When I first started traveling, I was a young 20-something year-old with little to no experience when it came to planning an itinerary, managing the logistics like flights, buses and immunizations, or even the best way to acquire the gear you need.
The underlying principle I used for everything was “go cheap.” Now that I know not just more about traveling, but also how to travel sustainably and in an eco-friendly way, I catch myself cringing when I look back on past trips, specifically with the gear I purchased.
Now it’s no secret that organic, vegan, sustainable products don’t come cheap, but there are two guarantees you can rely on: they’re eco-friendly and (usually) reusable.
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Knowing what I know now, I’ve actually gone back and replaced a lot of my travel gear (don’t worry I didn’t throw away; I’m a firm believer in giving gear/selling it on the cheap to friends) with these eco-friendly options.
If you’re just getting into travel yourself, or you’re looking to swap your current gear out for some more sustainable options, here is the only list of eco-friendly, sustainable travel products that you’ll ever need!
21 Best Eco-Friendly Products
Eco-Friendly Travel Gear
When it comes to a reliable backpack that’s also great for the environment, Osprey is my go-to brand. The Osprey Fairview 55 for Women and Fairpoint 55 for Men come with a whole lineup of features that make them ideal for travelers: they’ve got shoulder straps and hip belts, a main compartment that’s designed to unzip like a duffel bag, and a detachable daypack with a designated laptop and tablet sleeve. As far as sustainability goes, Osprey designs all their backs with the highest-quality materials that have the lowest environmental impact and utilize water repellents and dyes that are safest for both the environment and customers.
For any long-term traveler, packing cubes are ESSENTIAL for staying organized and keeping your sanity. If you’re looking for a reliable set of packing cubes that are also good for the environment, then check out this 4-piece packing cube set from Florious. Their products are made from 100% recycled materials and designed to stand up to even the most hardcore adventure!
No doubt, a travel towel that’s lightweight and takes up little room in your pack is an essential piece of gear to bring with you on any trip, and for an eco-friendly option, I have to go with this travel towel by Nomadix. It’s made 100% from recycled plastic bottles, and has the added bonus of being super light, compact, and quick-drying.
The go-to eco-friendly water bottle has to be Nomader’s collapsible water bottle. Made with BPA-free silicone, it comes with a leak-proof screw lid, a convenient carry-strap, and folds up nice and compact when you’re not using it. This is the perfect solution for the eco-conscious traveler on the go!
One thing I never got used to while traveling across Southeast Asia was the amount of single-use plastics and Styrofoam that littered the street and countryside. And what’s worse is that despite my best efforts I added to it. While I had my handy Nalgene on me at all times, what I really needed was a reusable, collapsible coffee cup like this one from SUNOZ.
Who said ziplock bags are just for food? I don’t know about you guys, but I use ziplock bags for everything! Medication, toiletries, travel documents – the list goes on and on. But it wasn’t until this year that I made the switch to reusable ziplock bags. I love these reusable bags by SPLF for their eco-friendly, recyclable material that’s also PVC, BPA, chloride and lead free!
Circling back to the topic of evil single-use plastics, some of the worst culprits are utensils like forks, knives, chopsticks, and especially straws. I can’t tell you how many snorkeling and scuba diving adventures I went on that included picking up some type of plastic cutlery. Here’s an easy way to avoid single-use plastic, though: OASMU’s reusable, travel set of utensils, including: fork, knife, spoon, chopsticks, two straws and cleaning brush. And it all packs up into a super small, skinny carrying case with a carabiner that you can use to clip the whole thing to your bag. Plus, for the low price of $7.99 – SOLD!
Having a durable, roomy toiletry bag is a must if you plan on being on the road for any amount of time. For many reasons, going with the Osprey UltraLight Roll Organizer is the best choice for the traveler who wants to stay organized and help the environment. Not only does Osprey do a great job of designing high quality, eco-friendly products, this toiletry bag features a multiple pocketing system with designated spots for certain items, a hanging clip loop that lets you suspend your toiletries from virtually anywhere, and even a built-in mirror!
I love traveling but I hate trying to stay clean, and I’m talking more about my clothes than myself! It doesn’t matter how many times I shower, once you’ve washed all your clothes in a sink once or twice, it’s hard to feel clean again. Cue this portable wash bag by Scrubba, which prides itself on being “the world’s smallest ‘washing machine’.” All you have to do is throw your clothes in the bag, add some water and detergent, and then hand scrub the sh*t out of your stuff and BOOM! – you’re left with perfectly clean clothes and no negative environmental impact.
Eco-Friendly Travel Toiletries
Ladies, there are so many reasons to switch to using a menstrual cup over traditional period products. Not only will you eliminate a ton of waste from your life but using a menstrual cup like the Diva Cup is more hygienic, lasts longer than traditional period products, and saves you a bunch of money!
