Our favorite eco-friendly travel products for more sustainable travel without compromising on comfort
Travel can be exceptionally damaging for the environment and I am under no illusion that small changes such as those suggested on this page are sufficient to offset even a fraction of the carbon footprint of my next long haul plane journey.
However, I am a strong believer in the cumulative power of small actions and that small everyday changes can have a big impact.
At home, we embrace the motto ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ and while we are still way too wasteful (especially food, I find it the hardest!), we have made some changes that have made our lives a little more sustainable and under all respects as comfortable and easy as before.
Being environmentally friendly (or friendly-er) does not have to mean living in misery and hate every minute!
When it comes to travel, it is also possible to embrace this motto and make your vacations greener.
A great step you can take in this direction is learning to avoid disposable plastic and packing more sustainable alternatives: you will find some we love in the packing list on this page.
How to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle when traveling
Reduce is the first word in the ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ mantra and is also the most important.
When it comes to travel, ‘reducing’ can happen in many ways.
We can reduce the number of trips we take (which is a big compromise to make), but we can also reduce the number of flights, cruise, road trips we take swapping them for train travel.
We can also reduce the number of things we pack or reduce the number of clean towels we request in a hotel, immediately minimizing the need for water, electricity and detergent.
Another way is to reduce the number of disposable items we have, swapping them for multi use, of ‘keep’ ones that will help reduce the amount of stuff we dump in bins and, ultimately, in landfill.
Reusing goes a long way to lessen our impact on the environment and it is becoming increasingly easy to do.
Many of the disposable items we use on travel do not need to be disposable and while it may be tempting to carry less in an attempt to pack light, many reusable items really do not take up that much space.
A reusable water bottle is the perfect example: sure, it may take some space in your bag but you are likely to buy one as you go anyway, so in terms of space, nothing is lost.
In this list of eco-friendly travel products, you will see many everyday items that are easy to use over and over again.
Some of them you may need to buy but many, you may even already have at home, matching both the reduce and reuse box!
Recycling is the last step of the cycle and starts the moment you buy a new item.
What is the piece of gear you are looking at made of: is it made of a sustainably sourced material? Can it be recycled or will it go into landfill?
As much as you can, read the labels before buying anything and make sure there is an environmentally friendly way to deal with the disposing of your things when you are done with them.
This is always important but even more so in countries where recycling may not be as developed.
In that case, using items that are gentle on the environment can make an even bigger impact.
Eco-friendly travel products for 2020
In this list of eco-friendly travel products, you will find items that will make traveling and packing easier and also match one or more of the reduce reuse recycle principles.
I believe these items to be a good investment and something you are likely to also use at home too.
I have included links so you can add them to your online shopping list easily but if you already have them at home, that’s even better: you can start reusing straight away!
Please note: this post contains affiliate links and, should you make a purchase through them, we might make a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Eco friendly travel products: luggage, bags, containers
Luggage is the one travel item you can reduce, reuse AND possible recycle and so I start from this one.
When looking for eco friendly luggage options, I was delighted to discover that one of my favorite brands in terms of look and performance is also strong on environmental issues.
Patagonia, whose stuff I use for clothing and bags, has their Blackhope Wheeled duffle, for instance, bluesign® approved which means they are made via an environmentally sustainable process.
If you like Samsonite luggage, you will be happy to know they have some environmentally friendly options too such as the wheeled bag ‘Eco Nu’
If you are looking into a new luggage set or travel bag that is gentle on the environment, these are both excellent brands to start with.
If you already have luggage and want to figure out how environmentally friendly it is or how you can dispose of your old bags, check on the manufacturer’s website.
Many travel brands are getting increasingly environmentally conscious and have web pages about their environmental policy.
They are not all super transparent but often a good starting point to get info.
Packing cubes are my secret weapon to travel light.
They are the one item that make my one bag travel possible and have helped me reduce massively what we carry and what we waste, while allowing me to have all I need on travel.
When we only have a carry-on bag, we are more mindful of our purchases and end up buying less, something the environment and our wallet is grateful for!
