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10 sustainable, zero waste travel essentials for the conscious traveller

Updated: Feb 7, 2022

As travellers it’s easy to produce more waste than usual

Travellers often rely on single-use plastic products such as take away cups, plastic water bottles, plastic utensils, grocery bags, shampoo bottles, face wipes and the list just keeps getting longer…

But… Disposable plastic is among the most significant and rapidly growing source of industrial greenhouse gas emissions as well as it is the largest amount of waste ending up in our environment.

91% of all plastic is not recycled

Every year we are producing more than 300 million tons of plastic, 50% of which is from single-use plastic products. Most end up in landfills, our oceans and waterways which has severe consequences to our environment. Without going too much into detail, plastic pollution is a major factor in climate change. See, sunlight and heat cause the plastic to release greenhouse gases leading to climate change. Also plastic does not biodegrade, it remains on our earth for hundreds of years and it slowly breaks down into smaller pieces called microplastics which you might have heard of.

It does not only cause our climate to change drastically, but it also kills marine and other wild life along with coral reefs and it’s very harmful to human health as it ends up in our food supply as well as in our clothes.

So... as travellers we need to think about the footprint we leave around the world we so desperately crave to explore. We need to travel mindfully and consciously; we need to do our part to reduce our waste.

There are many easy ways to reduce our impact as travellers

Reusable water bottle and coffee mug

Plastic bottles make a up a large proportion of plastic waste and it's only about 1 out of 5 there are actually being recycled. Surely you’ve seen plastic bottles make a huge negative impact on tropical beaches; many are covered in plastic.. In some countries they actually close down beaches for a period of time every year to clean up all the disposed single-use plastic amongst other trash.

A reusable water bottle decreases greenhouse gasses emitted, decreases bottles thrown away and it would surely reduce pollution. Aside from the environmental benefits reusable water bottles have other advantages such as it being a lot cheaper and much more convenient. Plus they’re easy to travel with and bonus info - you can get organic, bohemian bottle bags to carry your water bottle in which makes it even more convenient to carry and travel with. There are plenty of reasons why a reusable coffee cup is a great investment. We don’t know about you guys, but coffee seems to haven taken over our lifes. We need that boost of caffeine every morning. If you’re not a coffee drinker, no worries, this is for whatever drinks you can have as take away.

Statistics say that one take away drink a day creates 10kg of waste a year - it might not seem like a lot, but think about how many people are having take away drinks every day multiple times a day all over the world. Consumers assume that cardboard cups are eco-friendly, but 1 out of 400 are recycled. That’s a lot of unnecessary waste.

So investing in a reusable coffee cup does not only reduce waste, but it also saves resources, saves you money, keeps your drink hot or cold and it definitely makes it tastes better in our opinion. Keep cups are made for both hot and cold drinks, they’re easy to wash up and bring along while you travel. So, there are no excuses in this case.

Bamboo utensil set & drinking straws

This one is a no brainer. Bamboo utensils and straws are much more effective than plastic utensils. How many plastic utensils have you broken in your lifetime? Probably a lot… If you invest in a bamboo utensil set you’ll never have to fish out small pieces of plastic cutlery from your food, so that’s one great reason to make the switch.

Besides from this bamboo is heat, stain and water-resistant and super easy to clean up without leaving any traces of smell. They often come in a little pouch made from organic fabrics containing a fork, knife, tablespoon, teaspoon, straw and straw cleaner - some have chopsticks as well. They’re easy to carry in your hand bag or carry on travel bag. Great alternative when travelling on airplanes, grabbing take away food or packing for a picnic. Drinking straws also come in stainless steel material which is also sustainable and eco-friendly.

Reusable Grocery Bags

There’s been a big debate on reusable bags vs disposable. There are many things to take into consideration, but the main questions are the following:

What’s the environmental impact of reusable bags, disposable bags and when are reusable bags better than disposable?

If we compare a single-use plastic bag (which you find in almost every grocery store) to a reusable cotton bag, also referred to as a tote, producing one plastic bag has a relatively low environmental impact where the tote has a surprisingly high environmental impact.

There goes a lot of effort into growing cotton and producing the cotton bags, but if you keep it for a long time, it’ll be more eco-friendly than single-use plastic bags. The impact from plastic bags comes from using so many of them. So if you take care of your tote and use it around 200 times it’ll be more eco-friendly than single-use plastic bags. Aside from the above, plastic bags often end up in our oceans. It takes around 20 years to decompose a plastic bag and still they break down into smaller pieces; microplastics. So they do remain in our environment and causes lots of damage. Sea turtles suffer a lot from plastic bags in the ocean as they often confuse it with jelly fish leaving them unable to feed which results in starvation. Even if they did survive, consuming plastic can make turtles unnaturally buoyant which can stunt their growth and lead to slow reproduction.

