10 BEST ECO FRIENDLY PRODUCTS TO CHANGE THE WAY YOU TRAVEL
When it comes to packing for your next trip there are a myriad of things that you have to think about, and I’m not talking about whether or not you should use a carry-on vs a checked bag.
I’m talking about the little things that can make or break the convenience of being away from home. We’ll call them the EGADs — eating, grooming, activity, and drinking experiences — and whether or not these products are having a positive and sustainable impact on the planet.
When it comes to these little things most people are thinking about their mainstay products and finding them in travel size or grabbing their checked bag so they can include the full-size container of their favorite shampoo, or toothpaste, or deodorant. But one thing I guarantee many people don’t think about, especially when it comes to products to bring on a trip, is whether or not they are eco-friendly and sustainable.
This is something that I have become more and more aware of. Why? Because 2020 is a key year in the fight against the climate crisis. This is the year we need to have global actionable solutions in order to protect our future. Working at a conservation company has also helped broaden my perspective when it comes to this world and everything that goes along with “saving the planet”.
Now what is the difference between being eco-friendly and being sustainable? Both point to awareness, and the environmental and social responsibility we should all have when it comes to our impact on the future of the planet we call home, but there are also small differences we should be aware of.
something doesn’t harm the planet
has higher standards than being “eco-friendly” and also includes eco-friendly activities that do not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their needs
If you want to be both you need to be aware of the products your purchasing and their life-cycle. This was something I was very aware of when I was searching for products to recommend to you all — that everything required little energy to produce and that there is a proper way to dispose of the products when you are done.
This has been my new mission this year, to make the change to rely less and less on plastic. Becoming completely plastic free is hard — don’t let anyone tell you it’s not. But the products I have found below are truly gems to find, especially when you are a traveler like I am. Not only will they make travel that much easier, and they allow you to be kind to the planet as well. This is a list PACKED FULL of products you are going to want to have asap!
Take your “on-the-go water purifying bottle” to the next level with LARQ’s self cleaning bottle
There are going to be times where we question the water we’re about to drink. Especially if we are on that bucket list trip to a location where drinking the tap water is to say the least, is not advised. And there is also the worry of the cleanliness of your bottle (something you do have to consider when using a reusable bottle).
I finally found a system that can help you alleviate all of these worries, no matter where you are, which to be honest is pretty amazing!
LARQ is a company that has taken UV light to the next level wrapping water purification and self-cleaning into one beautifully designed bottle! Seriously, I cannot get over how pretty this bottle is (in addition to the functionality and amazing technology!
There is a sense of empowerment in knowing that you don’t have to worry about finding clean water, no matter where you are in the world. But not only that think about how many single-use plastic bottles can be avoided if more people invest in bottles like LARQ’s. Plastic waste (in addition to deforestation) is one of the biggest things affecting the future of our planet right now. Yes, it is a water bottle that will be considered an investment. But you’re only going to need one, and the backseat worry of germs will be gone.
There are very few bottles (currently) on the market that both purify water and self-clean themselves which is why LARQ stands out against the crowd. Not only that, once you plug it using the bottle could not be easier. After charging your bottle for a couple of minutes it’s ready to go. From there depending on what you are going to be doing, or how much cleaning you think your water needs, there are two modes to choose from: Normal and Adventure. The mode of your bottle is indicated but a handful of light colors, a sky blue light for ‘normal mode’, a blue light for ‘adventure mode’, and an orange light when you have pushed the button and the cap isn’t attached. There was also something soothing about the pulsing lights after I had pushed them to activate the bottle to start doing it’s magic.
Overall LARQ’s bottle is a definite slam eco dunk for me!
For the cleanest hair ever, and a complete elimiation of plastic containers, reach for Ethique’s Shampoo & Conditioner Bars
Probably one of the most “annoying” (take that with a grain of salt) things about traveling is figuring out how to pack your hair care products, namely your shampoo and conditioner. Those bottles are not small, and there is always the dreaded “what if they don’t have the brand that I like in XX (insert city/country name here)”?!
