Y’all know that I always think it’s important to live sustainably, and times when I’m traveling are no exception! In fact, I would argue that it is especially important to be eco-minded when traveling since traveling tends to be inherently environmentally unfriendly. You typically burn more fossil fuels than normal when you travel long distance by car or plane. And, you’re likely using more water, since your hotel towels and sheets are probably washed way more frequently than you would wash your own towels and sheets at home. It’s great to be able to offset some of these environment ills with some sustainable packing!
I tend to travel at least a couple of times a year and just got back from a fantastic vacation in Belize. I have discovered some great products that help me be a bit more earth-friendly while traveling. Here are some of my favorite sustainable travel essentials:
1. Infinity Jars
I have been using Infinity Jars glass bottles for my travel toiletries for a couple of years now, and I love them! Glass is better for the environment (and for our own personal health!) than plastic, since glass does not leach contaminants like plastic does. I’ve found that they are sturdier and last longer than the cheap plastic bottles I used to buy at Target. I haven’t had to replace a single one of my glass bottles. Another bonus is that Infinity Jars bottles have UV filtering technology to keep your toiletries fresher for longer. And finally, I love that you can purchase all different shapes and sizes depending on your specific needs. I can pack more products into that clear quart size baggie at the airport because I have smaller jars and bottles that only hold what I truly need, rather than the standard 3.4 oz plastic bottles I used previously.
Pro tip: Infinity Jars often runs discounts on their website, which is especially helpful if you are buying lots of jars at once. You can also buy them at full price on Amazon and get free shipping with Prime, which is nice if you’re placing a small order that wouldn’t count for free shipping on the Infinity Jars website.
I always pack sunscreen when I’m on vacation. Even if my destination has a chilly climate, I still often want sunscreen at least for my face when I’m out and about exploring. One of my favorite environmentally friendly sunscreens is Alba Botanica, which is coral reef friendly and free from harmful ingredients like oxybenzone, octinoxate, and synthetic fragrance. I also recommend Coola, which offers travel size bottles of natural, 97% organic, farm-to-face sourced sunscreen.
3. Bug spray
Bug spray is a must if you are traveling in a warm or tropical climate. Nothing ruins a vacation faster than dozens of itchy bites all over your arms and legs! Unfortunately, most bug sprays contain DEET, which is a chemical that is known to be slightly toxic for humans, birds, and aquatic life. The good news is that there is an effective natural alternative to DEET: oil of lemon eucalyptus. This natural insect repellant is easily available (I’ve purchased the Coleman brand) and is recommended by the CDC as an effective method for repelling insects and preventing mosquito-borne illnesses such as malaria.
For avid readers, a Kindle or similar e-reader device is a great way to reduce waste while also packing light! Books use precious resources like trees, ink, and energy. Kindles aren’t exactly resource-free themselves, but because they can be used over and over again for each book you want to read, they ultimately save on resources in the long run, provided you use them more than a couple of times. And, I love not having to pack a bunch of heavy books in my suitcase!
Pro tips: I love the Kindle Paperwhite, since the illuminated screen allows you to read even in a dark airplane or car. Also, be sure to check out your local library’s Kindle-compatible e-book options, which can help you save money!
5. Eco-friendly sunglasses
If you’re going to be outside at all during your vacation, sunglasses are a must! You can protect the earth in addition to your eyes by avoiding traditional plastic sunglasses and instead purchasing a pair made from a more sustainable material. SOLO Eyewear makes sunglasses from repurposed bamboo and recycled plastic. Other great bamboo sunglasses options are WearPanda, Woodwear, and Swell Vision.
When I’m on vacation, I always end up walking A LOT. If you need to get comfortable shoes for an upcoming trip, you might as well buy a pair that is sustainably made! Enter my favorite shoe brand, Rothy’s. You can read my full review on Rothy’s here, but the quick summary is that they are incredibly comfortable, easy to pack, lightweight, easy to slip on and off for airport security, machine washable in case they get dirty on all of your adventures, and made from recycled water bottles! And fashionable, of course, with four different styles (flat, point, loafer, and sneaker) available in dozens of colors. So much winning. Use this link to get $20 off your first order.
7. Water bottle
When you’re traveling, you don’t have access to your usual set of cups in your kitchen cupboard! Rather than purchasing bottled water while out and about and contributing to the earth’s already enormous plastic problem, bring a water bottle with you and fill it up whenever you’re back at your hotel or have access to another clean water source. I’m pretty picky about water bottles, especially when I’m traveling, as I want one that has a covered mouthpiece. As a germaphobe, I hate putting my mouth on a part of the bottle that has been exposed to whatever dirt and germs are floating around out there. My top pick for a travel water bottle is the aptly-named “Traveler” model by S’Well (some models also available on Amazon). The cap screws on and off to reveal a protected rim that you drink from, and the bottle keeps drinks cold for 24 hours or hot for 12. And, these bottles look nice, too…you can feel good taking them anywhere. Finally, S’Well gives back to clean water efforts, which is fantastic!
8. CleanWell hand sanitizer
I always take hand sanitizer with me on vacation. You’re often traveling through a lot of germy places (ew, airports), and there aren’t always convenient options for washing your hands. I love this eco-friendly hand sanitizer from CleanWell. The organic and natural formula omits the toxic chemicals found in traditional sanitizers (I’m looking at you, parabens and fragrance!), and it doesn’t have that awful alcohol smell. Clean ingredients and clean hands!
9. Makeup removal cloth
If you’re trying to pack light and/or minimize the amount of liquids you’re carrying through airport security, a makeup removal cloth is a great option. Bringing a cloth eliminates the need to pack cotton swabs and liquid makeup remover or soap. And, it’s much more sustainable than disposable wipes, since it can be reused again and again! If you’re a regular Fairly Southern reader, you know that I’ve reviewed the Norwex body cloth. I also own these chemical-free cloths that I purchased on Amazon and have heard great things about EndureLash, a makeup removal cloth made from organic, sustainable materials.
I’d love to hear from y’all in the comments: Do you have other ideas for how to travel more sustainably? Are there any earth-friendly items that you can’t travel without?
P.S. – This post may contain affiliate links, which means that I may receive a small commission if you purchase a product using a link from this post. Read more here about my disclaimers/disclosures.