As the pandemic finally morphs into an endemic at long last, people around the world are starting to travel for leisure and recreational purposes once again. Even before COVID rocked the world, “sustainable travel” and “eco-friendly travel products” were already popular buzzwords among jet setters and mainstream travelers who looked forward to embarking upon their next family vacation. Let’s dive into some info about sustainable travel and products that can help you protect our planet!
Enjoy Adventures Anywhere!
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A Look at Sustainable Travel
Sustainability is a concept that you can put into practice when you travel. The concept itself rests upon three key pillars, which are:
- Environmental Pillar: This pillar emphasizes the need to reduce the negative effects on the environment and wildlife that are caused by travel. The goal is for travelers to limit their carbon footprint from air travel, packaging, and plastic waste, and to refrain from disturbing the local wildlife. To achieve those objectives, travelers can do simple things, such as bringing their own reusables, frequenting local accommodations and eateries constructed with sustainable materials, and relying on responsible tour operators to view wild animals.
- Social Pillar: Tourism is so crucial in some locations that they rely on visitors to support their local economy almost exclusively. Travelers can have a positive impact on locals and their communities by frequenting businesses that are run by and staffed with locals, paying employees fair wages, and providing a safe work environment. They can also immerse themselves in the culture that surrounds them and entrench themselves in the local population.
- Economic Pillar: In a conventional sense, the economic pillar refers to businesses being able to turn a profit so that they’re self-sustainable. As this particular pillar relates to travel, the pillar is meant to encourage people to spend their tourist dollars at locally owned and operated businesses.
Often referred to as “responsible travel,” “eco-tourism,” and “green travel,” sustainable travel encompasses travel that’s done by people who are more mindful of the way they get from point A to point B. People who are more conscious about how they travel attempt to minimize their negative impacts and strive to positively influence the localities they visit.
Under normal circumstances, like when the world’s population isn’t threatened by a deadly virus, “National Geographic” estimates that three-quarters of Americans travel for leisure every year. According to a survey conducted by the timeless publication, approximately 42 percent of American travelers are “willing to prioritize sustainable travel in the future,” but only about 15 percent of them are familiar with what it means to travel with sustainability in mind.
Today, an estimated 1.4 billion tourists visit the world’s most popular destinations in a typical year. With the world’s population expected to grow to 10 billion by 2050, traveling with sustainability top of mind has to start now to protect the globe’s resources from over-tourism and climate change.
Eco-Friendly Travel Products to Add to Your Packing List for Your Next Trip
The International Union for Conservation of Nature reports that more than 300 million tons of plastic are manufactured annually. Sadly, the IUCN also claims that at least 14 million of those tons wind up in the world’s oceans every single year. Just as alarmingly, plastic accounts for an estimated 80 percent of the globe’s marine debris.
Pollution that results from plastic threatens:
- Food quality and safety
- Human health
- Coastal tourism
- Environmental health
As disturbing as the impacts that plastic pollution causes are, plastic isn’t the only material that poses a large-scale threat to the environment, marine life and other wildlife, tourism, and the human race. Travel items you might not think a lot about, such as sunscreen, tampons, and insect repellent, also have an environmental impact that can harm the very communities you want to visit.
To avoid inadvertently harming a destination and its residents, wildlife, businesses, and economy, being mindful about sustainability while you travel is of the essence. That mindfulness begins with choosing eco-friendly travel products over single-use plastic products and other one-off items that will only add to the rubbage in landfills located around the world.
With so many eco-friendly options now available in the global marketplace, you’ll quickly realize that you won’t have to make any sacrifices as you shop for responsibly made travel products. If you’re like many other travelers, it probably won’t take long for you to develop a preference for eco-friendly travel products even if it’s only because they make you feel good about doing your part for the environment and the places you plan to visit.
1. Reusable Water Bottle
A lot of people don’t think much about buying bottled water when they travel, but the plastic bottles that contain the essential liquid are a scourge on the planet we all call home. In addition, bottled water is expensive, rivaling the price of bottled sodas and juices in some locations.
