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In the past year, I’ve gotten serious about reducing my waste not only while traveling but in my everyday life. In this post, I’d like to talk about some of my favorite sustainable swaps: bottles, coffee cups, utensils, straws, toiletries, bags, sunscreen, feminine hygiene products, and snack storage bags.
But first one of the things I most want to stress is that if you feel the desire to make one of these swaps, first use what you already own! Many people have this preconceived notion that to reduce your waste and be eco-friendly, you have to spend a bunch of money and get super cute gear. I have cute water bottles and stuff, but honestly most of the time you’ll find me carrying a mason jar around for my iced coffee and juice. And I do have fancy packable bags to keep in my purse, but the majority of the time when I go grocery shopping I use free reusable bags I got at events or as promos. Use what ya got! Save that money, put it towards a plane ticket! But if you do want to buy cute gear, I’ve provided a few options as inspiration for y’all below.
So here we go. Let’s talk about my must have sustainable travel accessories!
Reusable Water Bottle
1. Klean Kanteen Single Wall Stainless Steel Water Bottle | 2. Contigo Thermalock Vacuum-Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle | 3. Tree Tribe Stainless Steel Water Bottle | 4. S’well Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle | 5. Elemental Double Wall Stainless Steel Water Bottle
I always have a reusable water bottle with me. I have quite a few that I will switch out and carry. I used to use Nalgene bottles, but I’ve made the switch to stainless steel bottles instead. Reusable bottles are so much cuter than single-use plastic bottles, and with how much water I drink, they prevent me from putting 5+ bottles in the trash every single day. Plus, bottled water is not any cleaner or healthier than tap water, despite what that industry may claim. And single-use bottled water can cost up to 500 times the cost of tap water even though most companies just bottle tap water and sell that.
Worldwide over a million single-use plastic water bottles are used every single minute. Replacing this bad habit with a reusable bottle is one of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce your plastic waste footprint!
Use what you already have: Obviously, you can use whichever reusable bottles you already own, it doesn’t have to be cute or trendy in design like the ones shown above. To be honest, any reusable is cute and trendy in my book! Alternatively, if you don’t own a reusable bottle already, you can use a jar if you have one sitting around at home. I use my mason jar for water all the time!
Reusable Coffee Cups
Starbucks alone creates waste in the staggering amount of 4 billion cups per year. While the cups for cold drinks are recyclable, the cups for warm drinks are not. If you’re a coffee shop regular, you can reduce your waste AND save money, since many stores (including Starbucks) offer BYO container discounts!
Use what you already have: If you have a mason jar at home, these also make nice sealable coffee or juice cups!
If you’re ordering to-go, eating street food, or at a restaurant that only offers plastic utensils, you can use these to eliminate potential waste! I have the first pair and always keep a reusable straw in my case as well. They have come in handy so many times, and are an effective way to eliminate some unnecessary plastic waste from your life.
Use what you already have: Before I got my bamboo utensils from my monthly MightyFix, I just used a pair of utensils from home and would keep them wrapped in a cloth napkin!
1. Set of 4 Reusable Silicone Straws w/ Straw Squeegee | 2. Set of 4 Glass Straws w/ Cleaning Brush | 3. Set of 8 Stainless Steel Straws w/ Cleaning Brushes | 4. Set of 8 Bamboo Straws w/ Cleaning Brush
More than 500 million straws are thrown away each day in the US. That’s enough to circle the Earth 2.5 times! Every. Day. So when I go out to restaurants, I always make sure to say “water, no straw” when the server asks what I’d like to drink. Most of the time straws are pretty unnecessary. We don’t use them at home, why do we magically forget to drink without straws when we’re out at restaurants? If you absolutely need a straw, there are plenty of alternatives! I have both silicone, stainless steel, and bamboo straws that I absolutely love and swear by.
Or just refuse the straw: Honestly, 95% of the time I just don’t use a straw! When I go out to eat, I always make sure to say “Water, no straw please.” when I order my drink. Easy and effective. I reserve the straws for smoothies, milkshakes, iced coffee, and the like.
Solid/Packaging Free Toiletries
It’s such a pain to pack all your necessities in a carry-on. Mainly because of that liquid rule. But by using solid shampoo, conditioner, face wash, and even toothpaste you can avoid that annoying situation of measuring out your liquids, putting them in a ziptop bag, and praying TSA doesn’t have it in for you when you’re running late for your flight and get caught in security. My personal favorite brand for all these goodies is Lush, they’re amazing because they put an enormous amount of love into every single product. They source the best, safest, and most sustainable ingredients possible. They have been fighting animal testing for decades, and all their products are 100% vegetarian and cruelty-free. They are increasingly moving towards “naked” products, meaning they are ditching the plastic packaging in favor of solid shampoos and such.
Use what you already have: Use the products you already own before going and purchasing more in order to reduce waste.
Americans use more than 380 billion plastic bags each year. On average, the plastic grocery bag has a usefulness of 7 minutes, but an eternal lifespan since they don’t biodegrade. I always keep reusable shopping bags in my car, then at least one more packable one (as pictured above) in my purse. When I check out at the store I tell the cashier that I don’t need a bag, especially when I’m buying one item (I usually just put that one item straight in my purse after I pay). When traveling it’s always nifty to have at least one of these with you.
Use what you already have: Of course it’s really nice to have these packable bags since they take up less space in your purse, but you can definitely still just cram a reusable bag you already own into your purse! It may not pack down as small, but it will do the job just as well!
Reef Safe Sunscreen
If you’re planning a beach getaway, make sure you have sunscreen that is reef safe! An easy way to tell is by checking the active ingredients. Reef safe sunscreen’s only active ingredients listed should be Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide. Other “O ingredients” like Octinoxate, Octocrylene, Octisalate, etc. are red flags when choosing reef safe sunscreens. Sunscreen is one of my plastic exceptions since it is nearly impossible not only to find a good product that’s reef safe but also packaging free. You can actually find reef safe sunscreen at any drug store or grocer! I know for sure Banana Boat Kids is reef safe, and there may be more brands that are as well. Just look at those active ingredients!
Use what you already have: Check the sunscreen you already own before you go out and buy products. You may already own a reef safe sunscreen!
Tampons and pads create so much waste. But you can use one of these cups for up to 10 years if you take proper care of it! Plus they give you leak-proof protection for up to 12 hours! This is by far one of my favorite sustainable swaps I’ve made in the past few years. Cups don’t contain latex, BPA, dye, or any other creepy additives. Almost all tampons contain bleached rayon—a material that can create the possibly carcinogenic byproduct dioxin. The cup saves you space in your bag, saves you money, and eliminates waste from going to the landfill.
I know this may not be for everyone. I totally get that because I almost gave up on it the first time I tried it. There is a very short learning curve with the cup. But just stick with it! Don’t give up! This thing is amazing and so worth it!
Reusable Snack Bags
These are great to pack your travel snacks in! Whether they’re sandwiches, fruit, veggies, trail mix, chips, or anything else you may have a craving for. They’re sturdier and longer lasting than regular, single-use bags. I regularly throw these in my purse or backpack when I’m on the go and I never have to worry about them ripping and spilling all over my bag.
Happy sustainable wanderlusting, friends! I hope these goodies help and empower you to reduce your waste footprint while traveling!