Keeping up your green habits while on vacation can be challenging but, luckily the rules stay the same. When out and about you have to be aware of one-use disposable items, plastic wrapping, and you may need to carry around a few extra items.
Here are a few tips and tricks that I use when traveling, remember, you can try to integrate all, or a few and in any combination:
First and foremost, try to find a holiday destination that is adopting eco-friendly ways. Are you going to a resort? Where is that resort and what has it done to the local population and environment? Is it sustainable?
- Boracay in the Philippines is a fantastic example of what can happen to paradise when the tourism industry moves in. Though not well-known, the tourism industry is leading to extreme garbage disposal issues on the island.
- Toiletries – try to not buy those cute travel-sized personal products. Instead, try to reuse what you have or invest in travel-sized refillable containers. In my experience the silicone, squeezie GoToobs (by Humangear) are awesome! The medium and small sizes even have suction cups on the back to adhere to the shower wall.
- Humangear also sells collapsable cups and small containers, which can be handy when traveling.
- The GoToob packaging is simple and plastic-less as well!
- But, not all products are happy in silicone as I learned when I attempted to bring moroccan hair oil on my last big trip. Long story. In future I will forego soft locks.
- I carry a large number of kitchen items including:
- Sandwich/snack wraps. My ultimate favourite sandwich/snack wraps are those from Wrap-N-Mat. Sandwich/snack wraps like this are versatile and virtually pack flat in your bag.
- Collapsable containers. I use the Tupperware Flat Out containers, they too pack flat but, these are becoming increasingly difficult to find. Luckily, other companies have come up with their own collapsable products.
- I always leave the house with a spoon and a fork, sometimes a knife. I usually carry sets intended for small children because they are smaller and blunt 🙂
- Note, if you are traveling with a knife, security might want to see it (even if it is a toddler’s knife) so, save the hassle and throw your knife in the bin when going through security.
- And of course, my trusty travel mug. My favourite mugs come from Starbucks, specifically their stainless steel mugs, which keep my beverages hot or cold (depending on the beverage) for hours, they are light weight and they have a fantastic seal! I have had the best luck with the travel mug with the flip-top lid with silicone seal.
- I try to avoid drinking anything from a plastic bottle at all costs. I always travel with a water bottle AND a travel-sized water filter, specifically the Santevia Water Stick (either Power or Alkaline) to freshen up tap water. However! if you are traveling to a region with non-potable water, do not rely on the water stick to remove microbial agents. It is not designed to do this!
- As an aside, at home I prefer to use my Life Factory glass water bottles but, I prefer to travel with an aluminum water bottle, namely my reliable Klean Kanteen bottle, because they are lighter, less likely to break and a little more reliable in the anti-leak department.
- I also travel with a straw! In the event I purchase a cold drink and just cannot manage without a straw (rare event), I have one and I can say “no” to the plastic straw.
- I always carry 2 small roll-up reusable shopping bags that require little space in my bag. Even if I’m not shopping, they are handy for carrying items such as a sweatshirt for the evening or your temporarily empty travel mug while sightseeing.
- I also purchased a small roll-up backpack for the same purpose.
- I also tend to pack a small hand towel. These can be incredibly useful when traveling, they can be used on the plane, in the hostel, etc. You will not need to use paper towels and it will roll up nicely in your bag. But! Be sure to air it out as often as you can to prevent microbe buildup!
- On the plane or train. When you are on the plane, refuse the small styrofoam cup that holds 3 oz of tea, pass them your travel mug! They might even ask if you want a refill.
- I also often travel with a water bottle, they will fill your water bottle! However, the water they serve is bottled but, you do need to stay hydrated. To avoid water from a plastic bottle, if you have time, find a water fountain once you have passed security and fill up your bottle. I have noticed more and more bottle filling stations in the waiting lounges at many major airports.
- NOTE! your best bet for getting through security without issue is to ensure your travel mug and water bottle are empty, and placed in the bins with the lids off.
- Turn down that napkin for your pretzels or drink. Is it really necessary?
- Think about that snack too. They have gotten cheaper and cheaper on the snack itself and it is always wrapped in plastic. Is it worth it? I pack my own snacks for the flight.