To save some hard-earned money and do your part to protect marine life from the dangers of plastic bottles which have the potential to kill sea creatures as they disintegrate, it’s wise to make the switch to a reusable water bottle. While you’ll pay more for a reusable bottle upfront than you would for a bottle of water, it will pay you back many times over by enabling you to bypass the convenience store or concession stand in favor of the nearest water fountain or tap.
Reusable water bottles are widely available in an array of sizes and styles. Many are BPA-free, which is an important consideration for anyone looking for eco-friendly options. Recognizable brands produce reusable bottles that should be at the top of your list of contenders, such as:
If you’re worried about the tap water at your destination, you can stop in a local bar or restaurant and ask the attendant to fill your reusable bottle. Alternatively, you may want to up your game and get a container that has its own built-in filtration system.
The Epic Nalgene OG Water Bottle with Filter is one option you may want to consider. BPA-free and dishwasher safe, this container removes 99.9 percent of tap water impurities.
Campers and outdoor enthusiasts may prefer the LifeStraw Peak Series Water Filter System. This collapsible bottle has a small yet highly effective filter that is proven to remove the following from water taken from natural sources:
- 99.9 percent of bacteria, including salmonella and E. coli
- 99.9 percent of parasites, such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium
- 99.9 percent of cloudiness, microplastics, sand, and silt
Travelers who don’t want to invest in a bottle that has its own filtration system should at least get the modestly priced LifeStraw Personal Water Filter if they’re going to spend a lot of time outdoors during their next trip. Having earned more than 91,000 reviews on Amazon as of publication and with a whopping 84 percent of those reviews being five stars, this personal microbiological filtration device can provide up to 1,000 gallons of safe drinking water if you maintain and use it properly.
Anyone who wants to make a positive impact on humanity can’t go wrong with purchasing a LifeStraw product when they have an opportunity to do so. For every item purchased from its product line, the company provides safe drinking water for a child in need for a whole school year. Can you think of an easier way to make a difference in a child’s life?
2. Reusable Straws
Like plastic bottles, plastic straws are a real problem for the environment. With few of them being recycled given their size, lightweight, and construction with a type 5 plastic, straws like the ones you’ll find in restaurants often end up in landfills or waterways and harm area wildlife. According to TRVST, an organization that exists to inspire positive change, plastic straws are the seventh most collected item during sweeping litter pickups on beaches.
Do you want to avoid contributing to the litter that plagues waterways, beaches, and other areas? If so, you might want to make the switch to reusable straws. Made from a variety of materials like stainless steel, pasta, silicone, paper, and bamboo, reusable straws are easy to stow in a carry-on or tote bag as they take up very little room and don’t weigh much at all.
Straws you can reuse are readily available on many retail websites, including Amazon. If you’re going to shop for a set, make sure it includes a cleaning brush with silicone tips so cleaning your reusable drinking straws will be a quick and easy endeavor.
3. Reusable Cutlery
Which would you rather use, plastic cutlery or a sustainably produced alternative? If you’re trying to morph into an eco-conscious traveler, bamboo cutlery is the way to go.
Bamboo cutlery is smooth to the touch and easy to store in travel bags of just about any size. Like these utensils are eco-friendly, they’re also considered “friendly” by the TSA, which means you won’t have to worry about your forks, knives, and spoons being confiscated when you go through a security checkpoint.
Eating utensils made out of bamboo are easy to clean in warm water. These utensils are wonderful for just about any occasion, including picnics, times when you grab a bite from a food truck, and instances when you head out for a formal dinner.
People who are traveling in a group may want to consider personalizing their eco-friendly cutlery. Doing so will prevent mix-ups when you’re dining with some fellow eco-conscious travelers who have their own sets of sustainably made cutlery.
The store-bought plastic water bottles we decried earlier are refillable, which means you can use them repeatedly before you throw them in a bin for recycled plastic. Similarly, you can use plastic cutlery more than once before you recycle the utensils. Keep that in mind if you have no choice but to use utensils made with plastic.
Just because a product or container is intended to be used once, it doesn’t mean it’s limited to a single use. By using single-use plastic products multiple times, you’re still doing less harm to the environment than you would be if you bought new plastic products for each upcoming application.