Some are even made of recycled plastic: double win!
Carry on approved toiletry bag
For a long time, the biggest enemy to our carry on travels was our bag of toiletries.
To pass security in airports we would always end up taking everything out and using the little plastic bags provided which inevitably would then go in the bin.
A carry on approved toiletry bag will save you from that and is an item you can use over and over again
Reusable cosmetics bottles
Travel regulations and convenience have made travel-size shampoos and products a popular travel buy.
However, all that plastic gets quickly thrown away (it is also a very expensive way to stock up for travel).
Instead of many trips to the stop, I find much better to get reusable bottles that I can then refill over and over again with my favorite products.
You can use them on travel but also to go to the gym, meaning this small amount of silicone will be used over and over again and take the place of uncountable small plastic containers.
Eco-friendly travel items for personal use
Toothbrushes need to be replaced regularly no matter what so moving to a recyclable type will go a long way.
Imagine how many toothbrushes we can keep away from landfills with this simple switch!
Like with plastic toothbrushes, you can choose between different types of bristles (soft, medium etc) and you can buy toothbrushes in different sizes, so your kids can have theirs too
Another item you may use extensively on travels and has no reason to be disposable (at least, not in its entirety) is a razor.
As tempting as those super cheap bags of 10 plastic razors may be, they are all destined to go into landfill: all it takes to reduce that is to buy a reusable body for your razor and only change the blade.
Just make sure you stock up on the blades you need before going so you don’t have to resort to last-minute buys while away
Saying ‘solid soap’ always makes me feel old as this is the only type of soap I knew when I was a child!
Now, fancy bottles with pumps and cute designs have become the norm but solid soap is a much more eco-friendly solution.
At the most basic level, it comes with lesser or even no packaging and if you choose the right type, it is also gentle on the environment.
Like its bottled counterpart, soap bars come in several types, colors and fragrances so you can experiment and choose the one you like the most.
Solid eco-friendly travel shampoo
It took me a little longer to embrace solid shampoo than soap but again, this is very much a matter of habit as there are excellent eco friendly alternatives to the classic bottle of shampoo out there.
Some of the best ones are made with no nasty chemicals (good for the environment and you), come with very little packaging and are cruelty free too.
I recommend you try a few to make sure they work with your hair, just like you did when you picked your favorite bottled shampoo.
Reusable make-up remove pads
Have you ever looked at the bin after removing your make up?
If you have, you know straight away that makeup wipes create piles of rubbish in no time and will be happy to hear there are much more eco friendly alternatives for travel and home.
Reusable wipes will require a tiny bit more work maybe but they do the job well and often much better than their disposable cousins.
Again, one to try and possibly adopt forever!
Menstrual Cup and/or period underwear
This is one type products you can read a million reviews about and still be unsure whether it works for you so my recommendation is: give it a shot.
If it ends up working for you and your body, this is a fantastic way to reduce the amount of some of the most offending waste and will also take away the stress of packing supplies or find them at your destination.
In most cases, period underwear will at least reduce the need for liners and, for some, may replace disposable solutions all together (try these at home first, to make sure it works for you!)
Eco-friendly sun cream
The damaging effects of sun cream on the coral reef, in particular, have been all over the news and this prompted me to look for alternatives.
The best ones for the environment are free from oxybenzone and also avoid the use of aerosols.
When you use a spray, large parts of the product gets wasted with them and ends up straight on the sand, where is absorbed and causes damage
Non-bulky travel towel
Getting fresh and fluffy towels daily can be tempting when staying in a hotel but it is unnecessary and environmentally unsustainable because of the use of electricity, water and detergent needed to deliver them.
A simple solution is to bring your own travel towel: if you choose a lightweight one it won’t add bulk to your luggage and you won’t contribute to endless loads of laundry
Eco friendly travel products for meals on the go
Reusable water bottle
Single-use plastic bottles are one of the easiest things to get rid of and a major contributor to rubbish around the world.
Doing without them is easy: bring our own water bottle and refill it as you go.
We got our reusable bottle in the Grand Canyon, which has a strong environmental protection policy, and we now use it every day.
