If you’ve stumbled upon my blog before or if you know me in person, you’ll know that sustainability is very close to my heart. Unfortunately, traveling always has a negative impact on the environment, so that’s why I want to introduce some sustainable travel accessories (that I also use in my every day life) to you guys that will help make your travels “greener”. I’m always looking for new ways to reduce waste at home and away and I haven’t found substitutes for everything yet, but I’ve put together some ideas for you to give you some inspiration on how to be more aware of what you pack for your next trip!
I first published this post in March 2019 and now it’s time to update it to show you some new options that have worked better for me and let you know what didn’t since I hadn’t tried some of these things yet.
Luckily it’s getting easier and easier to produce less harmful waste by replacing plastic products with wooden or reusable ones. There are quite a lot of companies that offer bamboo toothbrushes (e.g. Hydrophil, Humble Brush in Germany) even in regular drug stores, as well as q-tips. This is such an easy way to reduce plastic waste and you don’t have to make any drastic changes to what you’re used to. Usually these products come at a slightly higher price, but that’s worth it to me and it also makes you more conscious of how much you use when you know you’re paying more for it.
I’m lucky enough to have a zero waste supermarket super close to where I live, so that’s where I get my Hydrophil toothbrushed, q-tips, and my Lamazuna toothpaste on a stick, and my groceries. Since I am currently studying abroad in Colombia and just ran out of the Lamazuna toothpaste, I recently picked up this toothpaste from an organic health store in La Soledad (Ecosavia) if anyone reading this is in Bogotá and looking for some zero waste natural toothpaste. I haven’t tried this yet but I’m really excited to use it!
Another thing that everyone of us uses almost on a daily basis is shampoo and body wash, which always come in plastic bottles. This past summer, I’ve found an amazing brand that was founded in Germany by two travelers, Johannes and Christoph, that have started the production of their Duschbrocken, their solid shampoo & body wash bars (all in one!), via a Crowdfunding Project that I participated in. I opted for the fruity Frida bar and have been totally loving it. After using that up, I decided to try Maxi Minz and am equally enjoying it! Johannes and Christoph produce all the organic and natural bars themselves in Germany where they live, so I also love the local aspect about it. I seriously can’t recommend them enough and I’m so glad I only have to take one thing on the road with me instead of a bunch of plastic bottles.
As I’ve mentioned in a previous post before, I make a lot of my skin care products myself out of natural ingredients that I also get at Füllgut and then store the finished products in glass jars. Now since these get too heavy to carry around when you’re traveling, I pour some of it into smaller reusable plastic containers, which you can get at most drug stores, that I don’t have to dispose but can just clean once I’m back home and refill them before my next trip.
I also make my deodorant myself which I keep in a small glass jar that isn’t too heavy. Here is the recipe I use, but it’s in German unfortunately.
Update on the deodorant front: the recipe I’ve linked in the first version of this post has worked just fine for me – until it’s exposed to any temperature change. Since coconut oil melts and hardens quite easily when it’s in a warmer or colder environment, it was a disaster while traveling from the 5000m peaks in the Andes to the hot desert in Peru. I have since been making this mineral deodorant spray which I definitely prefer, but I’m not 100% happy with it at the moment so I’m still looking for an option that suits me better.
Whether you’re on a boat tour through the Amazon Jungle or on a short weekend getaway, it’s always important to clean your face at the start and end of your day. I had been struggling to find a sustainable alternative for makeup wipes for so long until a co-worker of mine recommended microfiber cloths to me. All you need to do is wet them with water, remove your makeup or just clean your face if you’re not wearing any, and wash them. Like a regular wash cloth, you can even put them in your washing machine to clean. That way you don’t produce any waste and only need to bring one or two microfiber cloths and you’re good. Alternatively, many brands offer reusable bamboo or cotton wool pads which you can wash as well, but since the pads are smaller, I find microfiber cloths to be more convenient.
My last skin care recommendation unfortunately comes in a (recycled) plastic bottle, but if you’re going to be swimming in a lake, a river, the ocean or any other natural pool, it’s still the more sustainable option. Sunscreen is an important essential both at home and on the go, but unfortunately most kinds are made out of synthetic chemicals. These will absorb into the water and pollute it when you go swimming, so that’s why using natural mineral sunscreens is crucial and, of course, better on your skin. After getting these two sunscreens, I have discovered sunscreen in glass containers or in a dispenser in zero waste stores, so maybe there’s a better option to the plastic packaging close to you, which I will definitely be trying out once I’ve used these up!
Another daily activity that causes a lot of plastic waste is grocery shopping. In many countries it’s a given to be handed out several plastic bags for just a few items. Bringing your own bag including special reusable grocery bags for vegetables and fruits (especially when you do some grocery shopping at local markets) can help you reduce waste.
When we’re on the road, we eat most things on the go, at a restaurant or a market. If you get something to take away, chances are you’ll be handed plastic cutlery or plastic cups. This is why I bring my own reusable cutlery (I bought this in Thailand and thought it was pretty convenient to have little container with it but you can just take whatever forks or knives you have at home) for meals to go or if I want to eat some fruit that needs to be pealed in my hostel. When you’re traveling by plane, make sure to put any sharp cutlery in your checked baggage! If you can’t live without coffee, a reusable mug is an essential for you.
At home, I never buy any plastic water bottles and just use tap water. If you bring a reusable bottle with you, you won’t only save money but also valuable resources. In many places water from the tap cannot be consumed though. When I was staying in Bolivia for nine months, I basically lived off boiled water and tea because all the plastic would just be burned, so I strongly reduced my use of bottled water. Now that I’m going back and traveling the whole time, I can’t rely on a water boiler wherever I go, but at the same time I don’t want to buy several single use plastic bottles every day, especially when I know very well they’re not being recycled. That’s why I started looking into water filters and found the Lifestraw bottle with an integrated filter. Update: Unfortunately, that bottle caused me a lot of problems on my last trip as it kept spelling and didn’t close properly, so I had to send it back. Now that I’ve come back to Latin America to study and then travel here until January, I’ve looked into different brands again. I’ve been here for a month now and I’m using a very similar bottle from Water Well and so far I haven’t had any problems yet. It doesn’t spill, the filter has worked fine so far and you can also exchange the filter with a straw (that comes with the bottle) and use it with potable tap water!
The last thing I’m going to introduce you to are menstrual cups. They’ve made my life SO much easier and I can’t recommend them enough. Not only are you eliminating so much waste, but also they’re so much more convenient to use than regular feminine hygiene products. One thing you have to keep in mind when you’re on the road and you’re cleaning your cup is to make sure to disinfect it if you have to rinse it with polluted water, but other than that, they couldn’t be more suitable for traveling and will also save you so much money in the long run! I’ve been really happy with my OrganiCup so I would definitely recommend them, but in the end you have to choose whatever brand you like best.
I hope these ideas where useful to you and that you’ll be inspired to add them to your packing list for your next adventure if you haven’t already! Feel free to leave some more recommendations in the comments, I’m always looking for more ways to reduce any negative impact on the Environment. Thanks for reading!
Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but pictures, kill nothing but time.
I’m not working with any of the brands I’ve mentioned above nor am I being paid or asked to promote their products, I just really enjoy them.