I’ve used plastic tooth brushes my entire life, and it never occurred to me that I should switch to something that’s actually biodegradable, and won’t just sit in some landfill. Enter this awesome bamboo toothbrush from Nuduko. The 10-piece toothbrush comes with super soft bristles, is 100% natural, eco-friendly and compostable!
Like toothbrushes, conventional plastic razors are nearly impossible to recycle and pile up in either landfills or our oceans. Say hello to this double edge bamboo razor from Bambaw! It’s super durable, provides a super close shave, cost effective (you just need to buy replacement blades once you’ve got the razor) and perfectly eco-friendly.
Bambaw does it again with another awesome eco-friendly produce. Now I personally don’t really wear makeup, but I love Bambaw’s products and they’ve got some of the best reusable makeup remover pads. This 16-pack is made with reusable cotton, includes a washable laundry bag, and can be used for years!
It took traveling all the way to the Philippines for me to learn that there are tons of sunscreen brands out there that are made with harmful chemicals that contribute to the deterioration of our coral reefs – is that sad or what?! While using a vegan sunscreen option like this one from Sun Bum is the perfect way to protect our oceans, it also doesn’t take a genius to figure out that any chemicals that can harm coral reefs are probably not the best thing for your skin.
Mosquitos sucks, but so do most of the insect repellants that you find on the market. Not only are they usually in aerosol cans that are harmful for the environment, but they’re also full of harsh chemicals that are bad for the planet and the you! That’s why I love this deet-free insect repellant from Repel. Not only does it keep insects off with all natural ingredients, but it also comes in a convenient, TSA-friendly, pen-sized pump spray bottle that packs perfectly in your pack.
For a healthy, animal-friendly, and all-natural deodorant option, I go with Primal Life Organics, specifically their white lavender (but they’ve also got options like black lavender, white coconut, and black rouge). Made with natural ingredients like hemp seed oil, bentonite clay, and arrowroot powder, Primal Life has also taken great care to make sure their product is 100% eco-friendly. That’s why they exclusively use cardboard tubes that are safe for the environment. Not to mention it comes in the perfect size for travelers!
Who ever said taking care of your hair rules out taking care of the environment? This shampoo and conditioner bar by Clever Yoga accomplishes both those tasks. This coconut oil-based shampoo is made with all-natural ingredients, comes with no SLS and is paraben free. In addition to being vegan and 100% cruelty free, Clever Yoga also packages their products in recyclable, compostable materials in an effort to reduce waste.
Eco-Friendly Travel Clothing & Accessories
I love all things North Face, and their down jackets are no exception. If you’re looking for an eco-friendly down jacket that’s lightweight and keeps you warm, the North Face’s ThermoBall for Men and Women is perfect. But not only are TNF’s products of the highest quality, their commitment to sustainability and responsible manufacturing is unmatched. They incorporate recycled materials into their gear, and take responsibility for the product’s entire life cycle with their Clothes the Loop take-back program.
I can think of few items in my backpack that I rely on more than my rain jacket when I go traveling. It can make or break a day of exploring, especially if you find yourself in a country like the Philippines or Thailand that’s prone to rain showers throughout the day during monsoon season. The North Face’s Venture jacket for Men and Women checks all the boxes for a great rain jacket. It’s breathable, has a relaxed fit so you can pack on extra layers, an adjustable cinch cord on the hem and an adjustable hood. The best thing the Venture jacket has going for it though, is the fact that it packs up so small.
Without fail, the word “multipurpose” is music to a traveler’s ears, and this is especially true when we need to live out of a backpack for months at a time and have absolutely no space to waste. So, when you’re packing your clothes for your trip, you definitely want to include something that can work as a bandana, sun guard, face mask, hood, headband, or even hair tie. And that’s where BUFF comes in. When I was in Cambodia during the dry season, I definitely could’ve used this to ward off all the dust that was kicked up every time I climbed into a tuktuk or the back of a truck. This thing is soft, warm, light weight, and wind resistant. And because it’s made with Merino wool, it doesn’t hold onto odors like other types of fabric.
Sunglasses don’t get more eco-friendly than this! Introducing the BioSunnies – a biodegradable pair of sunglasses that’s made from wheat straw (i.e. the stuff that gets left behind after a harvest, so helping in zero waste!). All BioSunnies are designed with polarized lenses and a super comfortable, flexible, and lightweight frame!
If you’re interested in reading more about eco-friendly travel, this blog is the second installment of a series I’m doing on responsible tourism. Check back next week for my next post, or subscribe to the blog so that you can get alerts when I post new content – cheers!
Previous Posts in the Responsible Travel Series: