Simple Swaps: How to Avoid 5 Disposable Items When Travelling

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Updated February 2019

Want to live a greener existence, but not sure where to start?

In 2016 I went full-throttle in trying to give up plastic for a year. I learned a lot and still continue to apply these lessons to my life now.

One method I had success with, was writing a list of disposable items that I would not use under any circumstances – and looking for alternatives.

Once I had sourced or purchased these alternatives, I could take them travelling and use them in lieu of the disposable items.

I didn’t mind having to buy these items, as I was going to reuse them forever. I firmly believe you can save money by travelling responsibly, anyway.

So, here are five items that you too can eliminate the use of, with a few, simple green swaps. Plus, here are 25 eco-friendly products I pack when I’m going travelling, for short breaks or long-term.


For me, straws are public enemy number one. I really can’t think of a more pointless item. What’s wrong with drinking straight from the cup?

Replace with: If you want a substitute, use a [easyazon_link identifier=”B019YJT918″ locale=”US” tag=”birdgehls10-20″]stainless steel straw[/easyazon_link]instead. You can also buy[easyazon_link identifier=”B00KM61F88″ locale=”US” tag=”birdgehls10-20″]glass straws[/easyazon_link], but they’d probably be silly to take travelling. I usually pre-empt the situation by saying I don’t want a straw whilst ordering. This works 2/3 times… sometimes they forget and on other occasions, I’ve been presented with a straw when I haven’t expected one (such as with soup).

Shop here if in Australia or on [easyazon_link identifier=”B07CS7HRSH” locale=”US” tag=”birdgehls10-20″ cart=”n” localize=”y”]Amazon[/easyazon_link].

Wet wipes

Wet wipes are regularly worshipped as being an ideal addition to one’s travel toiletries bag. So multi-purposeful! You can use them to clean your face on planes, take your makeup off, or even wipe your bottom with them, in lieu of toilet paper!

Except – please don’t. Wet wipes are not biodegradable and are blocking up sewers worldwide, creating “fatbergs” that are sometimes having to be removed by hand.

[bctt tweet=”Here are some alternatives to wet wipes, which you can use whilst travelling #SustainableTravel”]

The ones that don’t go down the toilet, get to sit in landfill for probably all eternity.

Replace with: If you’re on the go, I would recommend a small, quick-drying hand towel – you can purchase some as a [easyazon_link identifier=”B0168LB0TY” locale=”US” tag=”birdgehls10-20″]set with larger towels[/easyazon_link].

That way you can wet it, give your face a scrub, rinse it and let it, well – quickly dry out! For make up, I apply Jojoba Oil onto a [easyazon_link identifier=”B01BVPP8GI” locale=”US” tag=”birdgehls10-20″]reusable cotton round[/easyazon_link] and scrub it off with that – or sometimes I just wash my face with water and a flannel. I get pimples quite irregularly, so must be doing something right.

If you’re using them as a hygiene item, to keep your hands germ free – invest in a travel soap tin and carry around a tiny bit of soap in that. Take your water bottle, wet your hands, scrub the soap and dry on your quick dry towel, or your trousers. Now you’re sanitised!

Here are some other items that I keep in my environmentally friendly toiletries bag.


Soap is a good segue into mini-toiletries. You know those items that you can find in any drugstore/chemist/Boots that are small sized versions of deodorants, shampoos, conditioner, moisturiser, perfect for carry-on?! Oh, they’re so tiny and handy and guaranteed to be used once before being lost in the back of your bathroom cabinet forever.

Replace with: [easyazon_link identifier=”B002VS8H3G” locale=”US” tag=”birdgehls10-20″]Containers[/easyazon_link], which you can decant your shampoo, moisturiser and the like into. These ones have their capacity written on them (so you won’t get caught out at airport security – it’s happened to me before) and you can write what’s contained in there on the bottle.

Shop for GoToob bottles here or on [easyazon_link identifier=”B002VS8H3G” locale=”US” tag=”birdgehls10-20″ cart=”n” localize=”y”]Amazon[/easyazon_link].

Plastic bottles

Oh goodness, I go on about plastic bottles a lot, but not without good reason – I promise.

I don’t really understand why anyone would pay money for plastic bottles, when it’s so easy to use an alternative. It saves you money and is helpful to the environment – so why wouldn’t you do it?

Replace with: Any reusable drink bottle. For places where the tap water is undrinkable, consider a filtered alternative like the [easyazon_link identifier=”B01C6HAVVM” locale=”US” tag=”birdgehls10-20″ cart=”n” localize=”y”]Grayl Water Bottle[/easyazon_link]
or a [easyazon_link identifier=”B00M3SOJIG” locale=”US” tag=”birdgehls10-20″]Steripen[/easyazon_link].

I also now take my KeepCup wherever I go. I don’t drink coffee, but use it for tea, lattes and in lieu of plastic cups on planes.

