Alternatives to Single Use Plastics when Travelling
"It's just one straw," said 7 billion people.
Okay guys, this is getting ridiculous. It's just one disposable coffee cup, one plastic bag, one ketchup packet... and that's just in your everyday life.
When you're travelling it can be even harder to keep your carbon footprint low as the convenient single-use plastic options are conveniently handed out left, right and center. I'll sit in Starbucks with my coffee in a mug, watching an endless line of customers order their beverage in a disposable cup, sit down, drink it, then throw it in the bin as they walk out.... like, why even??
We can't keep doing this!
Now I'm not going to harp on about how we're all bad people because I think deep down we know when we're doing the planet wrong, laziness just gets in the way sometimes. Don't worry, I'm guilty of this too. You already have so many things to organize when traveling. Traveling light, compact and purposefully on top of that can be tricky. (By the way, if you need a hand planning your trip, have a browse through my travel resources page.)
Being conscious of the issue is the first step to making a positive difference in the world. Something as simple as swapping out one purchase choice a day can make such a positive environmental impact.
To minimize your carbon footprint let's go one step up from the commonly preached "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" – let's Refuse and Replace! No more single-use plastic products, let's replace them with alternatives which not only will last longer but won't harm the planet once we're finally done with them. Step by step we can make this world a better place!
It is possible to make simple purchase decisions out of natural and sustainable materials. Choosing eco-friendly travel products doesn't have to be hard. I've done some work for you to help you travel green.
Enough lecturing, check out some awesome eco-friendly travel gear below which can also make great gifts for travelers!
This page probably contains affiliate links. This means I receive a small commission if you choose to purchase through a link I provide (at no extra cost to you!). This helps to keep me on the road and continue to bring awesome content to you!
Just in the United States alone, over 500,000,000 plastic drinking straws are used... per day! I've begun ordering my drinks without a straw but if you have a phobia of touching your lips to the glass or just like drinking like a panda then invest in one of these reusable, biodegradable, eco-friendly bamboo straws.
The plastic-alternative straws come with a little cleaner, making them perfect for smoothies. They are naturally 100% organic; avoiding inks, dyes, and bleach. These straws are pesticide, fertilizer, and GMO-free keeping you and your loved ones away from nasty chemicals polluting the environment and your body.
So why is bamboo such a great resource? Bamboo can be harvested in 1 to 5 years from when it's planted; some species grow more than three feet a day. As an alternative to hardwood, it’s helping our beautiful forests stay just that, beautiful. Once harvested, bamboo continues to grow from the shoot that it was cut from creating a minimal environmental impact to the soil.
Bamboo has no need for fertilizer, pesticides, or herbicides which keeps you and the environment happy and healthy. Nearly every part of the bamboo is used to make eco-friendly products minimizing waste.
KeepCup - Reusable Coffee Cup
First started in Melbourne, Australia, the idea for the KeepCup came when Jamie and Abigail Forsyth opened a café. When they noticed the number of disposable cups being taken away and thrown out, their concerns for the environment heightened. About 10 years later they decided to create their own coffee cup to be reused and loved.
Over the years the couple refined the cup to create a range to suit everyone's needs and preferences. From materials such as glass to plastic to cork, these are all topped with a BPA free, non-toxic and recyclable polypropylene lid.
With many cafes offering a discount when you bring your own cup these days, this could also benefit your long-term savings (though I wouldn't count on it to become a billionaire!).
Cork is one of those under the radar sustainable products. For a while there was a rumor that cork trees are endangered; however, the cork industry is helping us reduce our environmental footprint by being sustainable and environmentally friendly. There is no need for pesticides, minimal water is used and the soil is conserved as these trees can live up to 170 years. Instead of the tree itself, it's actually the bark which is harvested, creating no harm to the tree, enabling it to grow tall and strong.
I realize it's not practical to bring a glass cup traveling, which is why I brought my plastic KeepCup all the way from Australia... (the glass one just looks nicer). I feel using my KeepCup has had a positive social impact, when people see me using it, it makes them more aware of their takeaway cup decisions... well I hope so at least!