4. Environmentally Friendly Tote Bags
Even though countries including Kenya and Indonesia have banned or actively tax the use of plastic bags, consumers around the world still use approximately 500 billion of them annually. That equates to one million plastic bags being used every 60 seconds.
Reusable bags like cloth totes are a wonderful alternative to their plastic distant cousins. If you want a bag you can reuse when you visit the grocery store, farmer’s market, bookstore, or antique district, consider the versatile burlap bags made by MGahyi Jute Tote Bags.
Simple Ecology sells a three-pack of totes made with organic cotton on Amazon. Each bag has six pop-out bottle sleeves inside, making these bags a great choice for wine connoisseurs. These bags are biodegradable and recyclable, making them a great pick for anyone who wants to adopt a zero-waste lifestyle and travel mentality.
5. Travel Bags
Are you trying to learn how to become a digital nomad so you can work while you travel the world? Even if that’s not your plan and you simply intend to take a road trip this summer, you may want to invest in an eco-friendly backpack that’s sturdy and capable of keeping your belongings safe.
Although backpacks by Osprey can cost several hundred dollars, they’re well worth the money. Every backpack made by Osprey is vegan. The company uses recycled materials to make the bags it sells whenever it’s possible to do so. While Osprey’s backpacks are already durable, the company offers what it calls its “all mighty guarantee.” That guarantee is the company’s pledge to repair rather than replace its products if they’re damaged.
If you’re on a tight budget, you may want to consider a backpack by Out of the Woods instead. Out of the Woods uses vegan paper to construct its ethical backpacks. The company’s backpacks are washable, which makes it a breeze to keep them looking like they’re brand new.
Out of the Woods sells other types of bags, too. The company’s product line includes lunch bags, pocketbooks, over-the-shoulder bottle holders, and totes, for example. As you’ll see when you visit the organization’s website, the company hilariously describes the paper used to make its products as “supernatural.” What could possibly be better than spending money with a company that’s committed to the environment and has an undeniably sound sense of humor?
6. Reef-Safe Sunscreen
Too often, people don’t think a lot about the lotions and sprays they use to protect their skin from the sun. As long as the SPF is high enough, people slather or spray themselves and head out to have some fun in the great outdoors.
What many consumers don’t realize is that the sunscreens they see on store shelves often contain chemicals like oxybenzone and octinoxate. Research shows that those chemicals harm the very DNA of coral reefs, which makes those much-needed living organisms susceptible to bleaching. Given the damage they can do to coral reefs, destinations like Hawaii have banned chemical-based sunscreens to protect their natural aquatic resources.
Fortunately, there are a variety of mineral-based sunscreens that use ingredients like non-nano zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to offer users protection from the sun’s UV rays. These alternative products aren’t toxic to humans or the environment. They also protect users from sun exposure just as well as chemical-based sunscreens do.
Some of the brands that sell mineral-based, reef-safe sunscreen include:
- Green People
- Sun Burn
- Blue Lizard
- Babo Botanicals
- Alba Botanica
- Banana Boat
7. Conditioner and Shampoo Bars
Shampoo and conditioner are normally packaged in what? You got it, plastic containers! While that’s bad enough, many of those containers are too big to make it through security when you’re flying to a foreign destination, which means you’ll have to repackage them into smaller plastic containers to get through a TSA checkpoint. Then you’ll have to keep your fingers crossed that they don’t leak all over your belongings.
Luckily, companies like Ethique make solid shampoo and conditioner bars. These bars are a cinch to pack and you won’t have to worry about them being seized by security.
Keeping solid shampoo and conditioner bars clean is the biggest challenge of traveling with them. To keep your conditioner and shampoo bars in good shape, consider ordering eco-friendly products that come in a handy tin. One company that pre-packages its shampoo and conditioner bars in tins is /liv/ Nature. Products made by this organization are cruelty-free and free of plastics and dyes, and they’re made locally in the United States.
