that plastic waste does to our planet and while the fight against plastic waste seems to be a lost battle, we believe that if we all make a couple of small changes we can still win this war. Every single step in reducing plastic waste is a step in the right direction, and we believe that these eco-friendly products will help you to actually make that step. So without further ado, here are the 10 must have eco-friendly travel products for the responsible traveler!
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Must Have Eco-Friendly Travel Products
Reusable Water Bottle
Let’s start with one of the easiest and most essential eco-friendly products to bring with you on your travels: a reusable water bottle. We drink an average of 1.5 to 3 litres of water each every single day and without buying water bottles this could quickly add up to 3 water bottles per day between the both of us, or over 1000 water bottles per year, and that is just for two people. Over the last three years of traveling we noticed that clean drinking water is becoming more and more widely available across the world not only in destinations such as Europe and North America but also in destinations in Asia where you would not be able to safely drink from the tap. Instead we found hostels and hotels in India, Malaysia and Indonesia providing filtered water or water coolers where we were able to refill our water bottles for free, a great way to not only reduce our plastic waste but also to save some money.
If you are traveling to a destination where you won’t be able to access clean drinking water but would still like to limit your plastic waste during your travels then consider bringing a water filter or purifier. We haven’t had to bring one yet for our travels, but there are a couple of filters and purifiers that we have heard great things about GRAYL, LifeStraw and Water to Go, all products that are still on our eco-friendly wish list!
Snack Bags & Containers
Next on the list, snack bags and containers! Reusable cotton snack bags are a great way to reduce plastic waste if the destinations you are going to has markets or bulk stores available. This way you will be able to buy snacks such as granola, nuts, seeds and other non-sticky items plastic free but also pack snacks on days filled with hikes and adventures. Another great alternative to these cotton snack bags could be these silicone reusable food bags we came across online recently. As these silicone pouches allow you not only to store dry snacks but also snacks such as fruits, sandwiches and so much more. These Stashers look like a great multi purpose snack bag for the minimalist backpacker, and it is definitely something we still have on our eco-friendly wish list! In the past we have packed reusable food containers as well, mainly on road trips, as these allowed us to pack complete meals. However, when we started backpacking these became a bit too bulky and as such we decided to leave them home, but, if you have some space then this is definitely a great option to bring as well!
If there is one thing that we never travel without it must be a simple cotton tote bag, in matter of fact, we actually carry multiple of these with us. They fold away, are small and are perfect to pack those extra items that don’t fit in your suitcase, to carry your beach towel to the beach or to simply be used as a day bag when exploring the city. Pack a small tote bag with you wherever you go and there will be no need for during your travels for plastic bags, may it be when you go grocery shopping or because you simply needed a bag to carry that extra pair of shoes in. Cotton tote bags are widely available across the world, from supermarkets to clothing stores, they sell them simply everywhere these days. We currently carry tote bags with us that we took from home, but if you are looking for something a bit more stylish then be sure to have a look at Etsy where you will find the most incredible designs!
A Reusable Straw
One of the most polluting items that ends up in our oceans are plastic straws, an item that could easily be replaced, if not forgotten all together. We are delighted to see that many countries we have recently traveled to are switching to plastic free straws made of bamboo, glass or even paper. However, the reality is we cannot wait for companies and countries to change their policies, as a responsible traveler the best we can do is to be prepared. This way no matter where we travel too we can simply either use our own reusable straw or well just deny the straw all together because the reality is that half the time we really don’t even need one. There are a large variety of reusable stainless straws available these days both sold online as well as in zero waste stores. Check out these, silicone straws, glass straws, or our personal favourite, stainless steel straws online to find the perfect set for you!
Another eco-friendly travel essential to pack, especially for the long term traveler, is reusable cutlery. We personally love our titanium sporks which are not only durable but extremely lightweight and compact, taking up barely any space in your suitcase. Reusable cutlery will come in handy when wanting to grab a quick take out, when eating meals on long train rides or for those road trips where you packed lunches on the go as there will be no need for plastic cutlery anymore. These sporks have actually been one of the most useful items we packed on our last couple of trips and are definitely an essential must have for the responsible traveler! Another great alternative to a spork are these complete cutlery sets that come in a handy pouch, just don’t forget to put them in your check-in luggage because I am quite sure these sporks and cutlery sets will not make it through airport security!