[easyazon_link identifier=”B01C6HAVVM” locale=”US” tag=”birdgehls10-20″ cart=”n” localize=”y”]Shop for a Grayl Water Bottle[/easyazon_link] and [easyazon_link identifier=”B07N732WBJ” locale=”US” tag=”birdgehls10-20″]KeepCup[/easyazon_link] here!

Here are some other options for reusable water bottle for travel.

Plastic bags

Once again, plastic bags are silly, pointless and quite easily replaced. Just shove a reusable bag into your purse, suitcase or pocket and use it when you need it.

Replace with: I love my cotton tote and investing in a collection of cloth bags is also a good place to start.

Shop for reusable shopping bags here

So there you have it – five items that can be swapped out quite simply for reusable alternatives. You’ll be saving money (and the planet) in no time at all.

What other eco-friendly swaps have you made?

Please pin this post for future reference.

Want to green up your travels? Here are five items that you too can eliminate the use of, with a few, simple eco-friendly swaps. / Eco-Travel / Eco-Traveller / #SustainableTravel / #GreenTravel / #Ecotravel /

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  1. I’m a guilty member of the straw party ? I have very sensitive teeth and so anything with ice is like hell to drink without a straw, but then I don’t like drinking certain things unless they’re ice-cold. SO hard to please! Although I do try and use my own reusable one as much as possible. It’s not stainless steel (didn’t even know they existed) but is that hard kind of plastic – you know what I mean? Still plastic but not quite as bad as the ones fast food restaurants give you. As for wet wipes, I found this great pattern for crocheted reusable make up pads and whipped myself up a few. Haven’t looked back since!

    1. Haha, I don’t mind too much as long as they’re reusable! My KeepCup is plastic, but I’ve had it for almost two years and I reckon it will last heaps longer. I think so long as it’s not disintegrating after the first use and negates the need to accumulate more plastic waste, then all is good. 🙂 You could make a business out of those makeup pads!

  2. Great to see someone highlighting how environmentally unfriendly many things are when travelling. I’ve also been delighted lately to find some hotels providing stylish toiletries in refillable bottles and providing (not just the budget chains with their all-in-one pink gunk).

    1. Haha I hate that pink gunk too, with a passion! I do appreciate the small steps too, like not re-washing towels every single day, which is pointless. I wash mine at home once a week!

  3. I could not agree more with all of these! We also try to travel while keeping the environment in mind and our carbon footprint as low as possible. Every time we get something we are offered plastic bags, and have to repeat many times “no plastic bags” hahaha. Thanks for the great post!
    By the way did you know Bali will eliminate all plastic bags by 2018?

  4. Interesting and very helpful post. I like posts that somehow are a bit different! We should all try to be a bit “greener” during our travels!

  5. We use the re-fillable plastic bottles for toiletries all the time. They’re great. They get through security’s liquid restrictions, we have the special shampoo and conditioners we need, and they’re a greener option.

    1. Yes, they’re great! I like these ones because it says how much they hold. My old set was confiscated because they “didn’t have the mls written on the bottle”, despite being tiny. Thanks, Dublin Airport!

  6. Never knew there exist a stainless steel straw/ glass straw as well. In India, straws are not very common unless you ask for it but I do prefer due to hygiene. But I love all your other useful alternatives while travelling. Wet wipes are saviors. I use coconut oil for removing makeup 🙂

    1. I’m not much of a fan of wet wipes – they don’t disintegrate and clog up drains! Coconut oil defo does the job too, but I just like Jojoba better.

  7. Tick marking most of them except for those water bottles. I find the metal ones a little bulky but well, what is a little weight as compared to the whole contribution to the environment I am making. Will switch right away.

  8. Actually this is one of the most interesting post I have been reading for too much time!! Eco friendly stuff while travelling instead of the usual hings we used to use! Great tips and I will consider to read again this post just before departing for my next jouney thanks

  9. It is quite awesome that you have been plastic free for a year. I have been guilty of carrying a plastic bottle whenever I am traveling. But I will definitely look into finding better alternatives.

  10. I have honestly not thought about conservation measures I can take while traveling. Thanks for the insightful post. I found the tips most useful, will most definitely take them into consideration next time I’m traveling 🙂

  11. My friend did the same thing as you (she went plastic-free as well). I would find it quite difficult so good on ya! I try not to use plastic bags as much as possible – I usually carry things in my day pack when I go to the shops. I’m not a fan of wet wipes! I find them quite annoying hahah. I usually scrub my eyeliner and lipstick off while I’m in the shower (I rarely use make up) and that works a treat for me!

    I don’t think I’ve been making a conscious effort to reduce waste while travelling (or even at home). I need to improve on that! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    1. Thanks Caroline! It’s amazing what a good job water does with make up… and yes, it’s easiest to wear the bare minimum, to none at all. I’d be keen on hearing more about your friend!

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