Fear not! I have a solution that will literally solve any issue you could think of when it comes to traveling and hair care. Shampoo and conditioner bars! Yep, you read that right…BARS. They literally look like a smaller bar of soap but contain all of the goodness you will find in your bottle of Pantene, or Herbal Essences, or John Frieda, or what have you — except they are considerably better for the environment.
Why are they better for the environment?
They are 100% soap free.
They are safe for color treated hair.
They are NOT made from palm oil.
They save on waste.
Made from a variety of natural ingredients, the biggest way and the reason these bars save on waste is that each one is equivalent to 3 bottles of liquid shampoo. Yes, you read that right, THREE bottles (in one, fit in your palm sized, square). This is why I am going to make the caveat that you shouldn’t let the price get to you when you first see it (because I know it will for some budget travelers). You have to remember you’re purchasing so much more than just a “bar”. Think about how much you spend on one bottle of (GOOD) shampoo or conditioner, and then multiple that by three. Now the $15ish dollar price tag doesn’t seem so bad, right?
In addition to what the bars are made of the packaging is also biodegradable (unlike those plastic bottles that pretty much every brand of shampoo and conditioner comes in).
One of the huge bonuses of Ethique’s bars are that they are small so you can bring more than one of each (if you want) with you on a trip, and they last FOREVER (so in reality you don’t actually have to bring more than one of each). If you are someone who goes to the gym before work, and don’t have a membership at a place like Equinox (who uses Kiehl's products) your problem of how to get clean after working out, before you go to work, is solved!
I tried out Ethique’s Frizz Wrangler (shampoo) and The Guardian (conditioner), which was perfect for me because I have hair that is naturally wavy/curly which errs on the frizzy side and can get tangled super easily. Both of the bars I tried are made from Samoan coconut oil and cocoa butter, cacao butter, lactic acid, vitamin B5 and lime oil respectively so they literally made my hair feel cleaner than it has ever felt before and it smelled soooo good. Seriously. I could not get over how squeaky clean my hair was after washing it and after drying it and going out into the hot, sweaty DC humid summer air my hair still felt decent. Not something I can say for the liquid shampoos I have used in the past. And trust me, the best time to be testing these was this summer in the unbearable and humid heat.
Also a big bonus, The Guardian (the conditioner) can also be used as a shaving bar, in-shower moisturizer, or gentle leave in styling product. Even though I have yet to test it out this way I loved finding that out, because for traveling that really does save on toiletry space!
Another amazing thing about Ethique is their quest to #giveupthebottle (10 million by the end of 2020 to be exact), by preventing 5 plastic bottles from being made and disposed of and saving 5.1 litres of water all from the purchase of a single one of their bars.
Combat single use plastic when you’re out to eat with Bambu Home’s Eat/Drink Toolkit
Outside of LARQ’s reusable bottle, this is probably one of the simplest changes you can make in order to shift your travel to be more sustainable.
Now I’m not saying that but cutting out items like straws you’re going to solve all of the problems of climate change, but if more people cut back on their use of single-use utensils i.e. straws, forks, spoons, knives, there would be a shift towards reducing plastic waste.
This is where portable kits like Bambu Home’s Eat/Drink Toolkit come into play. Everything you could possibly want when it comes to eat out is included (a straw, chopsticks, a fork, knife and spoon, and even the cutest little spork). A KEY thing to note here is you have to remember to bring this with you when you eat out, or you have to remember to shift it from bag to bag. So yes, sometimes I have been guilty of forgetting mine, but overall it’s a great way to make small changes if eating out is your way of life. Plus, when you are traveling and you decide you want to have a picnic on the Seine, most likely you didn’t think about trying to find utensils at the market or bakery that you picked up your cheese and baguette at.
