We all love to experience cultures, food, places and races different from ours. While travelling is good for us (and the tourism industry), it’s unfortunate that we leave carbon footprints in return. A little tweaking to our travel essentials and packing habits is what we need to make a difference. Here are some eco-friendly products to help start travelling more sustainably.
Toiletries and Hygiene Items
1. Soap and shampoo bars
In Australia, each person uses roughly 130kg of plastic every year. While there are means to recycle some, a better solution is to limit our use of single-use plastics. One way to do that is to purchase solid shampoos and soaps.
These take up little space in our travel bags, plus they’re leakproof and lightweight – perfect for packing light. When buying, look for eco-friendly products made locally, with natural or responsibly sourced ingredients.
2. Stick deodorant
Not everyone is a fan of eco-friendly travel products like tinned deodorants. They can be sticky on the hands and difficult to apply. A better option would be solid deodorants in recycled paper packaging.
Aside from being zero waste, you can push up and apply the product with ease. And like shampoo and soap bars, you don’t even have to travel to use your stick deodorant. That means you can be a fresh-smelling eco-warrior every day!
3. Bamboo toothbrush
Eco-friendly products use biodegradable and sustainable materials. Bamboo toothbrushes are an excellent example. The handles come from fast-growing grass that’s quick to source and reproduce. Their charcoal-infused bristles have teeth whitening powers, too.
And unlike their plastic counterparts that stay on Earth for hundreds of years, bamboo brushes break down over time when thrown away. You don’t even have to replace them as often as plastic toothbrushes – a nature and money saver in one.
4. Organic sunscreen
If you love going to the beach or visiting the tropics, chances are there’s a bottle of sunscreen in your bag. However, this protective cream contains harmful chemicals that affect sea animals and coral reefs. So, for sun protection, consider switching to an all-natural sunblock.
This alternative is typically mineral-based and free of oxybenzone or large particles that marine life can absorb. This way, you can do all sorts of water sports without the guilt.
5. Natural insect repellent
Now, if hiking or camping is your thing, a bug repellent is a must. But forget about sprays with DEET that can harm you and the atmosphere. Go for DEET-free, plant-based ones. If you prefer non-liquid care products, there are also solid natural insect repellent available.
6. Sustainable clothes
Eco-friendly clothing helps the environment in three ways: it conserves water, reduces plastic waste and limits pesticide use. Here’s how you can be a greener fashionista on your next weekend trip:
- Pack quick-drying clothes. Antibacterial shirts and socks or microfiber towels do not need frequent washing and let you save water (and laundry time).
- Choose recycled clothing. You can look for second-hand clothes or those made of recycled materials. Eco-friendly swimwear made from recycled plastic bottles is widely available.
- Wear clothes that you have. There’s no need to shop for a new top every time you go on road trips. Raid your closet and pack clothes that you own. This sustainable practice helps save water for making new clothes and reduce pesticides for growing cotton. Use the extra money for delicious food trips instead!
7. Reusable water bottle or coffee cup
There are several other reasons why reusable water bottles or cups are better than buying bottled water. Single-use plastic water bottles take thousands of years to degrade, and most go to the landfill or sea. Moreover, they require essential resources like water, crude oil and fossil fuel for production and transport. And all that only end up as waste.
Good thing a lot of eco-friendly brands are joining in the green campaign. Now, you can take a reusable bottle (in your favourite colour) anywhere you go. And if you prefer coffee, you can pack glass or silicone cups in place of plastic or Styrofoam. I especially like taking collapsible varieties for travelling or camping as they are lightweight and space-saving.
8. Water purifier
OK, but some destinations do not have potable tap water that you can store in your reusable bottle. In that case, you may want to consider getting a portable water purifier. This stick-like tool can reduce chlorine, off-flavour and odour, plus remove harmful parasites in the water.
If you frequently camp out or go to remote areas, a reusable bottle with a built-in water purifier is best. It’s a little pricey but well worth it if you’ll be using it often.
9. Reusable cutlery, straw and food containers
Due to the global health crisis and sanitary concerns, travelling with reusable eating utensils will perhaps be the new norm. If you do pack these, it’s best to choose eco-friendly products like bamboo cutlery and reusable straws. These usually come in a washable pouch, too, so you can slip them in your backpack.
Regular plastic food containers can be bulky, though. So, you might want to get lightweight, collapsible ones. There are also reusable silicone snack pouches available. For camping, I recommend the more durable stainless-steel food canisters.
10. Packing cubes
Why waste resealable plastic bags for organising your clothes and toiletries when you can use packing cubes instead? After your trip, these can go to the washer rather than the waste bin.
If you want to step it up, look for a packing cube set or toiletry bag made of recycled polyester. Like eco-friendly clothes, manufacturers of this sustainable product turn post-consumer plastic water bottles into fibre for making fabric. How cool is that?
11. Refillable travel bottles
If you can’t let go of liquid toiletries just yet, you can always pack your favourite body wash in reusable travel bottles. These are better than bringing a large shampoo bottle and way cheaper than buying travel-sized toiletries. Some brands make them with biodegradable and sustainable materials, too.
12. Reusable cloth bags
Who says reusable totes are for grocery runs only? When the world makes about 300 million tonnes of plastic waste each year, we have to reduce our plastic use as much as possible. So, make it a sustainable practice to shop anywhere with a reusable cloth bag in tow. You can even save money from this habit as some countries will charge you extra for every plastic bag used.
13. Solar-powered gadgets
No matter where we are, sunlight is our constant power source. With a solar charger, power bank or battery, you can stay connected to the world even if you’re glamping somewhere super remote! Moreover, you won’t have to worry about packing (or losing!) an adaptor in your luggage. Best of all, solar power is free, and you’ll be saving valuable electricity with these eco-friendly products.
14. Tablet or Kindle
I love to read, and the smell of book pages adds to the experience. But thanks to technology, we can have a good read and save trees at the same time. With a Wi-Fi connection, your tablet can even double as your navigation map or travel guide. And who wants to lug heavy books around while travelling anyway? I can use the extra space for souvenirs!