We actually witnessed first hand turtles being rescued on Moreton Island, Australia. It's such a massive issue and has a unbelievable big impact on marine life. During our time on Moreton Island we witnessed 3 turtle rescues where as the issues were that the turtles had been consuming plastic and some were caught and tangled in fishing nets. It was horrible seeing these turtles suffer and it definitely made us more aware that we need to think about our impact and consumer habits.

So the key take away from this is that reusable bags are a great alternative regarding zero waste and sustainability. They’re easy to bring along in your travel bag plus they have multiple functions. You can use them as grocery bags, for your veggies to reduce buying them wrapped in plastic, you can use them for laundry and as a hand bag for when you’re on a day trip. Plus they look a lot more stylish than a plastic bag. And of course, you might save a turtle or two along the way which is the absolute biggest bonus.

Bamboo toothbrush & toothpaste tablets

One billion (yes you read that right) toothbrushes made from plastic are thrown away each year in the U.S alone and since plastic is essentially indestructible nearly every single toothbrush thrown away since the 1930’s are still out there as trash.

That is crazy! So why not switch to an alternative that puts less stress on the environment?

A bamboo toothbrush is sustainable, biodegradable and non-toxic which makes it a great alternative to a plastic toothbrush. Make sure to look for one that’s dental approved and then you’ll be sure to get the same quality of cleaning from a bamboo toothbrush as you would from a plastic one, plus you’re eliminating unnecessary waste. You can also get bamboo cases so they’re easy to bring along and travel with. Boom, zero plastic waste!

As for the toothpaste… 400 million toothpaste tubes are estimated to be thrown away every year also in the U.S alone. Imagine how many is thrown away each year in the WHOLE world.

Switching to toothpaste tablets are a great alternative in so many ways! They’re usually housed in recyclable or reusable packaging which makes them a better alternative in terms of sustainability. It’s all natural ingredients, there are different flavours, some have whitening effects, most have vegan-friendly ingredients and there should be enough tablets for brushing your teeth twice a day for a month in one pack. These tablets are also great for travellers as they don't take up lots of space and you can use them as a quick refresher on-the-go.

"Overall only healthy teeth and a cleaner planet"

Shampoo & Conditioner Bars

Alright so, shampoo and conditioner bars have the exact same effect as a traditional liquid shampoo and conditioner - but without the plastic packaging. There are many options matching different hair types, they typically provide 50-75 washes and produces significantly less plastic waste.

Imagine 1164 football fields filled with shampoo and conditioner plastic bottles; that's how many bottles are produced and thrown away each year in the U.S alone. Read that again and let it sink in. That should be reason enough to make the switch, but we'll keep going.

Liquid shampoo and conditioner products are generally 60% water, so by using solid bars it eliminates the dependence on water as well as it reduces carbon emissions during transportation as solid bars are smaller and lighter weight than traditional plastic bottles.

Switching to solid bars could easily divert 3 bottles from our landfills

So by switching to solid bars you could at least divert 3 bottles from our landfill per set bought. That's a difference that matters. These are also great for travellers as there are travel tin cases available, they take up less space, no more shampoo explosions in your backpacks (yes that did happen to us while backpacking in Australia) and it's affordable. A very small and simple solution to reduce plastic waste while you're traveling, but also for when you're home.

Convinced yet?

Safety Razors

You've probably heard of safety razors, but what are the benefits really?

Get this: there are 2 billion plastic razors that ends up in our landfills each year! So why not end our unfavourable use of plastic razors when the our stock is used up. Safety razors are not only more sustainable because they're plastic free and designed to last a lifetime, but they also benefit your skin. Shaving with a safety razor reduces skin irritation, ingrown hairs and you get a much closer shave too. Also with a safety razor you can unscrew it so you can clean out all the build up hair, which you can't do with a plastic razor. They are also more cost effective in the long run. As we mentioned these are designed to last a lifetime, the only thing you have to repurchase is the blades.

So let's break down the cost.

The average cost of a plastic razor handle is $12 and a pack of 4 blades are on average $19. Based on own experience we assume that a blade is used every other day on average so that means you'll switch out the blade around every 2-3 weeks which adds up to a cost of $86-114 a year and then the $12 for the handle comes on top which is $98-126 a year. Also it's very common to purchase multiple razor handles throughout the time period of using a razor because they go a little disgusting over time, break or you misplace them or forget them somewhere and that's not in the calculations.

