Traveling sustainably can be difficult, especially on longer journeys. Without the comforts of home at your disposal, taking steps to be eco-friendly on the road requires a little extra planning and effort. Fortunately, it’s not impossible! I’ve created an eco-friendly packing list with the items that have helped me on my six month journey so far. I’ve also included a few things I wish I had, or would have packed if I had more space. Read on for my recommendations!
*This post contains affiliate links to the Well Earth Goods plastic-free store, based out of the United States. If you purchase an item using a link below, I’ll receive a small commission from your purchase (it doesn’t cost you anything extra, but helps me keep my blog afloat.)
My eco-friendly food travel kit. Spork, reusable straws, tupperware, tote bag, and reusable water bottle.
- Water filter straw
- Mesh fruit/veggie bag
- Spork/bottle opener
- Reusable Water bottle
- Tupperware containers
- Reusable straws
- Tote bag
- Shampoo bars
- Conditioner bars
- Bar soap
- Bamboo toothbrush
- Toothpaste tabs
- Eco-friendly sunscreen
- Deodorant bars
That’s the quick and dirty list. I’ll break each one of these down below and give you my personal recommendation on brands and where you can get them.
- Laundry tabs
- Solar charger
- Essential oils & reusable spray bottle instead of free breeze
Food items for your eco-friendly packing list
1. Reusable Water bottle
Possibly the most obvious choice is to bring a reusable water bottle. I brought two with me on this trip, one being Hydroflask which was great for large amounts of water and keeping things icy cold. The other was the a Hydaway, which is much smaller but compresses to a flat sphere which can easily be strapped to your backpack or stuffed in a tote bag.
Sadly, I lost both of those. Now I’m using a Camelback, which doesn’t compress or keep things as cold, but is a happy medium with amount of water it stores.
The perks of bringing your own reusable bottle go beyond minimizing the number of plastic bottles you’ll buy. I guarantee you’ll save a lot of money too as many countries around the world don’t offer free water at restaurants or have readily accessible water fountains!
2. Water filter straw
If you’re in a country that doesn’t have clean tap water, it can be even harder to avoid buying/using plastic bottle water. Whether you’re hiking or just filling up your bottle at the hotel, a water filtration straw can be a huge help. I’ve used LifeStraw before and really liked it.
An even easier option might be the Water To Go water bottle, which filters out all the nasties so you can drink tap water from anywhere in the world! It’s only $30 for the small bottle and for the big one. One bottle can replace about 250 or 400 plastic water bottles respectively, lasting 2-3 months of regular use.
You can grab a replaceable filter for $16 too, adding another 2 months onto your bottle (if you fill it up 3 times a day). Thankfully, the filter membrane is recyclable and biodegradable! It works pretty much on everything but salt water, so you’re good to go with lakes, puddles, ponds, streams, and definitely tap water.
3. Reusable Straws
To go along with your water bottle, you’ll probably want some reusable straws. Depending on your preference, there’s a ton you can purchase. I’ve got a few from Starbucks, and a few from who knows where else, but there are plenty of cheap options online too. The straws I’m linking to here stainless steel, and bent at the end for easier drinking. Plus they’re only $4 each.
You really only need one or two, by the way. I find the more of something I have, the easier I lose them. But if I only have one, I take better care of it and know exactly where I put it! Kind of like my hair ties…
4. Spork/bottle opener
Plastic silverware sets are insidious little plastics pieces that are unnecessary if you’re able to clean them. This nifty FinessCity spork I brought with me even has a bottle opener on the end! What more could you need. The FinesseCity one is out of stock but this spork is almost identical.
5. Tupperware containers/Lunchbox
Great for leftovers, whether you’re eating out or cooking at the hostel. Just be sure not to leave your lunchbox in the hostel fridge when you check out. (Not that I’ve ever done that…) The one I’m linking to here is also stainless steel and is a 3 piece set, including a smaller container for condiments or sauces.
6. Mesh fruit/veggie bags
These mesh baggies super light and can be used for other souvenirs too. Super nice to have when grocery shopping though so you can pick up mushrooms, soft fruits, or other produce without leaving them loose in your tote bag. What makes them special? Stretchy fabric for extra carrying capacity, and it meets the Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS) for certified organic cotton knit fabric – a lot of words to say it’s one of the most eco-friendly mesh bags you’ll find.
Well Earth Good also sells these super cute linen bento bags that tie at the top, perfect for packing your dry food snack (nuts, crackers, seeds, pretzels).
7. Tote bag
Speaking of reusable bags – plastic bags are one of the worst consumer plastics out there and easy to avoid if you bring your own tote bag. They’re super light-weight and foldable, so it doesn’t have to take up any space in your bag. And can double as a souvenir shopping bag and/or extra storage when your backpack or luggage starts to overflow.
This organic cotton bag also meets the GOTS standards, is sized extra large, and will only set you back $9. Plus the super sturdy handles mean you never have to worry about your losing produce to the pavement when your tote rips in the parking lot.