Reduce your daily amount of product waste, and plastic waste, by switching your routine to Bite’s Toothpaste Bits
This is probably one item many of us don’t even realize we need to think about when it comes to being sustainable and traveling. You brush your teeth, hopefully twice a day haha, and you just grab your toothpaste from your bathroom, or make a quick stop in the travel section of your local store and your off.
But think about when you are packing, especially if you are determined to do your trip in a carry-on. TSA is going to make you remove your (favorite) standard sized toothpaste tube from your bag and throw it away.
If you decide to go the travel sized tube route, we all know those tubes don’t last longer than a couple of days. So what do you do?
Enter Bite Toothpaste Bits. Zero waste toothpaste tablets that are sent in a refillable glass container. The bits are made from 100% gluten-free and vegan ingredients including, Organic Mint Flavor, Activated Charcoal, Sodium Bicarbonate (aka baking soda), Erythritol, and Xylitol, which naturally whiten, and are cruelty-free! Plus, there isn’t a molecule of plastic in sight, including in the packaging (which is made of recyclable, biodegradable and compostable materials)!
One thing I absolutely love about Bite is the company’s 200% awareness that the earth is not for just our generation, it’s our responsibility to protect for future generations. After all, the earth does not need us to survive. Bite also does not believe in testing on animal or (even worse) using them as ingredients. Their key mission, to end plastic waste by replacing products that would otherwise end up in our already overflowing landfills and polluted oceans. Basically helping to save and protect the planet, one smile at a time!
The other thing I love about Bite is that their toothpaste bits are SO easy to use. I mean it makes sense that they would be easy, but I must admit I was a little skeptical how a tiny tablet would be able to give the same brushing power as me squeezing toothpaste out of a tube. Boy was I wrong! You definitely get as much foam as you do when using paste, and I also felt like my teeth actually felt cleaner after using the tablet. All you do is pop it in your mouth, bite down and then start running your toothbrush back and forth on the crumbles. A huge bonus is even though you do feel like your teeth are getting clean there isn’t an overwhelming taste of mint (I’ve tried both tablets), so you can FINALLY drink orange juice after (the plight of so many of us in the morning)!
When you fall in love with Bite, which I know you will, they offer the best (affordable) subscription plan making sure your refills are sent in compostable pouches every 4 months. I know that I have officially been converted and once my samples run out I will definitely be reinvesting into Bite.
Do you really need any more reasons to love and support this company?
Recycle and compost at the same time by giving up your classic toothbrush and switching to bmbu’s Bamboo toothbrush
When it comes to dental care, and the best item you can pair with your Bite Toothpaste Bits the only thing that comes to mind really is a bamboo toothbrush. Why?
Because of the basic solution that using a bamboo toothbrush will help eliminate unnecessary waste, and you don’t have to worry about sacrificing quality (in both product design and cleaning potential) by going from plastic (the toothbrush your dentist most likely gave you) to a product made of organic materials. Using a bamboo toothbrush means you are using something biodegradable, it’s not going to last forever in a landfill like every other brush! The thing with the bristles is it hard to find brands who have been able to figure out a bristle material that is also biodegradable (with the overall toothbrushes also being affordable) — but I am sure that is coming!
Plus, there are over 7 billion people in the world, most of whom are brushing their teeth with typical plastic toothbrushes (because they are replacing them several times a year). Remember the waste comment I just mentioned? It’s this plastic toothbrush problem that is adding to an insane amount of waste in our oceans and landfills.
The thing with bamboo toothbrushes is they are everywhere these days (which is not a bad thing!), making it harder to decide which brand you should go with.
When it came to me deciding which bamboo toothbrush would make for the best switch I also considered the packaging that it would be coming in as well as what the bristles were made out of. I wanted packaging that would be either recyclable, reusable, or compostable. I wanted my bristles to also be infused with charcoal because I am a huge fan of using charcoal infused dental products due to how well they clean and the whitening power of charcoal!