While the above additions to your travel gear will definitely help you to reduce your plastic waste during your travels, there are also some easy swaps to make your toiletries more eco-friendly. The first, and possibly the easiest swap, is bringing a soap bar with you instead of the conventional bottle of soap. Not only are soap bars more compact, light weight and leak free, they can also be bought world wide plastic free. Opt for soap bars that come in paper packaging or head over to a bulk store and buy your soap bar completely package free. We currently carry a soap bar each with us and store them in these plastic free tins from Lush and simply buy new soap bars on the road as they run out. While we love our plastic free tins, we do have to admit that they are a bit bulky and due to the square shape it has resulted in us having to cut our soap bars in half. Not a big problem, but we do have our eyes on these soap bar pouches that seem absolutely perfect for minimalist backpackers like us!
Besides soap bars there are another couple of products that you could swap out for eco-friendlier alternatives, with one of our favourites being shampoo bars. Just like soap bars shampoo bars are lightweight, leak free and almost always sold plastic free, plus there is the added bonus that they last much longer then a regular bottle of shampoo. As they are quite compact we often stock up on them at home as they are a bit harder (not impossible) to find on the road, especially when you leave North America and Europe. One shampoo bar lasts me, Odette, about 2 months and Rob about 4 months, washing our hair every other day. We are currently using, and loving, these shampoo bars from the DM that are sold plastic free. We stocked up on these when traveling Germany last year, however, there are many great alternative shampoo bars sold online as well. You will be able to find conditioner bars as well online, another bottle that can be replaced. Sadly we haven’t found a great conditioner bar that worked for us, so if you have any recommendations for these be sure to share it with us in the comment section down below!
If you are in need for a new toothbrush consider replacing your old plastic toothbrush with an eco-friendlier version such as a bamboo toothbrush. It is normally recommend to replace your toothbrush roughly every 3 months, meaning that we go through 4 toothbrushes a year each. With many countries not having proper recycling facilities it means that these plastic toothbrushes will end up on landfills or on some cases even in the ocean. Bamboo toothbrushes are becoming more and more widely available and you will often find them in eco-friendly shops and zero waste stores all across the world, we actually bought our latest toothbrushes at a zero waste store in Bali. And if we are talking about bamboo replacing plastic while we are at it and shopping for eco-friendly alternatives, why not restock your traditional q-tips with these eco-friendly bamboo q-tips that are 100% compostable!
Makeup Remover Pads & Cloths
Next of the list of eco-friendly toiletries are makeup remover pads and cloths. Traditional makeup wipes and cotton pads are one of those things that almost every girl and woman will pack with them on their travels. And while this is something I didn’t travel without for years it was actually one of the items that I was happiest about replacing with a more eco-friendly option. I currently use a makeup remover cloth that I bought when I was living in New Zealand but you can find many similar makeup cloths online. I use my makeup remover cloth in combination with an oil based solution and quickly hand wash it after every use. After two or three uses I put it in a machine wash after which it is ready and freshly clean to be used again. And as I don’t wear makeup every single day (and if I do I only wear eyeliner and mascara) I have been able to get by with two makeup cloths that I put on rotation. Another great option instead of a bigger makeup cloth is these reusable cotton pads that you can simply wash after use, and as you can reuse them over and over again they will take up a lot less space in your backpack compared to regular cotton pads!
Reef Safe Sunscreen
And last, but definitely not least, on the list of eco-friendly travel products is reef safe sunscreen. Regular sunscreen contains a wide range of chemicals that is damaging for the underwater world, so if you are planning on going snorkelling, surfing or diving on your next tropical vacation be sure to pack some reef safe sunscreen. Some of the most damaging ingredients in sunscreen are oxybenzone, octinoxate and octocrylene, however, these three ingredients are just the beginning. The reality is that there is long list of ingredients that are damaging to the underwater world, and even if you opt for natural sunscreen it might still contain damaging ingredients such as beeswax and essential oils making finding the right reef safe sun screen for you quite difficult. If you are keen on learning more about reef safe sunscreen check out this useful article from Vogue filled with tips on what to look for when buying and applying sunscreen.
And there you have it, 10 eco-friendly travel essentials for the responsible traveler! In the end we believe that the best thing you can do is to try to be a more responsible traveler and that together we can make many small changes to make a big difference in this world. While Rob and I make a conscious effort of being more responsible travelers the reality is we are not 100% there yet and have made plenty of mistakes and will probably make plenty more in the future. We are both still learning every single day on how to be more responsible travelers and we simply hope that you will join us on that journey. So if you are looking for more inspiration on how to become a more responsible traveler, be sure to check out some of our other articles below:
- How to be a more eco-friendly traveler
- A beginners guide to sustainable travel
- How to be a cultural traveler
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