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It’s becoming mainstream to talk about single-use plastics, which is amazing. But talk and action are two different things. Which eco friendly travel products are in your bag?
My plan is to live by the ocean.
What is your plan?
The sea makes me feel something nothing else can.
But the sea is not healthy. We all know that.
What if I plan to live by the ocean and there is more plastic in the ocean than fish?
We are drowning in plastic – right?
The prediction is that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.
How can one person make a difference?
I was inspired by Bea Johnston’s Zero Waste Home talk last year in Vancouver. A stylish French woman living in the USA, she sauntered onto the stage and placed a small Mason jar down. Her family’s (there are 4 of them) garbage for a year. FOR A YEAR. Her educational and entertaining tales left me to reexamine my footprint I am leaving on this planet.
The tips in her book are invaluable.
Environmentally-conscious for years, I had noticed a recent slip in my performance and was taken aback at the amount of waste I was creating in my housesits. It was easy to notice my impact as I put out the recycling and garbage each week. Too much for one small person on the planet. Room to improve.
I started searching out businesses like The Soap Dispensary and Kitchen Staples so that when I was housesitting I could arrive with empty jars to be refilled. Almond butter. Dish soap. It felt good to join the line up outside the storefront and do my little tiny bit for the environment.
Maybe there should be a book entitled, “Zero Waste Nomad” or “Zero Waste Traveller.” As a nomad, it was necessary to examine what was in my suitcase.
What eco friendly travel products was I packing? Could I minimize my plastic use, especially single-use plastic?
Eco Friendly Travel Products
Here are my go-to’s:
1. Bamboo Toothbrush
Using a biodegradable bamboo toothbrush reduces the amount of plastic in the landfills. I had never thought about all those toothbrush handles clogging up the landfills. How often do you switch to a new toothbrush?
2. Toothy Tabs
Along with a bamboo toothbrush, I pack Toothy Tabs, solid toothpaste tablets, purchased from Lush. The toothy tabs pictured below contain charcoal (hence the black colour!) while my favourite are the peppermint tabs. These are a great choice if you are travelling carry-on only: less liquids to worry about and less plastic tiny toothpaste tubes. The first couple of times I used these they were a bit weird but it is easy to get used to them! I ask at Lush every time I purchase these and am told that the container is made from recycled plastic.
3. Shampoo and Conditioner Bars
A sure-fire way to reduce plastic use, liquids for carry-on and weight in your luggage is to pack solid shampoo and conditioner bars. I love the conditioner bar from Lush but have honestly had trouble with the shampoo bars which leave my hair feeling greasy. I am on a mission to find the right match for my hair type.
What’s not to love about this metal (not plastic) container?
4. Reusable Makeup Remover Pads
Love using washable makeup remover pads. No more need be said!
5. Solid Moisturizer Bar
Not checking a bag and wanting to be eco-friendly? Solid moisturizer bars are a win in both departments!
6. Travel Toiletry Containers
Eco friendly travel products such as reusable containers for travel are nothing new. But the thing to examine is what are your containers made of? Do you use them more than once? If you are travelling carry-on, the shape of these silicone bottles take up quite a bit of space in your one-litre/one-quart allowable liquid allocation. Plan accordingly.
7. Diva Cup (on recommendation)
Full admission that I am past the age where I need this. But I wanted to include it as I meet female travellers all over the world that have switched to a menstrual cup. Better for packing. Better for the earth. There is a lot of choice on the market.
Most people I know travel with utensils. They are perfect to have on hand for a picnic by the roadside, the river or in your hotel room. My go-to choice has become bamboo after my metal fork was confiscated at security. Check these out.
No more saran wrap when you are packing airplane snacks in a handy stasher bag. In a pinch, I have even used a stasher to secure my iPhone and keep it dry when kayaking.
10. Collapsible Storage Containers
Having just one of these in your bag means no more styrofoam or plastic containers when grabbing a meal at a market or ordering a takeaway meal. Collapsible storage containers don’t take up a lot of space (always a huge consideration if you are travelling carry-on) and of course they are durable and eco-friendly.
11. Water Bottle
An insulated water bottle has become “the norm.” Many people use one of these in their daily life and also take it when travelling. Avoiding and refusing water in plastic bottles because you are prepared with your own water always feel great! It’s just one small life choice but makes an impact.