Now onto why I chose bmbu’s brushes. I am a graphic designer at heart, so I am not ashamed to same that many times when I choose a product I am also paying very close attention to the design (of both the product and the packaging). This was also a major factor in my choosing bmbu. But outside of the design aspect I also loved that in general I knew that I would be being eco-friendly and avoiding the bacterial growth that inevitably was on my toothbrushes (which bamboo toothbrushes are naturally antimicrobial), and that the bristles were oh so soft! When you have receding gums (many of us do) this a key for comfort when brushing.
Protect our oceans and coral reefs by supporting Kōkua Sun Care — a locally made Hawaiian product setting the bar on reef-friendly sunscreen
Talking about supporting small, local businesses Kōkua is exactly that. Made in our lovely 50th state, Kōkua officially qualifies as reef-friendly sun care. I have to point out that Robin and Tatyana who created and run the business are literally the sweetest humans ever, and take great pride in the top notch product they are creating.
Back to sunscreen. It’s something that we all should be using when out in the sun. It doesn’t matter if you’re having a picnic, going on a hike, or going to the beach — sunscreen is necessary when it comes to protecting your skin against this little word: cancer. The thing with sunscreen is most of the time the brand that you are lathering on is also killing the environment, most of the time because of the ingredients Oxybenzone and Octinoxate, which are found in over 3,500 sunscreens sold just in the U.S.
But why are Oxybenzone and Octinoxate so bad? Because it damages coral DNA (inhibiting its ability to reproduce), it causes deformities on coral (making it more susceptible to the widespread emergency of bleaching), and it disrupts the production of hormones the animal needs to reproduce. Yes, if you didn’t know, coral is actually an animal. The scary thing is, we as humans are contributing an estimated 14,000 tons of sunscreen into rivers and oceans each year.
The reality is harsh but true. The type of sunscreen you are lathering on is something you should care about.
Enter reef-friendly sun care, and Kōkua Sun Care Hawaiian Natural Sunscreen, a company acclaimed for its efficiency and the outstanding UVA and UVB protection it provides while having zero impact on marine wildlife. Kōkua contains reef or marine-toxic ingredients and 25% non-nano particles of zinc oxide, which allows it to meets the world’s strictest national standards.
Their zinc-based sunscreen is enriched with local Hawaiian spirulina (another use for this is to make some pretty awesome mermaid toast), plumeria extract (the best smell in the world), honey, kukui nut oil, and other nourishing oils. Kōkua is also enriched with 23 natural antioxidants so in addition to protecting you from the sun your skin is also nourished and moisturized, and you don’t have to worry about skin allergies acting up — and bonus it’s safe for babies 6 months and up! In short, the ingredients are some of the best things you can possibly put on and into your body as well as the ocean.
When I put Kōkua on it literally went on so smooth and something that is very important to me, it didn’t take forever to rub in so there was no white residue left on my skin that I had to continually rub, and there was absolutely no greasy feel (which is one of the things I absolutely hate about sunscreen).
One thing I will say about Kōkua, that I think is important for you all to know, is it’s not the most budget friendly buy out there. But that being said, the value Kōkua delivers is exceptional, and the peace of mind you’ll have knowing there are no grey areas and you can go snorkeling as many times as you want without damaging our oceans is reason enough to invest.
Ditch the Tupperware and Ziplocs for an easier to clean and guilt-free food storage system by Bee’s Wrap
From the day you start bringing school lunches you have entered into a conundrum. This continues into your adult working years as well. The question: What do you transport your lunch, dinner, etc. in?
Growing up my lunches were put into plastic bags and plastic Tupperware. We didn’t know any better. Although I will say my mom has ALWAYS been the type to keep all of the Ziploc plastic bags she’s used, as well as making us bring ours home, and every couple of weeks she washes, dries and reuses them. She is the exception to the rule.
The day and age we live in there are a ton of options now for you to avoid storing and transporting your food in anything remotely resembling plastic — and in my opinion the more natural you can go the better. When looking for food storage that combines sustainability with being healthier you really cannot look any farther than Bee’s Wrap.
