Keen to tread lighter on your travels? A quick and easy way is to switch out disposable items for long-lasting eco-friendly travel products. We’re going to look at plastic-free toiletries, water bottles and other essential travel items. Read on to find out more about how you too can green up your travels.
Plastic bottles. Bags. Cutlery. Styrofoam containers. Coffee cups. We often opt for them on our travels. And they all add up, into a great steaming pile of rubbishy mess.
Unlike what many conglomerates would like you to believe, the individual isn’t solely responsible for rising sea levels and the environmental disasters that have started to plague the world.
That being said, we can each do our bit to reduce the amount of waste we produce. Remember that waste isn’t waste until we waste it, after all.
And while travel in itself isn’t the most sustainable pursuit, there are ways you can reduce your impact on your adventures.
One of these is to use eco-friendly travel products!
I’ve been trying to tread much more lightly in my travels ever since I gave up plastic for a year in 2016. I’ve been writing about it online ever since, here on one of Australia’s first sustainable travel blogs.
Since then, I’ve looked to replace broken travel items with products that are more long lasting. Or if I’ve needed a new travel product, I’ve researched to see what green options are available.
If you want to travel in a more responsible way, then this is the post for you. These are the eco-friendly travel products to pack, for the next time you go off on an adventure.
You may also want to learn how to integrate the 12 permaculture principles into your travels.
What are the Best Eco Friendly Travel Products to Use?
I’ve broken this post into two sections.
In the first, you’ll learn which items you should always take travelling, if you want to commit to being a more sustainable traveller.
The second contains some products which are ideal for long term travel, for an extended trip or a green nomad.
And of course, the lighter you pack, the better. Read up on tips for packing light while you travel.
And here’s everything you need to know about zero waste travel.
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Considerations when purchasing eco-friendly travel products
I’ve spent years now researching plastic-free and eco-friendly travel items. These are some things I keep in mind, whenever I need to make a new investment:
There are many facets to sustainable travel and this is just one way you can take charge and do your part to tread a bit more lightly across our beautiful planet.
Eco-friendly travel products for short term travel
Here are a few items you should never travel without, whether you’re going on a day trip, weekend trip, short break, or travelling with carry-on only.
1. Reusable water bottle
Of all the items on this list, I’d say a reusable bottle is the best eco-friendly travel product to take travelling and one that certainly everyone needs. We all drink water, after all!
Bottled water really has to be the biggest con of the last few decades – particularly when you’re encouraged to buy it in places where the tap water is drinkable.
I never travel without my own bottle. Lately I’ve been using a Frank Green water bottle, because I like big bottles and I cannot lie. The 1L bottles can be a bit annoying in the car. Luckily, Australian company Biome sell expanded cup holders, which eliminate this issue.
I also have a Kappi bottle, which is lighter, despite being double-walled stainless steel.
S’well is another brand I used for years. Okay, a bit of an investment up front, but I got a lot of use out of it.
Don’t forget to empty your bottle when going through airport security – you can always fill it up on the other end. And clean it regularly, so you don’t have nasty bacteria form.
If you can’t find filtered water (shame on airports that don’t offer this service), then ask a staff member at a restaurant or bar to fill it up for you.
At worst, I get them filled up on the plane itself, which some attendants also can be iffy about, especially on budget airlines. Although this is still coming from bottled water, I figure I’m at least saving several plastic cups in the process.
Here are some other good options of reusable water bottles for travel.
2. Purifying water bottle & filtration device
Of course, in some countries, the tap water is utterly undrinkable. This is where I bring my GRAYL bottle with me.
I’ve tried a few filtered bottles out over the years and this one is my fave.
It’s lightweight, but with a built-in filter, so you can sip on clean water wherever you go. Read a standalone review.
Steripens are handy for backpacking or camping, if you don’t want to bring a filtered bottle.
3. Hankies & napkins
A hanky (handkerchief) is so versatile. You can use it for its intended purpose – bringing relief to your poor nose – but also as a napkin in a pinch.
As a chronic sufferer of hayfever, I always have one on hand. It’s negated the need for both paper napkins and disposable tissues.
4. Travel towel
It’s always handy to have a towel on hand – better yet, you can use one in lieu of wet wipes.
Look for one that is absent of microfibres (they shed microbeads when washed).
