Reusable Water Bottle
Chemical Free Soap
As a lover of travel and also of the environment, I believe it’s important to continue sustainability efforts even while on vacation. Through trial and error, I’ve learned different must-haves along with do’s and don’ts that help me stay in alignment with my eco-friendly values that I thought you all may enjoy, or at the least consider.
In no particular order, here are my 8 Must-Have items that I make sure to take while traveling:
1. Reusable Water Bottle
This is essential to me anytime I leave the house really. I mean let’s think about this. You know that you have to stay hydrated throughout the day. Plastic water bottles sold in stores cost an average of 2000% MORE than what you would pay to fill up at your house.
How many other things would you buy that are marked up 2000%?
Most likely, none.
So why do it with water? Especially when that water is often just tap water in PVC plastic (a now known carcinogen) and has been through diverse extreme weather conditions therefore affecting the chemical makeup of the water.
Having a reusable bottle saves you money, is better for your health, and won’t be single use plastic that most of the time gets thrown in the trash rather than recycled.
If you feel that your tap water isn't good enough to drink, I wrote about a great affordable filter that removes 99.9% of harmful chemicals here.
Also, if you're concerned about the quality of water while traveling, I highly recommend this LifeStraw reusable bottle which is a BPA free water bottle with a built-in water filter for a straw. The company states that it removes 99.9% of chemicals and parasites.
My partner and I used these bottles for our travels throughout Thailand and it was a life-saver! We could fill up at nearly any sink and the water would taste fine, with no stomach issues.
Another benefit we enjoy about this bottle is that it comes with a hook which allowed us to conveniently attach the bottle to our bags so it wouldn't be a burden to carry.
Sidenote: In places such as Southeast Asia, there are eco-friendly efforts in place such as TrashHeroes and Refill Not Landfill which are organizations that partner with local restaurants to serve as FREE refill stations for anyone with reusable bottles! It was so nice to see local businesses taking action and helping to preserve and serve their community in this way.
2. Chemical Free Soap
This may come as a surprise to some, but many of the popular brands of body washes and soaps contain harmful chemicals that are going down our drains and making their way into our water systems. In the US we are fortunate to have proficient water systems, but we should still be proactive towards making the shift to products without harsh chemicals - for ourselves and the environment.
In other countries, using toxic products can be detrimental to their marine life which is why it’s courteous to pack chemical free soap. One of my favorite brands is Mrs. Meyers soap bars. They small and feel incredible!
After use I would let it dry and then pack it back in my toiletry bag. You could also keep it in a small plastic baggy (like a ziploc) if you will be on the go and using it repeatedly. Not that I’m advocating for ziplocs, but at least in this case they would be serving a purpose beyond single use.
Dr. Bronner’s is also a great brand of liquid and bar soaps and sells travel sizes.
3. Travel Cutlery
When I was in Thailand, one of our last destinations was the island Koh Lanta. I believe this was once a pristine place, but after years of people gathering there for nightlife such as the Full Moon parties that Thailand is so notoriously known for, Koh Lanta’s beaches now look like a landfill. I’ve never seen so much trash in 1 place in my entire life. So many different items right upon the shore of the beach. My heart broke as I thought about all the marine life that the garbage must affect.
One of the biggest contributors to such waste, is plastic utensils.
It’s said that about 6 BILLION tons of plastic utensils are wasted a year. Where does a lot of it go? Into the ocean and then on our beaches.
The best way to stop this problem from getting even worse, is to be proactive!
First step is to be prepared. There are a myriad of transportable cutlery sets to keep on hand that can be easily washed in any sink and then saved for reuse. I saw this 8 piece stainless steel set on Amazon that’s really nice!
Second step is to refuse. The more we decline plastic silverware, the less of a demand there will be.
Now this does take a bit of dedication and training to remember to actually bring the cutlery, but once you get into the habit, you’ll be amazed by how it becomes second nature.
Having your own cutlery on hand (and ideally even a small tupperware for leftovers or food that doesn't come on a plate) can truly make a world of difference! If you mostly eat out, 3 meals a day could save 1,095 sets of plastic utensils a year!
4. Glass or Bamboo Straws
On this similar wavelength is being prepared with a reusable straw as well. As with plastic silverware, plastic straws are wreaking havoc upon our oceans. Have you seen the video of the sea turtle with a straw stuck up it’s nose? If you haven’t, its linked below.
To help avoid this, there are glass and bamboo straws available that are lightweight, affordable, and easy to fit into any day bag or purse!
Personally, I prefer glass straws such as these but there are many bamboo options as well.
Again, another key step with this item is to also refuse and make sure to kindly communicate to your waiter that you DON’T want a straw.
5. Reusable Bags
When out and about, it’s inevitable that we will most likely be grabbing things on the go. By having a lightweight reusable bag on hand, we can avoid having to use any single-use plastic bags thus helping to reduce the demand as well as the waste that it leaves behind.
Plastic waste is one of many types of wastes that take too long to decompose. Normally, plastic items can take up to 1000 years to decompose in landfills. But plastic bags we use in our everyday life take 10-1000 years to decompose, while plastic bottles can take 450 years or more.
This means that the plastic bag we used for 15 minutes, will outlive us by generations to come.
Places such as the dollar store sell reusable bags for - you guessed it - just a $1! Therefore making it easy to stock up on several.
Your dedication and care will truly make a significant difference!
6. Safety Razor
Last year I found out about and fell in love with safety razors.
Plastic refill razors get expensive. Then the razor blade dulls out quickly and they’re of no use. When we’re done with them, we throw them away without much further thought, but more and more pictures continue being taken showing us that they’re ending up in our oceans around the world.