When they use conditioner and shampoo bars, many travelers realize they don’t need to use conditioner like they do when they use other products at home. A lot of companies like /liv/ Nature sell their shampoo and conditioner bars separately in case you don’t need a set that includes both.
8. Containers for Eco-Friendly Toiletries
If you just can’t fathom the idea of traveling without your favorite toiletries and you’re sick and tired of buying expensive travel-sized versions of them, then you can invest in some environmentally friendly containers. humangear makes GoToob refillable travel containers that you can use to store your must-have toiletries.
Of course, there’s no reason to settle for GoToob containers by humangear when you can make the affordable upgrade to the company’s GoToob+ lineup. The upgraded containers boast a food-grade silicone body, a leakproof valve, and a “looplock” that makes it nearly impossible for the containers’ caps to open accidentally.
GoToob+ containers can be hung from a hook or pack. These eco-friendly products have a textured area where you can label the contents they contain. New GoToob+ containers have a larger opening than their predecessors, making them easier to fill and clean.
9. Bamboo Clothes
Did you know that bamboo is the world’s fastest-growing plant? Well, it is. Bamboo doesn’t need any fertilizer or pesticides to grow. The plant can survive off rainwater alone. When bamboo is harvested, it’s cut instead of being uprooted like organic cotton.
With everything bamboo has going for it, you won’t be surprised that clothes made from the material provide some meaningful benefits for the people who wear them. For starters, bamboo clothing blocks 97.5 percent of the sun’s UV rays, keeping your skin protected. Bamboo clothes are warm, but they’re equally breathable. These items are quick to wick away moisture, which is fantastic for excessively hot or rainy days and trips where you’ll go days between visits to the laundry mat.
Clothes made from bamboo can look and feel lush, or you can find some basic streetwear for daily use. The clothing brand BAM makes sought-after bamboo activewear that shows off bold colors and intriguing prints, so you may want to check that clothier out if you want to add cool, environmentally friendly clothing to your packing list.
If you’re going to travel with kids, you can find adorable onesies and clothes for toddlers that are made with bamboo. You can also find bamboo towels that will make you feel like you’re staying in a lush, luxurious hotel even when you’re camping far away from the nearest town.
10. Bamboo Toothbrush and Eco-Friendly Toothpaste
No bag of travel accessories belonging to an eco-conscious traveler would be complete without a bamboo toothbrush and some environmentally friendly toothpaste. Like their plastic brethren, you can find bamboo toothbrushes with different types of bristles, such as extra soft, soft, and medium.
To care for your teeth, you’ll need to get some eco-friendly toothpaste to use with your bamboo toothbrush. Crush & Brush and Georganics make toothpaste tablets you can crush in your mouth before you start brushing your chompers. If you don’t like the idea of crushing a tablet with your teeth, you can opt for Georganics’ natural toothpaste instead.
Don’t forget to throw some dental floss in your bag of travel accessories. Georganics sells biodegradable dental floss that you may want to pick up. If you prefer floss picks, you can get some vegan, sustainable, and eco-friendly floss picks from Happy Eco through Amazon.
11. Natural Deodorant
When you shop for deodorant in the neighborhood drug store or grocery market, it’s likely you’ll see sticks, roll-ons, and sprays that are encased in plastic or single-use aerosol cans. Traditional deodorants are typically made with toxic chemicals, with some of them even containing aluminum.
You might not realize it, but aluminum blocks your pores and prevents you from sweating. If you’re familiar with the backstory of the actor Bruce Lee, then you know questions remain about the thespian’s premature death at the age of just 32. While it’s commonly believed that Lee died from an allergic reaction to prescription medication, not everyone is on board with that theory.
Not long before his death, Lee supposedly had an operation to remove his sweat glands so he wouldn’t sweat while being filmed doing martial arts. Based on that presumption, some people believe that the actor’s inability to sweat is what ultimately killed him.
The mere possibility that an iconic star could have been robbed of a longer life because he couldn’t sweat demonstrates how important it is for the human body to release sweat. While sweating is critical, it doesn’t mean everyone needs to know when their body is performing this essential function.