It is also a lovely way to remember that amazing trip!
If water safety is a concern where you are, consider a water bottle with built-in filter or opt for glass bottles in your hotel and fill up your refillable bottle before leaving.
You can find a curated list of the best travel water bottles here.
Sipping a cocktail or juice through a straw is one of those things that make you feel like you truly are on holiday and you don’t have to renounce it to cut down on plastic waste.
Also, I know I would have to fight with my kids constantly if I was to say to them straws were off limits. So, we found a solution.
Come prepared with your own straw and the problem is solved!
Make sure you tell the waiter before they serve you, so you can make sure they don’t give you one that goes straight in the bin.
The reusable straw has become quite a trend among travelers and it is a good one to embrace at any age
If you are eating on the go on your travel, you can cut down on disposable plastic cutlery bringing your own.
Bamboo is a lovely material, environmentally friendly and you can use it over and over again.
This is a super easy win and one you can adopt at home as well (for instance in school lunch boxes)
Reusable food containers
Traveling with kids is easier with snacks at hand and this often means loading up on ziplock bags.
While they can be handy, reusable flood containers and a much more eco- friendly travel products.
You can find them in many shapes, sizes and many in environmentally friendly recyclable materials.
You can put the food straight into them or you may decide to wrap them in beeswax reusable paper which is a material you can use over and over again (and looks lovely)
Organic bags for shopping
We often stay in self-catering accommodation when we travel and going shopping is part of the fun.
Carrying organic bags with us means we never have to worry to load up on plastic bags.
Strutting around with a cup of coffee has become the ‘in’ thing to do (not that I am complaining, I love coffee) but it also came with a crazy number of disposable cups ending up bins and landfill.
Getting your own cup cuts down on all of it.
You can choose any type, some more eco-friendly than others in terms of material used, but they all do the same job so if you have a nondisposable cup, don’t rush getting a better one, just take it out of the cupboard and you are ready!
Environmentally friendly(er) tech products
Travel and tech seem to go hand in hand and if I think of the use I make of cameras, phones, online maps etc, I see easily that this can be an area where changes can make a big impact.
Some tech items I like to reduce waste are:
I am obsessed with my kindle. It took me a while to move on from traditional books but now I am hooked.
Paper free, easy to carry, a huge amount of available titles: this is my favorite eco friendly travel product of all times
Solar power banks
On travel even more than at home I charge my devices all the time.
I drain their battery checking maps, taking photos, playing music and to check into hotels and get on planes and to top them up, I always need electricity.
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way not to rely on electricity (which sometimes is from renewable source but often is not) and use a natural recharger instead?
This can be done with a solar charger or powerbank, a small device you can keep on you and keeps charging while one the go!
Inflatable, collapsible and solar-charged, a solar lamp can be a wonderful eco-friendly solution for outdoor adventures and camping trips
Eco friendly travel gear for journaling lovers
Recycled paper travel journal
I write mostly directly online but when on travels, I still very much love the little paper notebook I can take out in a remote location and use to jot down thought and impressions (and a million scavenger hunt games for the kids!)
Some are made of recycled paper and often have very cute and alternative looks which will make them a lovely keepsake once back home too.
Recycled plastic pen
An easy one to buy with my recycled travel journal and its perfect companion, a recycles plastic pen does the job like any other and it that little more eco-friendly.
Recycled/sustainable made pencils
Drawing is one of our kids’ favorite activities on travel.
If your children are the same, you may consider buying for them sustainable pencils that are made of recycled / recyclable material
Eco friendly baby gear for travels
If traveling with a baby or toddler, you may despair at the idea of being able to cut down on stuff however, there are some eco-friendly products for baby worth looking into.
Some we like are:
- Recycled material diaper bag such as this one by Lassig
- Eco friendly wooden teether for babies, perfect also for flying
- Natural Rubber Pacifier
- Natural material muslin cloths and burp cloths
- Organic toiletries
I hope you found this list of environmentally friendly travel products useful and they will help you make your travels more sustainable without renouncing comfort
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