When we first arrived at a particularly beautiful beach location in Indonesia, Matt and I were taken away with how stunning it was. Blue skies, warm sunshine and picture-perfect islands waiting for us to explore. It wasn’t until we hit the beach we saw the rubbish – mountains of plastic washing up on the shore and bobbing in the water.
The resort staff told us they cleaned it up regularly throughout the day but, with each wave, more washed up. It seemed they were trying to clean up the world’s mess and, despite their best efforts, losing the battle. They told us the rubbish washed in from everywhere and it suddenly dawned on me just how messed up single-use plastics are and how badly they’re messing up beautiful parts of the world.
So, we made a decision to try our very best to cut down on our own single-use plastic use, both at home and on the road. Today, I wanted to share with you a few ideas on how other travellers can do it too. Here are a few eco-friendly products, perfect for travellers!
1. Reusable Coffee Cup
We always keep our reusable coffee cups in the car so they’re ready to go whenever we need them. If you’re doing a road trip, it’s easy to pack them into a bag or the glovebox. For overseas travel, the cups are nice and light for your day bag and won’t take up any precious luggage space. We recently upgraded to two gorgeous cups from Uppercup, a small, female-led business focusing on locally manufactured products that are eco-friendly and sustainable (plus they’re beautiful!) Find Uppercup here.
2. Sustainable toothbrush
In Australia, 30 million toothbrushes are used each year and most are made from plastic, which ends up in a landfill or our oceans, polluting the environment and killing animals. Instead, switch to a bamboo toothbrush! They clean your fangs just as well and are made from sustainable bamboo! Charles and Olivia make fantastic toothbrushes and donate brushes to children in developing countries. Find Charles and Olivia here.
3. Sustainable hairbrush
Instead of buying another plastic hairbrush, switch to sustainable bamboo! You can buy bamboo hairbrushes and combs of all shapes and sizes, so you’re bound to find one that suits your needs, from a compact comb to a large paddle brush. Bass Brushes have a great range and their brushes are beautiful, you can find them stocked in online natural stores. Find Bass Brushes here.
4. Reusable Straw
Instead of using a plastic straw in your drink, let the person serving you know you don’t want or need one and use your own reusable straw. We keep our eyes in a little kit, stashed in a day bag. Reusable straws come in bamboo, glass, stainless steel and beautiful rose gold stainless steel (if that’s your aesthetic). Use it, clean it and reuse it! Find Reusable Straws here.
5. Cotton laundry bags
When travelling, it’s important to keep your clean clothes separate from your dirty ones. Instead of relying on plastic bags, try cotton instead. Cotton laundry or produce bags are going to stop any moisture getting trapped inside your laundry and keep the must factor down. You can also use them to store dirty shoes or keep your underwear in one convenient spot. Find Cotton Bags here.
6. Soap Berries
My neighbour recently put me onto these and I think they’re perfect for travel! If you’re travelling for a long time or are on a budget, you’ll need to do your own laundry at some point. Instead of buying single-use plastic packaged laundry powder, buy a pack of Soap Berries. You can portion off 5 berry shells into the calico bag and they’re good for 5 wash loads. You’ll save money, space in your luggage and cut down your plastic/chemical use. Just bear in mind they may be an issue for customs in some countries, like New Zealand. Find Soap Berries here.
7. Reusable bottle
This is a big one! I can’t tell you how many single-use plastic bottles I’ve seen discarded in the streets and water on my travels. Especially when it comes to hotels, people tend to open a bottle, drink a little bit of it then discard it for a fresh one. Instead, carry your own reusable bottle with you and refill it. In some countries, it’s not possible to drink the tap water. Instead, buy the biggest bottle of water you can find and refill your small bottle from it so you cut down on the number of plastic bottles you use. Find Reusable Bottles here.
8. Reusable shopping bags
When you pack your day bag for the day, throw one or two tote bags in as well. If you go to a market and buy souvenirs, go shopping and buy clothes or simply stock up on food for later, you’ll be able to say no to a plastic bag and use your own instead. You can pick up a canvas tote for a few dollars and they roll up nice and small! If canvas sounds too bland, Loqi Bags make beautiful, reusable shopping bags with gorgeous prints. Find Reusable Shopping Bags here.
9. Reusable cutlery
We made our own reusable cutlery kit but you can also buy them online, made from sustainable materials like bamboo. Our kit contains two forks, knives and spoons, our reusable straws and chopsticks. I sewed a simple little bag that we roll up, secure with a tie and pops easily into a day bag. Not only do we cut down on our single-use plastics but it’s saved us so many times when we simply forgot to even ask for cutlery! You can make your own cutlery kit from cutlery you already have in your home, it doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. Find Reusable Cutlery Kits here.
10. Eco-friendly beauty products
Those teeny, tiny little bottles of body wash, shampoo and conditioner at a hotel can be all-too-tempting. But, they’re a BIG problem and unnecessary. Cut down on plastic by bringing your own bar of soap, shampoo and conditioner from home. Let the hotel know you loved your stay but would love to see them get rid of single-use plastics in the bathroom.
11. Sustainable watches
Due for a new watch? Like to keep track of time when you travel? Consider switching to a wooden watch instead. There are loads of brands out there making watches from bamboo and wood, so find one that suits your style and budget. A few brands to consider are WeWood and Bamboo Watches Australia.
12. Sustainable sunglasses
13. Wool shoes
If you’re thinking about buying a new, super comfortable pair of shoes before your next adventure kicks off, you should look into wool shoes. Allbirds make shoes from natural fibres, rather than synthetics. Their shoes are incredibly comfortable and stylish, making them ideal for travel. They’re machine washable and so soft you don’t need socks! The New Zealand brand creates footwear from sustainable resources and the wool reduces odour, regulates temperature and wick moisture. Find Wool Shoes Here.
14. Eco-friendly phone cases
The first thing I did when I got my new phone was order a case for it online. I didn’t even think about looking for a plastic-free option. Turns out, some very clever brands have thought of it and they’re amazing! Pela makes biodegradable, non-plastic, toxic free phone cases that are 100% compostable once you’re done with them. They will keep your phone safe when you travel, without destroying the environment. Find Eco-Friendly Phone Cases here.
A few facts about plastic….
If you feel like all of this overkill or aren’t quite convinced it’s worthwhile making some changes, here are a few facts to shine a little light on the problem with plastic.
- In the Los Angeles area, 10 metric tonnes of plastic fragments are carried into the Pacific Ocean every day (things like plastic bags, straws and empty bottles)
- 50% of the plastic we use is only used once then thrown away
- It takes 500 to 1,000 years for a piece of plastic to degrade, which means that disposable toothbrush is going to be around for a very, very long time
- One million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed annually from plastic in our oceans – WTF!
- Over the last ten years, we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century
- Americans throw away 35 billion plastic water bottles every year
- Plastic chemicals can be absorbed by the body—93 percent of Americans age six or older test positive for BPA (a plastic chemical)
Phoebe is a travel writer and photographer with a love for storytelling and making people laugh. Matt is a videographer and photographer with a passion for the great outdoors and big adventures. Together we inspire big adventures through our guides, videos, vlogs and photographs. Find out more about us here.