I started looking into ways that I could help avoid this and was happy to learn about safety razors. Most made of some form of stainless steel, they could last a lifetime and all you will ever have to replace is the blade which is a minimal expense.
I’ve also realized that they give a much cleaner, closer shave and my legs stay smooth longer. It’s an all around win!
I bought mine on Amazon back in March of 2017 (here’s the link) and now as of June 2018 I still haven’t had to restock on razor blades or anything! Your safety razor purchase should come with several blades already which makes it even more convenient, eco-friendly, and affordable.
PS: Don’t be thrown off by the product title. These razors have been advertised for men but they’re gender neutral.
For traveling, just be careful to always have the blade in a checked-in bag otherwise they’ll dispose of the blade considering it could be used as a weapon.
I got bummed out for a little as we were traveling Thailand and I accidentally had left the blade in my carry-on. Airport security allowed me to keep the razor but took the blade and had me thinking that I wouldn't be able to shave for the rest of the trip. Thankfully, blades are actually commonly sold at various stores. I was at a supermarket in Chiang Mai and thought I should check for them (you know, just in case) and to my surprise there they were! A set of blades for less than a $1.
Now I can’t imagine myself ever using a plastic razor again. Give a safety razor a try and let me know what you think!
7. Bamboo Toothbrush
Much like the plastic razors, plastic toothbrushes are deeming no good for our environment. With so many people on this planet, and the rate at which we buy these “convenience” items, the amount of waste that they lead to can be overwhelming.
One great way to help change this is to start transitioning to bamboo toothbrushes.
You can buy 4 for just $12 here! By doing so, you’ll be helping to save waste from our oceans and support a small business passionate about doing the same.
8. Menstrual Cup
Now this one is specifically for the ladies.
I was getting tired and annoyed of having to buy pricey boxes of tampons every month, only for them to leak and leave me in need of new panties too. Am I the only one this would happen to?!
Not to mention that I had began researching about how toxic tampons and pads actually are. They are bleached and full of chemicals.
Personally, I try to live a healthy lifestyle which includes the products I put in and on my body.
Tampons just no longer resonated with me, which is when the diva cup was introduced to my life and let me tell you girls - this is a game changer!
I have yet to meet anyone that isn't happy with their menstrual cup.
A bit of an odd concept at first, but this cup is truly amazing!
Basically, it’s a flexible cup designed for use inside the vagina during your period to collect menstrual blood. The cup actually collects the menstrual flow rather than absorbing it like tampons or pads do.
It’s benefits include:
- Long-lasting wear. Tampons need to be changed every 4 - 8 hours (sorry for the TMI but for me it was often even earlier depending on the day). A menstrual cup on the other hand can go up to 12 hours before being emptied.
- Non-toxic materials. They're made of silicone, same as breast implants.
- Zero-waste each month. Just wash well and reuse.
- You’ll no longer have to run to the pharmacy in panic and pay money every month.
- Less embarrassing odor. Vaginal pH and beneficial bacteria stay in place rather than being disturbed by tampons which absorb all vaginal fluid. That can disturb the delicate pH and bacterial balance in your vag.
The only way to know if a menstrual cup is right for you is to buy one and give it a try! They come in various formations and sizes, so sometimes, if the first one doesn’t suit you, the next one will do the trick. You can find them at drug stores or buy them online.
Now for a bit of general advice to help you stay eco-friendly while traveling.
Airplane Flights: Refuse Plastics and Care Packages
Realistically, you don’t need that welcome package of junk they give you on long-haul flights. Bring your own quality eye mask, ear plugs, and socks instead. There’s no need to hoard duplicate items that are cheaply made and only add to the waste stream.
On the plane, I kept my water bottle on hand for refills.
For long flights, you’re usually given a meal and if you have dietary specifications such as me (vegan) you can arrange your meals accordingly with the airline beforehand. I was actually surprisingly pleased with the food they provided!
I believe our airline had reusable silverware but I brought and used my own just in case.
Tour with Responsible Operators
TripAdvisor is a huge help with this! Before booking a tour, read the reviews and do your best to research if you’ll be supporting a truly ethical company and activity. For example, in places around the world, elephant tourism has become a huge problem. The elephants are often abused and mistreated, being starved until they have an audience and are forced to perform for treats and food. Tiger “Temples” often drug the tigers so they can be tamed and tourists can capture what they think is an epic selfie. It comes at a cost to the tiger and other animals which we are often not aware of so please do your due diligence.
Responsible operators keep to trails, do not disturb wildlife, and pick up after themselves. If you join a tour that turns out to be cruel or damaging to the environment, demand a refund and write an honest review.
Complications: Going Green in Developing Countries
Unfortunately, the travel industry often hits island-based and developing countries hardest, because the infrastructure to accommodate tourism-driven waste isn’t there.
Takeaway containers, plastic bottles, and plastic bags are likely to end up in the country’s waterways or burned, releasing carcinogens into the air.
Depending where you travel, recycling efforts may be nonexistent. So, again, the best thing to do is refuse the plastic in the first place and prevent it from reaching your hands.
Leave Eco-Themed Reviews
When leaving a review I often evaluate how my service was, how the product was, and how environmentally friendly the company is.
The sooner we speak up and demand environmental change, the faster it can happen.
It’s your world too, so never be afraid to share ways that a company can do better!
Sometimes companies lash out at those who demand better environmental standards. Don’t take it personally — no progress of any sort has come without defensive naysayers and obstacles.
I hope this helped give you tips and ideas of how we can all live a more environmentally friendly lifestyle - while traveling and at home.
What are some of your favorite ways to live eco-friendly?
Please share this article with friends and family members to help get them on board too.
Team work makes the dream work!