5. Spork or reusable cutlery
How handy are sporks?! Rhetorical question, as the answer is very.
They are a street-food lover’s dream implement, as they can be used to eat ice cream, as well as fork noodles into your gob. I also like to use mine when travelling long-haul, to avoid plastic cutlery.
Best of all, as they don’t have a serrated edge, you can take them in your carry on (ostensibly!). Security staff may question them, but they’ll (hopefully) let you through once they see you’re holding an amalgamation of a fork and spoon, not a knife.
If a spork isn’t your thing, then you can always buy a bamboo cutlery kit – just be wary of the knife when flying, probably best stored in checked in luggage.
Sunscreen is something I always travel with in the warmer months. However, some creams are incredibly toxic and pollute the water your swimming in, causing damage in particular to already flailing ocean reefs.
7. Mosquito repellent
Likewise, bugs are not something I want to contend with when travelling, but I want to use a spray that’s not harmful to my own body – particularly one that doesn’t contain DEET.
I like Meow, Meow Tweet’s products a lot.
8. Reusable shopping bags
I’m so glad totes are totes in fashion. I have a few that I rotate through for shopping and in lieu of a handbag.
9. Cloth bags
Along with a tote, I have a collection of cloth bags, which I use for food shopping (particularly at farmer’s markets) and small cloth bags for snacks when travelling.
I’ve had some people in certain countries (here’s looking at you, Switzerland) refuse to put food I’ve wanted to purchase in the bag, because it is considered “unhygienic”.
In those cases, I’ve usually just opted to go without. I didn’t need that chocolate, anyway.
10. Bamboo toothbrush & toothpaste
As for toothpaste, Canadian company Crush & Brush make mint toothpaste tablets that are perfect for travelling. Chuck ’em in your mouth, crush and brush away.
Plus some companies like Colgate are finally making their toothpaste tubes recyclable. It’s… something.
11. Bamboo hairbrush
If you have thick, unruly hair like I do, you probably don’t dare to go travelling without a brush.
I have a cute, little bamboo hair brush that I pack with me. I enjoy the feeling of the wooden bristles on my scalp and feel they do good things with spreading natural oils through my hair, keeping it shiny and happy.
I’ve looked high and low for a green deodorant that actually works and have found a few that work.
Meow Meow Tweet’s cream deodorant is great, if you’re US-based.
They come in biodegradable packaging, or in glass containers, in an array of scents (lavender is my go-to). Ethique also have a unisex solid deodorant bar.
Here in Australia, I use Good + Clean, which is vegan. They have a few gentle, scented versions and a non-scented version. I’ve had friends with skin allergies use it and rave about it.
13. Menstrual cup, reusable cloth pads & period pants
I hated packing stacks of pads and tampons into my bag when travelling (or trying to find some on the road). What a pain.
Having a menstrual cup has eliminated all these old worries. I’ve been using a Lunette Menstrual Cup for years now and estimate that it’s saved me over $1000 AUD in the process. Not bad at all.
I like the cup because I pop it in and pretty much forget my period, only having to empty it morning and night.
You can also bring a cleanser to use to sanitise the cup when your period is over. Squirt some into a container and use as needed.
Of course, not everyone can use a cup as our bodies are all different. I don’t always use mine as I tend to suffer from horrific cramps at least one day of my cycle.
Between these three products, I’m covered. I haven’t had to use a sanitary napkin or tampon for years now. Plus they take up little to no space in my bag.
Read more about using a menstrual cup or using cloth pads.
If you need something extra to clean your pads or pants, consider packing a reusable tin with soap.
14. Face oils
Jojoba oil is a magical substance that you can use as a face serum, as well as to remove make-up and grease.
I never leave home without it.
I also really like Rosehip oil and use it at night time, in lieu of a cream.
The KeepCup has long been my favourite eco-friendly travel mug.
Not only because it’s Australian-made, but yay for homegrown companies. It’s become one of my go to items for travelling, or even just taking a cup of tea with me on my commute to work.
If you’re an avid coffee drinker, think about how many cups you can go through in a year… a week… even a day. You can drastically reduce your waste output with this one, single and simple swap to a reusable coffee cup.
I’ve used mine on planes as well, for juice, water and even red wine! I always get positive comments on it from members of airline staff, which is nice.