Straws have been filling up our oceans for years.
I love seeing restaurants posting signs announcing their refusal to use plastic straws. Many places now offer recyclable or compostable straws.
Better yet, bring your own.
The kicker. You need to remember to put it on the table and tell the server before the straw arrives in your ordered drink. Too many times last summer this happened. Straw in my bag. Plastic one in my drink. Duly noted.
13. Coffee Cup
I find that I easily slip back into my patterns of behaviour. Loving a take-out coffee cup steaming in my hand is one. How about you?
I took this collapsible, silicone coffee cup with me to South America:
But had to throw it out after gasoline spilt all over my belongings on the Salt Flats in Bolivia.
Other options include:
This thermal, Klean Kanteen cup keeps the coffee warmer but takes up more space.
14. The Reusable Bag
These have been around for years but … do you remember to pack it when travelling? I love the ones that roll up so that they are always with me when I decided to pop into a market and get local produce, I am ready!
Making Choices and Saying No
Something that Bea Johnson stated really stuck with me. “It’s not about recycling more. It’s about saying NO.” It’s the choices you make.
Say “No.” I was SO proud the first time I did.
You know what those trays of airplane food look like. Plastic. Plastic and more plastic. You already know the food is rubbish. I bet your heart sinks when the waste is collected and all thrown into the same bag. No sorting. No recycling. No composting.
Be prepared and bring your own food. Take note that when there is someone on board with a severe nut allergy, any nut-based food can not be eaten. Lesson learned. Do not only pack nut-based snacks.
Zero Waste Flights:
Qantas airlines flew the world’s very first ZERO WASTE FLIGHT in May 2019 and plans to cut 100 million single-use plastics by 2020. Somebody is paying attention. Ryanair has pledged to be plastic-free by the end of 2023. Hopefully, other airlines will follow suit.
On a recent Air Canada flight, my heart sunk as water bottles and plastic juice cups were handed out. When exiting the plane I just had to ask the flight attendant about the waste. Vancouver airport recycles everything! So all that plastic was going to be recycled. Toronto is a close second to airports that recycle in Canada.
The pilot joined the conversation and added that internationally nothing can be recycled or composted. I imagine that falls into the same set of international precautions such as not being able to bring an apple from Canada into the United States. Or Bolivia into Chile ( I got into trouble for that… ) Apparently, all international airplane waste is incinerated. That explains why everything goes into the same garbage bag. How does incineration weigh on the environment versus filling a landfill versus recycling and composting? Clearly a topic for another post.
Those small plastic bottles with lovely soap. So enticing. So bad for the environment.
Many hotels are committed to having refillable soap and shampoo containers to reduce waste. Better yet, bring your own bar.
“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”
Every small action by one individual can make a difference.
Are you a conscious traveller?
What’s in your bag?
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Oh this post is filled with great christmasgifts, I am so making my husband read this 😀
Alison Browne says
Yes- perfect for gifts!
Susan Pazera says
Excellent post with so many great tips that we will use on our next trip. Thank you!
Alison Browne says
I am so glad you find the tips useful! Every little bit counts!
Lisa Dorenfest says
My plan is to sail around the world (again). Great tips. Gotta get me one of those collapsible coffee cups (and hope mine doesn’t succumb to a gasoline spill)
Alison Browne says
Good for you, sailing around the world for a second time! Glad you liked the suggestions!
Are the ‘stashers’ bags biodegradable? Not sure how they’re particularly eco-friendly if not.
Alison Browne says
Very good point. They are made of silicon so more durable than plastic and will last longer. Most travellers I know use a lot of ziploc bags. So the idea, would be that one would use less ziploc. That being said, cloth bags would be the best and I did actually take a few on my South American adventure. They were great for snacks and organizing small belongings.
Loved your article! Little changes, big impact. After a multi-year search for a shampoo bar, I finally found the perfect one for me and will not turn back. It’s from EcoRoots—the Morrocan Oil Zero Waste Shampoo bar. I cannot recommend it highly enough. I have not tried any of their other varieties.
See link below.
Alison Browne says
Oh that is great news! I am going to look for it and give it a try. Thank you!