Whether you’re leaving home for a 1-week vacation, a weekend away camping, or a 6-month backpacking trip, these eco-friendly travel items are perfect for making sustainable choices on your next trip!
First Steps for Sustainable Travel
- Use What You Have – It’s so exciting to buy new gear for your next trip, however, it is so important to use what you already have. Step 1 of reducing waste is using what is already available to you. You might be able to find some of the items on this list right at home! It’s okay to use something older or a little different if it means you won’t have to buy a new product!
- Choose Quality items – Sometimes the “eco-friendly” alternatives are cheap and break easily, meaning they will end up in a landfill just as fast as their alternatives. Make sure to buy quality items that will last and be worth the investment!
- Decide If You Really Need It – We have seen so many blog posts with 20, 30, 40 items on there. Yes, having all the information is so great, but deciding what you need for your trip is most important. Also, make sure to look at reviews of items especially if other bloggers haven’t used what they are sharing. In this post, we have shared the exact products we bought and sometimes may share other products if we feel it’s a trusted company. We promise that these are items we have packed with us RIGHT NOW!
Our Top 10 Eco-Friendly Travel Items
While we were planning for our long-term international trip, we tested and tried out various eco-friendly products to take with us. We wanted to be sure that while traveling, we weren’t creating a ton of unnecessary waste. And, on top of making eco-friendly choices, most of these items actually helped save us space and money in the long run!
Here are our 10 eco-friendly must-have travel items:
Eco-Friendly Travel Items for Food + Drink:
1. Reusable Water Bottle
ECO-Reason: Reduces plastic waste
Our number one eco-friendly travel item is a Reusable Water Bottle. This may seem obvious but it has to be on our list. Bring along one that you already have at home, instead of purchasing a new one, to reduce unneeded consumption. Depending on your destination, a regular reusable water bottle may do the trick.
However, if you are planning to travel to a country with unsafe tap water check out the LifeWater Filtering Bottles or other similar bottles to take with you. There are different kinds on the market. This helps reduce plastic waste while ensuring you have plenty of safe drinking water for yourself!
2. Bamboo Cutlery
ECO-Reason: Reduces plastic waste
First, you will be surprised how often you want a spoon or knife and don’t have one handy. Second, having a reusable set like this bamboo cutlery will help to make sure you aren’t using plasticware that will just be thrown away.
For example, in Sri Lanka, it is normal to eat with your hands. There were many times when we had to choose between our hands and using plasticware. Luckily, we had a set of bamboo cutlery in our daypack to use!
Having your own set of washable, reusable cutlery will definitely save you a few times on the road. Even if you’re just getting take out from a nearby restaurant, you won’t have to ask for plasticware that’ll just end up in the trash anyway!
3. Reusable Containers or Bags
ECO-Reason: Reduces plastic and styrofoam waste
You never know when you’ll need a snack! Okay, I guess food is just always on our minds but there are plenty of uses for these. Bringing along a reusable lidded container or reusable plastic bag is a great eco-friendly addition to your trip bag. They are great for leftovers from a restaurant too!
We met a couple traveling that had a foldable tupperware container and thought it was genius. We just have a couple of reusable ziplock bags with us like these ones.
Eco-Friendly Travel Toiletries:
4. Shampoo + Conditioner Bars:
ECO-Reason: Reduces plastic and chemical waste from regular hair care products
Not only are these must-haves travel friendly, but they are also the more eco-friendly choice too. Get rid of the need for plastic bottles and buy extra plastic travel-sized containers and use Shampoo + Conditioner Bars instead.
Before leaving for our international trip, I tried out a few different kinds to see what would be best for my hair. We liked Ethique Shampoo Bars, which we had seen recommendations for before. They even have sample sizes on their site to test before deciding which full-sized bars you want to order.
Another recommendation we have for Shampoo and Conditioner bars are these ones from Amazon. They left my hair feeling so smooth and shiny! I was so sad to run out while traveling.
On top of ordering online, you may even be able to find them in the store. While in Croatia, we were so happy to find some shampoo bars in the DM stores to restock before heading to Sri Lanka.
5. Solid Tooth Paste
ECO-Reason: Reduces plastic waste from regular toothpaste tubes
Solid Toiletries are THE WAY to go when traveling. Not only are they the eco-friendly choice as most often they reduce plastic waste, but they also can be packed in your carry-on, no matter the size, reduce spills in your bag (because who wants to deal with stress?), and are easier to pack!
We shared all about our shampoo bars above but we also love our toothpaste bites from Bite! Again, always try things out before traveling to make sure it’s for you but we really enjoy our bites from Bite. It’s a subscription (that we put on hold while traveling) that comes with a glass jar to keep them in, reducing plastic. Refills ship in a biodegradable bag as well!
Before leaving, we were able to request 2 refills for our subscription and will order more when we go home or have a family member meet us overseas! You can sign up to get your bits here.
7. Bamboo Tooth Brush
ECO-Reason: Biodegradable alternative to plastic
One of the best ways to be more eco-friendly is to reduce plastic waste. By buying and using plastic alternatives like a bamboo toothbrush, you are helping keep the planet and your mouth clean!
Another perk about bamboo toothbrushes is that they are often just as cheap as regular brushes but not harmful to the earth. Be careful to make sure your toothbrush completely dries before packing it up in your bag though!