8. Reusable coffee mug
I usually end up using my coffee mug as a water bottle once I drink my coffee, but I think I might be a lone wolf on that one as most people don’t want their water slightly coffee flavored.
If you’re not a weirdo like me, you’ll love these beautiful Joco cups – plastic free, anti-splash lid, dishwasher & microwavable safe, BPA safe. My favorite part is the design shows off your beverage.
Eco-Friendly Hygiene Items
1. Shampoo bars
This has been one of my favorite hygiene replacements yet. I use LUSH brands, but some people aren’t a fan of the chemicals they use (though they’re vegan and don’t test on animals, which are my main two criteria at the moment). A single shampoo bar will produce an enormous amount of bubbles with just a few swipes on wet hair. You can buy metal tins for a few bucks to store them in. (Let them air dry a bit before closing the lid though or they’ll get stuck to the container.)
Top left: LUSH Deodorant Bar Top right: LUSH Shampoo Bar Bottom: LUSH Conditioner Bar
2. Conditioner bars
Like the shampoo bars, except conditioner. And from my experience, way less bubbles.
3. Bar soap
Good ole, classic, bar soap. You know the drill with this. Choose your favorite brand (one that doesn’t test on animals, if you please!) Lasts so much longer than the travel size hygiene items.
4. Bamboo toothbrush
I bought my first bamboo toothbrush on this trip when I learned how many plastic toothbrushes are disposed of every year. I mean, you are supposed to replace them several times a year. Makes sense. The Humble Brush has been working great for me!
I’ve got a whole post on the best eco-options available for toothbrushes too –read it here.
5. Toothpaste tabs
I’ve purchased these from LUSH as well. The container does come in plastic, but it’s recyclable. I’m working on a way around this too. They have lots of different flavors, and I think also last a bit longer than the travel size toothpastes.
6. Eco-friendly sunscreen
Did you know that most sunscreens contain chemicals that are seriously harming the coral reefs? While it’s important to protect your skin, we gotta protect our precious ocean life too. Here’s an option for safe brand to use that’s also plastic free.
7. Deodorant bars
Just like a deodorant stick minus all the plastic in the container! Also purchased mine from LUSH.
There are some other good brands though, too. Here are my fave recommendations.
8. Menstrual cups
While I opted for an IUD which has basically caused my period to cease, this is not the case for everyone and not an ideal option for others. Though I’ve heard they take a bit of getting used to, menstrual cups save a ton of plastic from pads and tampons. They also tend to be better for you as the cotton in most tampons is filled with chemicals you don’t want in your most sensitive lady-bits.
9. Reusable Razor
For a long time, I’ve only seen options for reusable handles with disposable heads. Until now!
Miscellaneous Items for your Eco-Friendly Packing List
1. Laundry tabs
Save some water by doing laundry in the sink – especially good for sheer/thin clothing or quick-dry clothing. If you’ve got the time, let things air-dry instead of using the energy to throw it in the dryer. You’ll save a lot of money with both as it often costs a few dollars to do each load of laundry in a laundromat. Plus, let’s face it, nobody wants to spend their valuable travel time sitting in the laundromat.
2. Solar charger
This nifty gadget charges in the sun and refuels all your electronics with a USB charger. Great for when your phone/laptop dies while you’re away from an outlet, whether that’s on a train or on a hike.
3. Essential oils & reusable spray bottle instead of free breeze
Febreeze tends to have a lot of chemicals that aren’t great for the planet. Plus, when it’s out, you usually have to recycle the bottle. Instead, bring a small container of lavender essential oil and tea tree oil, along with a reusable spray bottle. Fill it up with water, add 10 drops each of lavender and tea tree oil, and you have your very own febreeze!
Safe to use on clothes, bedding, or as a face/body spray if you’re needing a little refresher yourself. It’s saved me when my clothes are getting musty or I’M getting musty but can’t get to a shower for a while. (Hiking. Long train rides. Flight delays at the airport. You get the drift.) Even better, you can dump it out before you board a flight and won’t have to count it in your liquids like you would the febreeze. The essential oils are smaller and will last you a LOT longer too.
4. Recycled travel journals
So you can smile about your eco-friendly ways every time you journal about your trip.
Quick tips for being eco-friendly on the go
- Trade out your books at a hostel instead of throwing them away
- Look for recycling bins and donation bins as you walk through the city to your hotel
- Turn the lights & electronics off when not in use to save energy
- Reuse your towels and sheets in the hotel rooms to save water from laundry
- Seek out transport in this order Walking & bikes
- Private Jets/Cruise Ships
Obviously this is not an all inclusive list. For every item you put in your bag, there is a more and less sustainable equivalent. But this eco-friendly packing list is a good start and can cut down on some of the most pervasive types of pollution we create as tourists when we travel. If you add all these items to your sustainable travel packing list, you’ll be well on the road to an eco-friendly adventure!