If you’ve spent any time traveling, you know two things; our planet is a beautiful place worth preserving, and that it’s drowning in plastic. A recent trip to Bali really opened my eyes to the impact of waste. So many of the beautiful countries we jet off to rely on our tourism dollars for their economy, but may not have the infrastructure to handle all the garbage manufactured by tourists and industrialized nations. Sustainability is a cause I am passionate about. I’ve found myself dedicating more time to living a sustainable life, encouraging others to pursue mindfulness when making decisions.
If you are a traveler, I want to encourage you to lead the movement for sustainable living. It is everyone’s responsibility, but as explorers, we have seen firsthand the beauty of the planet we’ve inherited. Below is a (by no means exhaustive!) round-up of sustainable items to consider packing for your next trip. Hopefully, this will help lessen your footprint during your next adventure!
Take a moment and look in your bathroom cabinet or closet right now. I want to bet that you have a pile of mini shampoo bottles from a variety of hotels stockpiled inside. According to The New York Times, the world generated 242 million tons of plastic waste in 2016, with North America at the top of the list of plastic polluters. The hospitality industry in the United States has begun to shift away from these wasteful, albeit convenient, individual-sized toiletries. But the rest of the world hasn’t yet.
But you can make the difference! I know it will be hard but refrain from taking extra toiletries home with you when you visit your next resort. And instead of using them at all, bring your own shampoo bar. They come in sustainable paper packaging (instead of plastic bottles) and some of them even double as body soap! Plus, many sustainable shampoo bars are vegan and not tested on animals.
Here’s a PSA for all surfers, SUP-enthusiasts, or just general beach lovers – sunscreen may be contributing to the damage of coral reefs. The chemicals from sunscreen have been proven to damage coral reefs – which are essential to ocean ecosystems. If that isn’t bad enough, there is even some debate over whether sunscreen may be toxic to humans. While the risks of not wearing sunscreen outweigh the yet undetermined effects of toxicity, new alternatives are coming out all the time.
The good news is, there are lots of options for organic sunscreens that don’t include oxybenzone and octinoxate, which have been shown to harm coral reefs. Check out some eco-friendly options here!
SUSTAINABLE TRAVEL CLOTHING
The fashion industry (particularly “fast fashion”) is a huge contributor to waste and pollution. Fabrics like polyester and spandex contain micro-fibers that seep into our water systems through our washing machines, most dyes (especially those beautiful, bright colors) are toxic, and crops like cotton use a substantial amount of water.
Not to mention, in order to manufacture cheap clothing, wages and safety standards for laborers (many of them in Asia) may be seriously below par. Buying fewer clothes is the most sustainable choice, but I’m not here to judge, I’ve also purchased a dress or two for some of those Insta-worthy moments. But for better choices, we can buy clothing made in countries with fair labor and environmental practices, or support companies that are dedicated to ethicality and sustainability as part of their mission.
For activewear (which is a must for me while traveling!), there are a few companies I love. Outdoor Voices, The Girlfriend Collective, and Pact Apparel are just a few. For fashion-forward clothing, The Reformation has beautiful options and a very progressive approach to sustainable clothing.
I don’t know about y’all, but my super sneaky travel trick used to be stealing the dry-cleaning bags from hotels to stuff with all my dirty laundry until we returned home. Definitely convenient, but most of those bags are made of plastic.
Instead, we invested in some packing cubes and a reusable laundry bag for our dirty garments. (Bonus tip—I leave a fragrant bar of organic soap in there to keep it smelling fresh while it sits in our luggage.)
And – bonus points! – If you do laundry while traveling, the GuppyFriend Bag is a way to contain all the microfibers from any synthetic fabrics in your wardrobe. We use it at home as well.
BITES FOR YOUR PEARLY WHITES
Did you know that over 1 billion tubes of toothpaste end up in landfills each year? According to the Bites website, that’s over 50 Empire State Buildings full of toothpaste tubes going into landfills.
Lindsay McCormick, founder, and CEO of Bite Toothpaste, actually came up with her idea for sustainable toothpaste while traveling! She realized those travel-sized toothpaste tubes were super wasteful and decided to do something about it.
Bite bits are super easy to travel with and eliminate the need for a plastic tube. You just pop one in your mouth, bite down, and use a wetted toothbrush. I also love them because they can go in your carry on.
A WATER BOTTLE
Hopefully, by now, we all know that plastic water bottles are really, really bad. However, it doesn’t stop Americans from using them—a lot. In fact, according to this article “there are 50 billion water bottles consumed every year, about 30 billion of them in the US (which means we consume roughly 60 percent of the world’s water bottles, even though we’re about 4.5 percent of the world population).”
Even if you toss that water bottle into a recycling bin, the plastic from water bottles can’t fully break down and instead just degrade into microplastics that end up in the ocean and just about all fish (sorry, pescatarians).
I understand that while traveling, there may be times when you don’t have a choice—bottled water may be the only safe option. But most of us are privileged enough to have access to clean, running water. So for the 90% of times when clean water is accessible, I carry a reusable water bottle. There are literally THOUSANDS of options for reusable water bottles (many of them are super cute, too!).
So instead of accepting those water bottles the next time you are on an airplane or buying marked-up bottles of water at a tourist trap, you can be an eco-friendly traveler! In order to preserve all the beautiful destinations splattered across our Instagram feed, we need to work together.
SUSTAINABLE TRAVEL WRAP UP
I’ve discovered that most people want to live more sustainably, but it’s hard to make eco-friendly choices when we live in an industrialized nation run by big companies. They push consumerism and convenience, which usually equates to waste.
Plus, we have largely been shielded from seeing the results of our plastic waste (like those huge mountains of water bottles in Indonesia), so it’s easier to opt for convenience. That’s why I’m dedicated to finding sustainability tips that are easy to implement—in the hopes that we can all make changes to reduce our impact on the environment.
As travelers, we are in a unique position to inspire others to live more sustainably. I’d like to challenge you to implement one or two (or even ALL) of these easy to implement sustainability tips! You can make a huge difference.
We hope that this article has inspired you to consider using sustainable travel items. If you have any questions about the destination or have your own travel tips to share please leave these in the comments below.
Want to share your own travel tips by guest writing for We Are Travel Girls? Please visit our Contribute page for guidelines and to submit your article.
Read More About Eco and Sustainability
- 10 Easy Ways To Avoid Single-Use Plastics When Traveling
- 20 of the World’s Best Eco Luxury Hotels
- 24 Ways to Live and Travel More Sustainably
- 11 Ways to Be a More Responsible Blogger
Pin For Later
This website is a free resource and to keep it free for our readers we may use affiliate links in our articles. If you make a purchase via the links on our site you will pay the same price, but we may receive a small percentage which helps us to keep bringing you new and informative travel content every day! Any products we endorse we personally use and love. Please see our Disclosures for more information.