Trying to reduce the amount of plastic we consume has been a big focus for us over the past three years.
We’ve watched countless documentaries (like this one) that highlight the ways in which the waste we produce is suffocating our planet and every time, we press pause on the remote or walk out of the cinema shaking our heads and feeling sick to our stomachs thinking, we can do better!
We need to do better.
While living in our little apartment in Sydney, we were able to make simple but deliberate changes to our routine that drastically reduced our plastic usage – changing to a greengrocer that had little to no food packaging, saying no to single-use plastics at every opportunity, and always being prepared with reusable bags and cups whenever popping out to the shops or cafe on the corner.
But as much progress as we felt we were making, whenever we set off for a trip, to our immense frustration, we often found these well-ingrained good habits difficult to maintain.
Last year though, when we sat down to begin planning our adventure through Central Asia, we decided to make this a key goal for the trip and ourselves as travellers – what eco-friendly products could we mindfully add to our backpacks that would help us reduce our plastic consumption, travel in a more environmentally friendly way and make it easier to maintain our good habits on the road.
Of course, despite our best efforts, there were times where we still made mistakes: we ended up with far too many plastic bags (why do some people still insist that every piece of fruit needs a bag of its own!?) or were forced to buy bottled water when there was nowhere to refill, and then there the odd straws that were snuck into our drinks unexpectedly.
But for the most part, with a little thoughtful preparation and making conscious decisions along the way, we found these new additions greatly aided us in cutting down on unnecessary waste.
In many ways, travel is not the most environmentally friendly pastime, but minimising our plastic consumption is a good first step and something we can all do without much effort or fuss.
If you’re looking to minimise your plastic footprint while you travel, these are our favourite eco-friendly products for travel to help avoid plastic waste on the road.
Cutting out bottled water is one of the easiest waste to reduce your plastic pollution while travelling.
In the past, visiting places without clean drinking water has been the biggest reason for us to revert back to bottled water. Often we had left home with a stash of purification tablets only to have them either run out, be an unfortunate casualty in one of our shampoo explosions or expire before the end of our trip.
With a number of hiking adventures planned for Central Asia where we would be reliant on water from the mountains, we decided to invest in something a little more permanent, a Steripen.
In combination with our reusable water bottles, this meant we only needed to buy bottled water on one occasion – for our roadtrip along the Pamir Highway where we were unsure if there’d be any running water at all. The rest of the time we managed to fill up at the tap or roadside rivers along the way.
For travelling through airport security, just be sure the bottle is empty and remove the lid before screening.
Products We Love |
Water Purification | After using it almost every day during some parts of our trip, we can happily say we are huge fans of the compact and easy-to-use SteriPen which uses UV light to purify the water in seconds. For murky water, this bundle also comes with a filter (though you’ll need a wide mouth bottle) and don’t forget the AA batteries.
Alternatives | Though we are yet to try it, others rave about the LifeStraw which is a slightly more affordable option for water filtration and is also available in combination with a reusable bottle. The only possible drawback is that is filters water at a rather slow rate.
Honestly, we wish we had discovered these years ago!
No more shampoo explosions, no more lugging around kilograms of product or churning through tiny, travel-sized bottles, just a few lightweight bars that last for months, smell good enough to eat and are perfect if you’re travelling with carry on luggage only!
Products We Love |
Shampoo + Conditioner | For the past few months we’ve been using separate shampoo and conditioner bars from Lush‘s range of naked products which come with zero packaging and last for ages. Personally, the shampoo is a little too drying for my long, unruly locks, but for those with similarly unmanageable hair, you can also add hot oil treatments for extra nourishment.
Alternatives | Some alternatives which we’ve heard great things about and are eager to try include: J.R. Liggett’s Shampoo Bars which are designed for a variety of different hair types, are 100% biodegradable, come highly recommended online and, unlike Lush’s range, are sulfate-free; and New Zealand-based Ethique which is another eco-friendly, cruelty-free brand leading the way in the naked product world. As well as shampoos and conditioners, their package free range also includes body wash, face cleansers, moisturisers and deodorant.
Storage | It’s nothing fancy, but to keep the bars dry and in order, we fit the shampoo, conditioner and a bar of soap into this 400 ml leakproof container. You could also separate them into individual containers like these.
Other Toiletries | When it comes to cutting down waste in your toiletries kit, a few other essentials can also be switched out for plastic-free alternatives, such as bamboo toothbrushes and paper earbuds.
Plastic bags are one of the biggest frustrations for us on the road, and it irritates us to no end when shop attendants insist on wrapping every piece of fruit or veg in its own individual bag, despite our protestations.
This is something we’ve encountered in Eastern Europe, Asia and Latin America and often ends in utter confusion and the odd dirty glance when we rock up at the checkout with a dozen price labels and try to insist that, actually all our groceries will be just fine in the one bag.
Though annoyingly it’s sometimes impossible to get out of not taking a bag, we always, always try to carry a canvas bag or two with us just in case and take the plastic bags we might have already picked up to reuse for individual fresh produce.
Products We Love |
Canvas Bags | I absolutely love my ‘Forest tote’ from Black Lantern and over the years it’s basically become my go-to day bag for travel. Check out their other beautiful, nature inspired designs here.
Alternatives | Canvas or other reusable totes are sprinkled liberally around the internet so you should have no trouble finding a design to suit your taste. For a plain bag that folds up small, these cotton totes look to be a good choice, otherwise, this and this both have other cute designs.
For any ladies that have ever travelled long-term, particularly in Asia or Latin America, you’ve most likely been through the dread of traipsing up and down the supermarket isles unable to find the type of sanitary products you’re accustomed to.
Plus, adding these products to landfill every month is hardly environmentally friendly.
It’s been years since menstrual cups first came on my radar but it wasn’t until last year that I finally decided to make the switch. Not only do you create little to no waste when you’re on your period, the cup is also reusable, easy to clean and can be worn for up to 12 hours at a time, making it perfect for women on the road.
Products I Love |
Lunette Cup | For the past year or so, I’ve been using the Lunette Cup which is made from flexible, medical-grade silicone and is available in two sizes and a variety of colours.
If you’re looking to make the switch it can seem a little daunting, but this helpful chart compares some of the more popular options on the market so you can choose the right fit for you.
Single-use plastic items are one of the biggest (and most unnecessary) pollutants when it comes to plastic waste, and that includes plastic cutlery, straws and takeaway containers.
Whether we’re going on a multi-day hike or just to the park for a picnic, our trusty knife which has always accompanied us has now expanded to a full set of cutlery.
Products We Love |
Cutlery Set | While some travellers swear by the all-in-one Spork or a Swiss Army Knife, we prefer to keep it rather old-school and instead carry a standard metal cutlery set – like this one – and a small paring knife.
This bamboo cutlery set is a good alternative for those looking for a more lightweight option suitable for carry-on luggage only adventures.
Storage | We also always travel with an air-tight container to store a packed lunch, keep leftovers in the hostel fridge or carry dry food items or condiments when we’re on the move.
When it comes to fuelling that caffeine addiction, it doesn’t have to mean piling up the disposable coffee cups which, more often than not, are not recyclable.
If you’ll be spending a lot of time in urban hubs where cafe culture is a big part of experiencing the city, take a reusable cup in your bag instead of getting a take-away cup every time.
These days, some cafes even offer a discount as an extra incentive for being kind to the environment.
Products We Love |
Keep Cup | The KeepCup is available in a variety of sizes to satisfy even the biggest caffeine junkie and comes in both colourful BPA-free plastic or glass.
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