To prevent your companions from smelling you long before you arrive at a meeting spot during your travels, deodorant is an absolute must. Travelers who prioritize sustainability may want to consider replacing their current antiperspirant with a natural deodorant. Ethique makes a solid deodorant bar for men and women that’s aluminum- and plastic-free, eco-friendly, and sustainable that you may want to try out.
Here are some other brands that also produce eco-friendly deodorants, some of which are compostable:
- Pack & Leaf
- llex Wood
- Habitat Botanicals
12. Reusable Razors
Every year, millions of disposable razors are thrown away and wind up in landfills. That’s normally because the mix of materials they’re made with makes them difficult, if not impossible to recycle.
Making the switch to a reusable razor is so easy, you’ll probably wonder why you didn’t do it sooner. These razors are often made with stainless steel. If you’re not already aware, you should know that stainless steel is easily recyclable, which means there’s no reason for these razors to end up at a dump.
While razors you can reuse are easy enough to find for men, similar razors for women aren’t always as simple to find. Select online retailers carry safety razors for women that make shaving in delicate areas a less terrifying experience.
Popular brands that make safety razors for women include:
- Green Estate
13. DEET-Free Insect Repellant
Developed by the U.S. Army way back in 1946, DEET was okayed for use by the general population in 1957. Somehow shorthand for N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide, DEET is an additive to many bug sprays. Repellants that have been approved for use by people consist of anywhere from five percent up to 99 percent DEET. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that there are about 120 products that contain DEET that are registered with the agency, and they’re manufactured by 30 companies or so.
In recent years, some credible authorities have questioned the safety of using products laced with DEET to repel bugs like mosquitoes, flies, and ticks. Given the continuing uncertainty about DEET’s safety, some companies have started to produce DEET-free and all-natural alternatives. Products like Ben’s 100 Insect Repellent Pump and Sky Organics Organic Bug Spray are available in packages that are small enough to make it through security checkpoints, making them great choices for travelers.
14. Reusable Coffee Cup
If you can only add one item to your existing travel gear, consider making it a reusable coffee cup. Are you an avid coffee drinker who frequents coffee houses when you’re on the go? If that’s the case, think about how much waste you can prevent simply by having a travel coffee mug you can use over and over again.
Notable brands make some of the best eco-friendly coffee mugs you’ll enjoy using to drink coffee, juice, tea, or even some tasty wine when you’re in a pinch. Two brands you should definitely consider if you’re in the market for a versatile reusable coffee container are Yeti and KeepCup. Long-lasting, durable, and great-looking, you’ll look forward to pulling out your reusable coffee mug if it’s made by either of the brands just mentioned.
15. Adventures from Scratch Books
Let’s Roam has created a series of Adventures from Scratch books—one for couples and the other for families. Both of the books can help you travel sustainably because you don’t need to consume any energy to use them. Then again, if you’re traveling at night, you may need to employ a flashlight.
Rightfully described as “the ultimate couple adventure book,” Adventures from Scratch: Date Edition contains over 50 activities you and your partner can do from any location. If all the space in your carry-on is already spoken for, don’t worry. You and your significant other can choose an activity, tear it out, and mail it to your next destination so it’ll be waiting for you when you arrive.
Adventures from Scratch: Family Edition also includes more than 50 fun-filled activities, but these are sure to keep kids of all ages entertained. Just pick an activity and let the fun and belly laughs begin when you use this innovative book as the basis for some wholehearted family fun that will make any trip that much more memorable.
Frequently Asked Questions
Sustainable travel encompasses travel that reduces negative impacts and positively influences visited localities. If you would like to minimize your carbon footprint while seeing the world, start with eco-friendly travel products.
Examples of eco-friendly travel products include DEET-Free Insect Repellant, natural deodorant, bamboo brushes and toothbrushes, refillable toiletry containers, shampoo and conditioner bars, and reusable silverware, straws, cups, and water bottles.
Taking public transportation, biking, ridesharing, and going on walking tours are some things you can do to minimize your carbon footprint when you travel. Consider buying eco-friendly travel products for the trip, and clean up after yourself, wherever you roam.