Packing for any trip is difficult. Packing for a big trip is daunting. You don’t know what you’ll encounter or what you’ll need to help cope with it. You might not even know how long you’ll be gone or where exactly you’ll end up. Packing while remaining environmentally conscious is even harder. In this world of throwaway consumables, preparing for every eventuality can leave a pretty big carbon footprint. But it is possible to be a responsible traveler. And we’re going to show you how. Here are six essential and sustainable travel items to make your adventures more eco-friendly.
Reusable Water Bottle
Unless you’ve been living in an underground bunker for the last few years, you’ll know that plastic pollution is a serious problem worldwide. Coca Cola alone produces over 100 billion plastic bottles annually, and it’s estimated that 22 billion bottles make it to the landfill every year. Many more are improperly disposed of, ending up in our forests, parks, and oceans.
But avoiding drinks dispensed in plastic is especially hard when you’re on the road. Many of the most exotic travel destinations are countries where we’re advised not to drink the tap water, making regular purchases of bottled water seem unavoidable. And even if the tap water is safe, you still need to transport it on those long hikes and aimless strolls across new cities.
There are two solutions. First, the filtered water bottle. These beauties come in a range of styles, using everything from activated charcoal to UV filters to take impure water and make it drinkable. Some promise to remove 99.99% of water-related bacteria, making the drink you indirectly take from a stream or questionable tap a higher quality than that of some pre-packaged brands.
The second, if you’re lucky enough to travel in a country where the faucet is your friend, is a simple reusable water bottle. There are thousands to choose from. Some are metal, some are glass, some are a plastic which is intended to be used for years rather than just once. Some will even keep your drinks hot or cold. Whatever your needs, there is a reusable water bottle for you.
As with bottles, drinking straws are a huge source of throwaway plastic, polluting our entire planet and taking roughly 1,000 years to decompose after being used for just a matter of minutes. It’s estimated that 500 million are used in the United States every single day, and a recent study has suggested that 8.3 billion contaminate our beaches worldwide.
But it’s never been easier to be part of the solution. Sets of reusable straws, made from materials such as bamboo, stainless steel, and silicone, have grown in popularity and are easier to find than ever. Many even come with a convenient travel pouch. Get yours today and say “no” to plastic next time you order.
Yes, your sunglasses can be sustainable too.
Ever strolled past a roaming salesperson along a beachfront or touristified city plaza, gazed upon their portable rack of $3 sunglasses and bought a pair on impulse (despite the two pairs of perfectly functioning lenses you already have with you in your bag)? It’s easily done. I’ve probably kept several in business myself.
It’s also another example of our throwaway culture and an unnecessary form of waste. But there is another way. Eco-friendly sunglasses with frames made from materials such as bamboo, cork and reclaimed wood are a simple way to reduce your use of plastics when picking up your next pair.
Better still, get a new pair without ditching your old one. You can now reduce your environmental impact even more by replacing and upgrading the lenses in your existing sunglasses instead of buying new ones. So you can look good on your travels, protect your eyes and avoid the pitfall of short-term consumerism all at once.
DEET-Free Insect Repellent
Insect repellent is essential for any adventurous traveler. If you let them, bugs like mosquitoes will bite you all day (and night) long. The irritating lumps they leave are a seemingly never-ending source of itching and discomfort and can also transmit a range of serious diseases such as malaria and dengue fever.
But many insect repellents contain DEET – a solvent that can aggravate the skin and prove toxic to certain species of fish and birds. Thankfully there is a range of eco-friendly options that enable you to protect yourself from insects while still being kind to both your skin and the environment.
Insect repellent soaps and creams spray made from oils such as lemon and eucalyptus, and even non-toxic wristbands soaked in citronella are all part of the growing market for environmentally conscious products which keep the creepy crawlies at bay.
Eco-Friendly Travel Pillow
Not many people realize this but many conventional travel pillows are made from materials that are not good for the environment. Synthetic pillow stuffings such as polyester fiber and memory foam are often manufactured using chemicals and fossil fuels. Most are not biodegradable.
But now the sustainability movement has brought the pillow along with it. Fillings such as eco-friendly memory foam, organically grown buckwheat hulls and fiberfill made from corn and sugar are all available for the conscientious sleeper. With one of these in your bag, that elusive travel nap will never come easier.
One of the biggest issues modern travelers face is finding a way to charge their technology. After all, Google Maps may be more useful than a pocket atlas, but a pocket atlas never ran out of battery when it was 2 am and you’d just arrived in the deserted bus terminal of a town you’d never seen before.
Luckily you can look after yourself with a power bank. You can also look after the planet by getting one that generates its energy from the sun. Even if you’re on the road, nothing can stop you from joining the renewable revolution.