16. Refillable pen
A refillable pen is something I always like to have on hand. You never know when you’re going to need one – filling out tourist cards on planes, writing postcards, jotting down notes or ideas.
Disposable pens add up, so best to invest in one you can use again and again, so long as it can be refilled. Bonus points if the pen itself is made out of a biodegradable substance.
Eco-friendly travel products for long-term Travel
If you’re travelling further afield, or for a longer time, then here are some earth-friendly travel products you’ll find handy.
1. Solar Power Panel
It can get pretty frustrating to be out on the road (or camping) and have your phone run out of batteries (unless you’re keen for a digital detox, then it can actually be quite nice!).
A solar power panel will fix your issues, in this instance. Power your electric devices through the greatest energy source we have – the sun!
2. Travel journal
I like to keep a journal when travelling, for sanity’s sake more than anything.
Ideally, I want my journals to be earth-friendly, made out of recycled paper, so I’m not adding to the billions of trees which get cut down each year, in order to meet stationary demands.
3. Stainless steel or bamboo straw
Straws are personally something I’ve done away with as much as possible, asking not to have them with drinks and even learning how to do so in different languages.
However, I understand that some people still enjoy using them and luckily there are plenty of options made out of bamboo and stainless steel.
4. Eco-Friendly packing cubes
Packing cubes are great for organising your luggage and keeping similar items together – no more digging into your suitcase or bag, scrambling to find lost items.
These are also great for separating dirty, smelly clothes from clean!
This set is made from organic cotton, rather than crappy polyester or nylon.
5. Scrubba laundry bag
If you’re doing your laundry on the road, but can’t find a laundromat (or are camping, so no laundromats to speak of), then the Scrubba Bag will come in handy.
It’s easy to use and packs away tight. You’ll save a heck ton of money on your laundry.
6. Refillable toiletry bottles
While I stockpile old containers, I’ve been caught out at airports before for reusing bottles that don’t have the size written on them, despite clearly being 100mls or less. Sigh.
7. Recycled umbrella
An umbrella is something I always think about having on hand when it’s too late (i.e. – I’m already soaked).
Be prepared by packing your own. Here are some eco-friendly umbrella options.
8. Reusable razor
I’ve had a reusable safety razor for many years now and I haven’t looked back since buying it.
I find they’re a lot easier to use – I never cut myself, unlike regularly doing so with flimsy plastic razors. I’ve also not had to replace a blade for up to a year.
I make sure I dry the razor off thoroughly after every use and it keeps it sharp.
9. Toiletries bag
The bag that you use to store your toiletries is as important as what you keep in it! A lot of mine have been hand-me-downs, gifted by friends and relatives who have happened upon them (usually as an extra gift when buying cosmetics) and don’t know what to do with them.
Here are a few items I keep in my own eco-friendly toiletries bag.
10. Shampoo bar
I find shampoo bars to be revolutionary, however unlike many travellers I don’t use Lush bars, as they contain Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, which I don’t consider to be a very eco-friendly product.
I also can’t stand the smell of their stores, but I suppose that’s a more personal thing.
While I refill bottles of shampoo at my hairdresser’s for day-to-day use, Ethique shampoo bars are great to take travelling.
11. Trusty travel pillow
Sometimes if I can’t find an eco-friendly travel product that’s made of the right materials, I go for one that is practical and long-lasting.
Helps if it’s the dream child (pun fully intended) of a small company. Sustainability is multi-tiered!
As such, my only travel pillow of many years now has been this Ostrich Pillow Light. Having always has trouble sleeping, particularly on places, it’s been a game changer for me.
It doubles up as a pillow and a eye-mask and enables you to sleep almost anywhere.
I’ve taken it on stacks of flights, bus and train rides and although I do get odd looks, I don’t care, because I know I’m the most comfortable person onboard!
I find this pillow is easier to pack away than traditional neck pillows. It packs up nicely in a backpack or you can easily slip it around the retractable handle of your suitcase.
So that’s it. The eco-friendly travel products that any green traveller should take with them.
Investing in these items helps save money in the long run and limits the amount of plastic you use on a day-to-day basis.
What are some of your favourite earth-friendly travel products? While you’re here, check out our top sustainable travel tips.