I am a champion for smaller businesses, and by coming out of Middlebury, Vermont this is exactly how Bee’s Wrap feels to me – a local, family run business, which you feel like you’ve known for years. Created by Sarah Kaeck, she has figured out a way to infuse organic cotton with beeswax, organic jojoba oil, and tree resin, to create a washable, reusable, and compostable alternative to plastic wrap. And let me repeat, it’s washable AND reusable (something you may not first expect when pulling the wraps out of the packaging)!
Like many of the other products and brands on this list Bee’s Wrap isn’t only about making a sustainable product, they also focus on making a positive difference in the healthy bee population, creating cleaner waterways, and educating people in sustainable practices all with the goal to protect our earth. Not only that, they make sure to give back locally and globally.
Bee’s Wrap partners with The Bee Cause Project, an organization that puts observation hives in schools around the country, in order to empower students, teachers, and community members with opportunities to engage, learn from, and understand honey bees in order to connect with the environment.
The company also believes everyone has a moral obligation to end plastic pollution. It’s for this reason they have partnered with 1% for the Planet, 5 Gyres, and National Geographic, in support of ocean conservancy, beach cleanups, and water stewardship. This year Bee’s Wrap is also donating one percent of the sales from their Oceans Print to 5 Gyres: an organization empowering action against global plastic pollution. For their Explorer Pack, Bee’s Wrap partnered with National Geographic as part of their multi-year "Planet or Plastic" campaign, in order to raise awareness surrounding the global plastic trash crisis, through donating a percentage of their sales to support work in conservation, research, exploration, and education.
I could honestly go on and on about all the great things Bee’s Wrap does, but the most important part of this, in relation to this post, is the fact that the wraps are some of the best things I have found when it comes to transporting food on my adventures around town. It’s super easy to wrap up anything, from blueberries, to French bread, to actual sandwiches, and the fact that the wraps are super easy to wipe down and clean make my life such a breeze. Trust me, I tried the whole cleaning the Ziploc bag thing that my mom does, and using Bee’s Wrap Variety Pack, which includes 7 wraps of various sizes, is soooo much easier.
Bask in the sun in California cool and reef-friendly sun care products by COOLA
COOLA is another sun care brand that has you covered, literally from head to toe!
Made in California, COOLA has up to 70% organic ingredients, in a wide range of reef-safe formulas! The reef-friendly requirements that COOLA uses have also recently been recognized by Hawaii’s government, which ban the sale of sunscreens containing Oxybenzone and Octinoxate (the two I mentioned above for Kōkua).
One thing I love about COOLA is the ‘flavor’ options they offer across their product lines and the fact that everything I tested falls under the reef-friendly requirements! They may not be products I use, or remember to use, every day but having all of them in my repertoire makes sure I stay accountable to not release harmful chemicals back into nature when I’m having some fun in the sun.
I’m not going to lie I always forget to use lip balm. I don’t know why I forget to bring it with me but it’s one product, especially when it has SPF in it, that I should be wearing on a daily basis, especially when you think about the fact your lips are one of the most vulnerable spots to UV damage. COOLA’s Classic Organic Lip Balm not only has SPF 30 but is also vitamin-enriched and includes antioxidants that help protect and condition your lips with natural fruit butters. The reason this is so important is because technically I should be applying and reapplying this balm every 2 hours when I’m outside (which is a good amount of the time). Another huge plus to the lip balm is it’s not goopy, and is the Peppermint Vanilla flavor — two reasons I have no problem reapplying throughout the day.
Because I don’t have light hair I never think about protecting my scalp (another horrible confession of my outdoor habits). But here is where COOLA saves the day again, with their reef-friendly Organic Scalp & Hair Mist is also a sunscreen as it includes SPF 30. Oh, and I should mention it smells like the beach!