With a safety razor you pay an average of $32.50 which seems like a lot up front but they do last a lifetime so it's a one time payment and the replacement blades are on average around $4 for a pack of 10 blades. This means you'll have to purchase 2-3 10 packs a year and the cost will go down to $8-12 a year for the blades.

So, as we said it's much more cost effective and will save you lots of $$$ in the long run.

Zero waste deodorant

Say hello to a zero waste deodorant! This I great in so many ways; non-toxic, natural ingredients to avoid skin irritation, to avoid exposing your skin to harmful chemicals and avoid the risk of causing allergic reactions. You can say goodbye to embarrassing yellow stains under the armpits by getting rid of the aluminium (which contributes to the stains) from a conventional deodorant. It is plastic free packaging which means they are 100% biodegradable, compostable and recyclable - do we need to say it is much better for the planet?

They take up the same amount of space, they last for much longer (again super cost effective in the long run) and they are already very affordable. Another great way to reduce your impact whilst traveling. You go through so many deodorants in a lifetime and they cause so much harm as they also end up in our landfills as all the other plastic products out there.

This is better for your skin, your bank account and the earth plus it's such an easy switch!

Bamboo hair brush

A bamboo based hair brush is a great alternative and like many other bamboo products this eliminates unnecessary waste. They're plastic-free (even the cushion bit which is made from natural rubber), biodegradable and they tend to last way longer which also makes them more cost effective. A plastic hair brush often breaks easily unlike bamboo which is a super strong material. Another benefit from a bamboo hair brush is that it's actually better for your hair. It slides smoothly through your hair leading to less damage and it also helps detangling better because it's smoother.

So if you do need a hair brush why not switch to one that's's taking better care of the environment, your hair and one that's just as easy to bring along on your travels as well as more cost effective? Honestly this is another no brainer if you ask us!

Plastic free sanitary products

Many of us women don't realise how big of an impact our menstrual periods have on the environment. In fact the average women approximately goes through more than 11.000 disposable tampons and pads which equals 125-150kg over a lifetime. That is a serious amount of unnecessary waste per individual.

Tampons, pads and pantyliners along with their packaging generate more than 200.000 tonnes of waste a year AND they all contain plastic - actually up to 90%

So let's break this one down shall we... The production of cotton is a very water intensive production and requires SO MUCH to produce just a little bud. Think of how much cotton is used to produce sanitary products, how many women are using these and for how long - this takes up lots of resources. In addition most pads contain polyethylene plastic which is super harmful to the environment as well as the production. Most tampons contain very toxic chemicals and when the products end up in our landfills these chemicals gets soaked up by the earth and are released as pollution.

Most sanitary products end up in our landfills because we dispose of them incorrectly for example by flushing them down the drain. They end up in our waterways, oceans, rivers, beaches and so on. In the U.S alone 12 billion pads and 7 million tampons are pollution our landfills annually.

The greener alternative is a menstrual cup, reusable pads and pantyliners.

Menstrual cups can last for up to 10 years with proper care which means they're not only minimising the environmental impact but also much more cost effective. Another benefit are that they are made from silicone which means they're hygienic because bacteria can't grow on it freely and there are no toxic chemicals in them.

Menstrual pads and pantyliners are also a great alternative. They are good to your skin as they are much more comfortable and super soft, they don't expose you to chemicals, they are cost effective as they usually tend to last up to 5 years and of course they don't contribute to landfills as they are reusable, biodegradable and/or recyclable.

These are also super convenient to travel with as they don't take up a lot of space and you never have to worry about being unprepared for a period or buying sanitary products and having to squeeze it all in your backpack.

So to all my fellow women out there, are you ready to make the switch for a cleaner planet?

GIANT YES to plastic-free, cruelty-free, compostable and biodegradable, reusable, sustainable and travel friendly products!

Hope this brought some insight on how important it is to think about the footprint we leave on this beautiful planet we call home. We hope this gave you lots of reasons and inspired you to implement better consumer habits whilst traveling, but also whilst being at home.

This is all our best swops regarding travel-friendly, sustainable and zero waste essentials. These days there are so many different brands who develop many different, sustainable products and they make it super easy and affordable to switch from single-use products.

All you have to do is find your favourite product and make the swop!

Let's care more for our own health, help the environment and its inhabitants. Let's go zero waste!

There's no planet B.

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