This year, National Geographic chose to spotlight the worldwide plastic waste crisis with a tagline that made waves across the globe, “PLANET OR PLASTIC?”
As travellers, we always say that there’s so much to love about the world. But think about it: Climates are changing rapidly because of pollution, single-use consumerism is at its peak, and humans can’t seem to stay away from toxic chemicals — they’re in our food, our personal care products, and even in the air we breathe!
Time will come when our Earth finally gives up on us and there wouldn’t be anything left for us to “love.”
So before you pack for your next trip, figure out how you can reduce your waste on-the-go. Think about your purchases and how they may have an impact on the environment. After all, it’s all about buying less and consuming only what you need.
Here are a few eco-friendly must-haves to bring to your next adventure to get you started.
Tip: Most of us know this by heart, so say it with me: reuse, reduce, recycle. Let’s add another “R” while we’re at it. Refuse single-use plastic every chance you get. It sends a strong message to establishments.
Usually, shopping equates to a lot of plastic packaging. Do away with all this excess waste by bringing an eco bag with you wherever you go. If you already have a tote bag lying around at home, you don’t even have to buy a new one!
One of the reasons why a lot of people prefer plastic is because it’s waterproof. The problem is we tend to use plastic bags just once and after that, into the bin it goes. A wet bag solves this problem.
Refillable Water bottle
There are many movements to “ban the bottle,” but while we haven’t completely said goodbye to bottled drinks just yet, carry a refillable drinking bottle with you. If you can’t avoid purchasing bottled drinks, turn it into an ecobrick after chugging down its contents.
Reusable zip bags
We get it — zip bags are so convenient. But they’re also 100% plastic. Thankfully, there are options that are kinder to the environment. Some are made of cloth and others, silicone. As long as you can keep on reusing it, it’s a better alternative.
Tip: Anything that touches food needs regular cleaning. Go the extra mile by using dishwashing liquid that’s biodegradable and non-toxic. What you wash down the drain matters, too.
In 2015, a video f a turtle with a plastic straw stuck up its nostril went viral online. By the time scientists had removed the straw, the turtle was a bloody mess and was clearly in a lot of pain. So please, skip a straw, save a turtle or a whale or a seabird. Skip a plastic straw and you save a life. You can choose between metal straws and bamboo straws, but the latter is awesome because it’s biodegradable.
Having a collapsible cup in your bag is just as convenient for you as it is good for mother nature. Choose a cup that comes with a spill-proof lid.
Do away with plastic spoons, forks, and knives. By bringing your own, you’re also assured of clean utensils every meal time.
The eco alternative to plastic wrap or cling film, beeswax wraps keep your food fresh without the threat of single-use waste. Wraps made from cloth and beeswax need cleaning and re-waxing from time to time, though. If this will keep you from reusing them, then just opt for washable silicone wraps.
Tip: Buy local when you can. Sourcing locally lets you help homegrown businesses and lessens your carbon footprint. Remember, the fewer miles it takes to get to you, the better.
The toothbrushes we’re accustomed to are basically thick sticks of plastic with tiny bristles made of the same material. Think of that the next time you’re brushing your pearly whites.
Most tooth powders are made from non-toxic, all-natural ingredients. They also don’t come with all that wasteful packaging so it’s definitely a win-win.
Solid cleansing bars
Sachets, plastic bottles, and even soap cartons with flashy packaging? All single-use waste. From shampoo to soap and even feminine wash, there are solid cleansing bars that you could go for instead. These items are made from all-natural ingredients, too, which means they would be paraben- and sulfate-free. Plus, storing them won’t be as messy since all you need is a reusable container.
Refillable toiletries and skincare
If you still prefer liquid skincare and haircare products, there are local stores that sell them with refillable jars and bottles. Their formulations often feature naturally-derived, skin-loving ingredients. They do refills as well.
They may be keeping you safe from all the sun’s harmful rays, but most sunblocks in the market are toxic to ocean life. Look for sea-safe alternatives instead. No nasty chemicals means that it would be kinder to your skin, too.
All-natural or organic products
In fact, the same could be said for all beauty and personal care products. From makeup to antiperspirant, most of the powders, liquids, and creams we slap on our skin are laden with chemicals that do more harm than good in the long run. Looking for paraben- and sulfate-free alternatives made with all-natural or organic ingredients benefits both you and mother earth.
Sugar wax and tweezers
You know where I’m going with this. Shavers are plastic. So sugar wax and tweezers are your best bet if you want to go the eco-friendly route while keeping oneself hair-free.
This one’s for the ladies. If you’re not keen on shifting to the menstrual cup just yet, then maybe you can try washable feminine pads instead.
Helping our environment heal is a huge undertaking, and going zero-waste is drastic change for the average consumer. But no matter where you are in the world, every step taken towards an eco-friendly lifestyle, whether you’re at home or on the road, counts. What eco-friendly items do you bring with you on your travels? We’d love to know.