100% Organic Hemp Canvas Shopping Tote
Whenever I travel I always pack a reusable shopping bag. It's not something travelers usually think of to add in their packing list. Whether I'm going to the beach or grocery shopping, it gets used all the time and helps me reduce plastic bag waste.
Hemp is a fantastic alternative to cotton. Cotton uses twice the amount of water to grow and is heavy on pesticide use. In fact, cotton uses approximately 16% of the world's pesticides.
Hemp also uses half the amount of space to grow the equivalent amount of usable crop. While I don't particularly like wearing hemp as it can be a little on the rough side, it's strong, washable and makes the perfect tote bag. Hemp is also more durable and will last longer than cotton.
DivaCup Menstrual Cup
We’ve all heard of the DivaCup, but have you made the change from tampons and pads yet?
For so long I was tempted to buy it but the price tag seemed kind of steep. After doing the math, you will make your money back within a matter of months and the cup will last you a year.
The average woman has over 450 menstrual cycles in her life... that’s a lot of used sanitary products harming the environment.
I originally thought sanitary items were compostable, but then discovered the plastic in them isn’t. Plus each one is individually wrapped in more plastic. It just keeps getting worse. I was so shocked when I arrived in North America so see 99% of the options of tampons came in a plastic applicator. I just couldn’t believe it!
Tampons are made from cotton… remember the pesticide and water statistics from earlier in this article? If you think you're making the better choice by using organic cotton tampons, it's a slightly better option as they claim to be compostable and biodegradable, however, it will take 18-24 months to happen.
The DivaCup is easier to use than you’d expect and offers up to 12 hours of leak-free protection, making it perfect for long-haul bus trips and flights. You can also use it while swimming, hiking or at the gym.
For more information on recycling your DivaCup, check out this article by ZeroCup.
Another beautiful company dedicated to creating a positive impact on the planet is Alaffia. Their products are 100% Fair Trade, contain natural ingredients and have Frustration-Free Packaging (FFP) – meaning the product is convenient to open, recycle and doesn’t contain excessive packaging.
Alaffia also donates a percentage of sales to contribute to ending poverty in Togo through their empowerment projects.
I love all things coconut, so their range of coconut oil products are my favorite out of their ranges and will make you feel as though your traveling luxuriously even when you're not.
If you’re thinking, “Um Sarah, that’s stupid… I’m not taking that huge bottle traveling” ….I’ve got the solution in my next suggestion.
GoToob Travel Bottles
WowE Natural Bamboo Toothbrushes
These toothbrushes don’t do that! Their 100% plastic free, zero waste packaging is made from recycled material. Each packet comes with 4 toothbrushes which will last you a whole year and help you travel green!
WowE also has many suggestions on their website about reusing your toothbrush once you’re done with it including using them for garden markers, paint stirrers, and fire starters.
The bad news though is that if your local recycling facility doesn’t recycle nylon, you’ll have to throw it in the bin. The bamboo will decompose but those bristles will hang around. Still much better than a fully plastic toothbrush at least!
Dopper Water Bottle
Reusable water bottles are all the latest craze… but have you thought about where the material came from or how to dispose of it once it’s life is over?
Many "environmentally friendly" bottle companies actually make their bottles out of brand new materials such as steel and aluminum when there is recycled resources readily available.
This is where Dopper is different.
Produced in Holland, Dopper offset the emissions created from shipping their products to the U.S.A. The bottles are recyclable once you’re finally done with them and are created from recycled materials.
They’re also good people, donating 5% of sales to their own foundation increasing access to clean drinking water worldwide in Nepal and other third world countries.
Reusable BeesWax Food Wraps
Someone once told me that cling wrap is the devil, and I'm inclined to agree. It’s made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) which is bad for our health as it’s full of chemicals and is especially dangerous when microwaved. Clingwrap is also not recyclable so will be in our environment for thousands of years to come.
If clingwrap ends up in the ocean many sea creatures mistake it for a food source such as jellyfish, resulting in the animal choking and dying.
These beeswax wraps are 100% natural, compostable and reusable. You can use them to wrap up your lunch or snacks for your travel adventures. They can also be used to bundle up your toiletries when camping creating the ultimate plastic free travel solution.
When used correctly they’ll last up to a year if used multiple times a week and then can either be composted or used as a firelighter helping you reduce landfill waste.