- I don’t know what to tell you about the meal if you are on a longer flight. If you are extreme, many of the disposable items on that food tray can be recycled. Inquire if the airline recycles these items, if not, you can pack them with you and recycle them at the next opportunity.
- If they provide plastic cutlery, you can employ your packed cutlery set instead though, ensure the airline will reuse the cutlery IF the plastic package is undisturbed. If they do not save unused but previously distributed cutlery, take it with you.
- Pack a jacket or a sweater in your carry-on so you do not need to use the provided blanket…which is most likely wrapped in plastic.
- Make sure you pack headphones so you do not need to purchase any on the plane. Depending on the airline these can be nearly a one-use item and they are wrapped in plastic.
- The anti-microbial hand sanitizer fad is still going strong. If you do not wish to carry hand sanitizer with you (plastic bottle), bathrooms are still equipped with soap and water, even on a plane. Don’t forget your hand towel 🙂
- For the record, hand sanitizer kills good bacteria found on the surface of your skin, as well as the bad bacteria. That good bacteria helps protect you from the bad bacteria. I still think washing your hands properly with soap and water is your best bet!
- I always put the “do not disturb” sign on my door to ensure they do not change my sheets, nor my towels daily. Some hotels will be eco-conscious and have practices in place to notify housekeeping of your preferences, ie) towels on the floor vs. towels hung neatly.
- I never use the bottled products they supply in hotel rooms. Housekeeping will not restock unnecessarily and you will have saved a few half-empty bottles from the landfill. I do use the soap bar they provide IF it is wrapped in paper and not plastic. I then wrap this soap in toilet paper and take it with me when I check out.
- Watch the lights in the hotel room, often they have many options for lighting, be aware of how many you are using.
- Is the air conditioning on? Does it need to be?
- The first thing I do after checking in and dropping off luggage is find a grocery store. I try to find items that I can carry with me, or eat for breakfast, with no plastic wrapping. Sometimes this can be very hard! Bananas, apples, easy to peel oranges, celery, carrots, peppers when sliced and packed in your sandwich wrap (see below), bakery items, maybe some nuts, etc. I have yet to find a compost for produce scraps while traveling but, at least these wrappers are biodegradable. As at home, there is no need for produce bags or disposable grocery bags if you’ve packed a shopping bag or two.
- Note, I purchase organic as much as possible so as to not support the use of chemicals in agriculture.
- I usually stay in hostels because they are so much more eco-friendly than hotels…and social 🙂 They provide a kitchen with cold storage and dishes, they do not provide personal hygiene products in mini plastic bottles nor do they supply ten towels per individual. They do not have six pillows on the bed with six pillowcases to be washed, etc. In so doing, they are saving a tremendous amount of water, soap and electricity.
- Note: I always research my hostels thoroughly for location, cleanliness and overall reviews!
- Can you handle transit? Give it a try. Are there bike rentals available? Bikes are a fantastic way to see a city! Be careful, some traffic can be intense!
- My husband and I toured Paris entirely using the Metro subway system and even more so, their bike share. It was fantastic! Here’s a secret re: the bike share, the first hour is free (at least it was in 2008). There are docking stations all over the city. You can essentially ride the city for free if you find a docking station ever hour. Sshhh.
- Try to support ethical businesses while traveling. Be aware of what their impact on the environment is, the quality of food they serve (if applicable), are they displacing wildlife? if a nature-based business, are they operating responsibly? etc.
- Rethink that snowglobe or other random souvenir. Odds are, unless you purchase something useful like a tea towel when in London or wine glasses while in Italy, souvenirs will collect dust on a shelf, then in a drawer and eventually in the landfill.
Happy greener travels!!!
NOTE: as with most green habits, these tips may seem cumbersome at first but, you quickly learn how to be efficient in security lines, how to find the best meals and how to reduce and refuse while traveling.
Rach, have you heard of lifestraw? I saw a brief advertisement for it. It seemed to be something hikers would use to drink from the stream, so I’m not sure where/when it’s applicable if you’re travelling to a country with nonpotable water.
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Hi Erky, thanks! I just saw an advert for it shortly after you posted your comment. I will look into whether it can be used exclusively when traveling to countries with non-potable water. If so, it would definitely save the planet from some unwanted plastic water bottles!