7. Reuseable Face Cloths/Pads
ECO-Reason: Reduces unnecessary waste
Skincare on the road is something we are still figuring out (especially for long-term travel and not being able to find the products we want)
BUT one thing we do make sure to use is reusable bamboo face cloths (well, mostly Sam for makeup removal). Instead of using cotton pads to remove makeup or put on toner, that will end up in the trash, swap to reusable pads that can be thrown in with your laundry and used again!
8. Menstrual Cup
ECO-Reason: Reduces waste from pads and tampons
For anyone with a period, and able, using menstrual cups is another great way to make an eco-friendly swap. But don’t let this be the only reason, other great reasons to swap to menstrual cups include not having to purchase pads or tampons all the time, requiring less packing space, not having to hunt down tampons in a country that rarely sells them.
Although it’s important with many of our recommendations, learning to use and get comfortable with a menstrual cup is so important before hitting the road (or plane).
9. Reusable Ear + Makeup Swabs
ECO-Reason: Reduces waste
Don’t worry, you don’t use the same swab for both! If you are always using q-tips to wipe mascara off your eye lid or clean your ears, this will be a great investment. Last Swab offers both a reusable ear swab and a makeup swab in a variety of colors. You may be able to find similar products for cheaper, HOWEVER, Last Swab’s products are known to last for at 1,000+ uses and they are made from recycled plastic!
They are easy to clean and even come in their own little case to protect them. We got ours before our trip to make sure we liked using them but are so glad we have them! Not only does it reduce waste, but it also takes up much less space than packing a container of q-tips along with you.
Misc. Sustainable Travel Essential Item
10. Tote Bag
ECO-Reason: Reduces use of Plastic Bags
Another item that you may have plenty of in your house, is a tote bag. This eco-friendly travel item is surprisingly useful. Bringing along a tote bag is great for when you’re shopping, heading to the beach, or want to bring home a bunch of souvenirs. It’s a great addition to your suitcase to help reduce plastic bag waste!
We love having a tote bag with us because we have used it at the grocery store, at the local markets, and even for dirty laundry a few times (don’t worry, it’s washable).
You might already have one at home, so that would be the best option to bring along. However, if you are in the market, getting one that zips up into a smaller pouch is great for long-term or backpacking travel since you will be limited on space!
As we test and use different products, we will update this list! Have any recommendations for us? Send us a message
Tips for Sustainable + Eco-Friendly Traveling
While traveling, it’s not just about the items you pack that matter. Remember to reduce your carbon footprint, save water, and make responsible choices when shopping, touring, and exploring new places. Whether you are traveling to a new country or spending the weekend in the great outdoors, your actions matter!
In order to practice sustainability while traveling, here’s some advice we have:
1. Shop small
Although some of the links we have shared are with Amazon if you have the opportunity and can afford to shop directly from a small business you always should! While visiting different places, look for local shops, restaurants, and businesses to buy from instead of the chains and big-name stores. Especially after the past couple of years, businesses are hurting. If you plan to spend money, pay attention to where you’re spending it!
2. Buy handmade goods
This one is specific to smaller items and gifts/souvenirs. Obviously, the items on our list are most likely mass-produced besides possibly the tote bag or solid toiletries. However, when looking for something to take home, just like we mentioned above, shopping small from markets or local businesses not only means you are most likely getting a better quality item but also something that was crafted with care!
3. Educate yourself on where you are going
Read up on the community or country you are traveling to and different problems they might be facing. It’s important that your money does not go to supporting unethical things… A tour in Thailand might offer a visit to elephants but if it involves elephants in captivity or riding them, it’s not the right choice. In addition to unethical treatment of animals, people are mistreated too. Read up on current events in the country you are visiting and do your best to buy from businesses that treat their workers well.
4. Read up on companies
Reading about the companies you plan to do tours with and the places you want to visit. In Sri Lanka, we read reviews of a safari driver hitting a dog in the road without caring and driving super close to the big animals. We DID NOT want to end up with a driver like that. It’s important to read the reviews to make sure you will be working with an honest business that meets your values and will support the local economy.
5. Use water consciously
Drink plenty of water and stay hydrated out there! However, when it comes to showering, laundry, and or brushing your teeth, make sure you are being conscious of your water consumption. Take shorter showers when you can, turn off the water when brushing your teeth, and try to do fewer loads of laundry (but don’t let yourself get stinky!).
Things to Think About for Sustainable Travel:
- Can you reach your destination in a different way? Walk, bike, carpool, or use public transport when possible!
- Does your activity benefit or negatively impact the environment? Choose activities that benefit the locals or impact the environment as least as possible – hike, shop local, book a tour or cooking class with a small business instead of a large company.
- Want to volunteer? Do some research and try to avoid large volunteer companies that promote voluntourism. There are ways to make an impact in a community and you shouldn’t be paying $200 a week to a company without knowing if the money is making it to the community itself. These big companies make it easy since they figure everything out for you, however, often they don’t help the communities as much as they say they do. Look for volunteer opportunities directly with NGOs or local organizations, or even through online platforms such as Workaway or WWOOF.
Remember, it’s a Learning Process
In no way do we want to come off as these perfect people who always make the best choices for the world and environment. We are learning EVERY DAY. The most important thing you can do is educate yourself and try your best to make responsible choices that help local communities, reduce your carbon footprint, and protect our planet.
This post’s goal is to give you a starting point that includes eco-friendly travel items and some tips for sustainable travel. If you have any recommendations, stories, or can even help to educate us we are here for it! Let us know what you think in the comments or send us a message.