It could be because my hair is slightly high maintenance but I am very careful with the products that I put in my hair. This was something I wasn’t worried about when it came to this spray because of how lightweight it is! Seriously, it’s like spraying water. Over 70% of the ingredients are certified organic, and the Monoi Oil within the spray also helps nourish my hair (and my scalp). I also love that it’s water resistant (for up to 80 minutes) and that it protects my dyed hair from fading. To be honest, these are all awesome benefits, many of which are not immediately noticeable when you spray it on. So the main takeaway is this spray is both good for your hair and your scalp and it doesn’t felt greasy or weight your hair down at all!
The last two products I tried are the main staples of summer outdoor adventures: COOLA’s Classic Sunscreen Lotion and their Classic Sunscreen Spray (both in Tropical Coconut). The best part about both of these sunscreens is the fact they smell amazing! Both of them are also lightweight - so you don’t have to worry about feeling greasy or rubbing the product aggressively in order for them to absorb into your skin. Both of the sunscreens are also reef-friendly and use a plant-based oleosome technology that optimizes the performance of COOLA’s formula, and is the reason the product feels amazingly light, gentle, and sheer on your skin.
Expand your freshness horizons by embracing your ‘pits of the future’ with Nuud Deodorant
Deodorant is probably one of the hardest things to purchase while also avoiding plastic. That is just how this industry has gone on for decades: whether you’re a man or a woman your deodorant has always come in a plastic tube. That is, until now.
If there is one thing I can say about Europeans, they are nothing short of innovative. Coming out of the Netherlands is THE solution to the whole deodorant in a plastic tube issue: planet-loving deodorant in the form of a bio plastic sugarcane tube (shipped in a biodegradable cardboard box).
Nuud (which is also the BEST name by the way) contains zero aluminum, no fragrances, no alcohol, and no salts, no parabens, in general no crap that make you turn your head in confusion. Plain and simple the deodorant is 100% vegan (made with pure silver, coconut oil, castor oil, zinc oxide, almond oil, mineral clay, vegetable mix-enhancer, and a couple of other ingredients); and something you don’t always see on a website, has also been produced and distributed sustainably!
The cool thing about Nuud is it prevents odor by neutralizing bacteria with micro silver, making it effective for at least three days. Caveat here, as with any completely natural product you switch you, your body is going to have to get used to it before it starts to really become effective. And probably one of the best things about it, you don’t have to use very much AT ALL, so each 20ml (0.7 oz) tube will last up to 10 weeks!
So far I have used the product on and off for a couple weeks and although my body is still getting used to using something completely natural to fight off the crazy sweatiness I am getting from this insanely hot and humid DC summer, I am confident this tiny, portable bottle will do the trick. After all a 20 ml tube that lasts 3 months is literally the perfect situation when it comes to traveling.
Travel sustainability from the market, to the beach, to the office with a Fisherman Net Bag
I’m not going to lie, these bags are having a moment right now.
They are being ‘toted’ as the new tote bag, and I couldn’t agree more. The thing is, net bags are not a new phenomenon. They have been used for decades, to carry groceries no less, and even though this is a ‘trend’ right now, there is zero risk factor in regretting your purchase because of the fact they are functional and you know you’re helping eliminate plastic waste.
The thing I love about net bags is the fact that they are so versatile (they can pretty much fit whatever you put inside), they actually look chic, they are comfortable to carry around, can be folded down to almost nothing and are easily portable, and in general are pretty cheap. They really shouldn’t cost you less than $15 (potentially $20 if you want one that looks a little more ‘fashionable’). AKA zero financial regrets and a really cute bag when going to the grocery or farmer’s market.
Fun Fact: Net bags first appeared in the 1920s in Czechoslovakia as a grocery bag, before becoming appearing everywhere across the globe after Parisians began using them in the ’60s and ’70s as a way to carry their baguettes home from the market.
Below are some of the best bags I found for $20 or less (all from Amazon so you can maximize both the price and the shipping time) that eliminate the need for any plastic (or even paper) grocery bag and that can go everywhere from the market, to the beach, to the office.
This post was partially sponsored by a handful of the brands below, who sent me product in exchange of the giveaway that is being run across social, as well as for my review. As always, all opinions are my own.