If you’ve travelled much, and seen some of the natural beauty that this planet has to offer, you know how important it is to be mindful of the impact we have on our environment. After reading the heartbreakingly sad story last week of a pregnant sperm whale found dead on an Italian beach with 49 pounds of plastic in her stomach (https://www.cbsnews.com/news/pregnant-whale-plastic-pregnant-whale-washes-ashore-italy-nearly-50-pounds-of-plastic-in-stomach/), I have been thinking a lot about the connections between the smallest choices we make every day and the life and death of not only innocent creatures everywhere but ultimately life as we know it. Over many years, I have been slowly tweaking the way I do things, too slowly, to be a better custodian of our planet, from switching to reusable grocery bags (when I remember to put them in the car) to avoiding plastic water bottles (as long as it’s not inconvenient). When I see stories about dead whales, I know simultaneously that I have to do better and that it may already be too late.
While it can be difficult to change lifelong habits overnight, we can each make small easy changes to make a big impact over time. As a start, here are 10 environmentally friendly things that we can all add to our backpacks or carry-ons today:
1) Reusable (nonplastic) water bottle. I have a couple of metal ones that I really love. Like other things I’ve done to reduce my carbon footprint, I wonder why I didn’t make the change sooner. With bottled water at the airport costing around $4.00 for 16oz, this is not only less environmentally impactful, it also saves money! These can be purchased anywhere, from the grocery store to Amazon.com, or obtained for free as a gift like mine were. You could also GIVE them as gifts and sneakily help others be less impactful!
2) Reusable toiletry containers. I got mine at my neighborhood grocery store (Publix) and I LOVE them! They have all the right features: collapsible silicone construction so they get smaller as you use up whatever’s in them; built in labelling by twisting the lid to reveal the words “lotion”, “shampoo”, “sunscreen”, or “soap”, leak proof triple closures, and a suction cup that actually works so you can stick your shampoo to the shower wall! The link provided shows the closest I could find on Amazon.com.
3) Biodegradable wipes. I initially purchased these for a trip “off the grid”, camping on the beach for a week in Mexico. They were great for wiping off stinky armpits and other body parts when fresh water wasn’t available, and I did pack mine out even though they say they are biodegradable (Biodegradable is still best even if something is headed to a landfill.). They come in different sizes, and if you count out only the number you think you will need and put them in a Ziploc, you can save space by not packing the entire package.
4) Reusable facial cloth. If you prefer not to use wipes, a quick drying cloth (silk or poly) is another great way to stay clean(ish), though I would probably make sure I had a separate one that was only for my face… They’re easy to clean, quick drying and don’t take up much space.
5) Biodegradable TP. This is a must for camping, but I always carry a small roll with me, even for urban adventures, just in case there’s no paper in the bathroom stall.
6) Titanium spork with serrated edge. I actually purchased this for my SO and he LOVES it. His friends have asked him where THEY can get one, and I will be purchasing one for myself before my next trip! In the past, I have just saved a set of plastic ware from whatever fast food place or food truck I’ve stopped at, but in my journey to become more environmentally conscious, I have decided to try to stop even taking the plastic ware that is offered as long as I have this utensil in my bag.
7) Campsuds. Another purchase I made before my trip to Mexico last year, this stuff is environmentally friendly, lathers in salt water, and you only need a drop or two at a time. I purchased what I thought was a small bottle (4oz) and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to use it up.
8) Diva Cup. Obviously, this applies to women only and was mentioned by a friend who says she always takes it along on trips “just in case”. Aside from saving one the challenge of locating feminine products in a foreign country, and in one story, on a religious holiday when all stores were closed, the Diva Cup also fits the bill because it’s made to be reused.
9) Food without wrappers (ie apples and oranges). This is true at all times actually, not just travelling, that any time you can avoid food wrappers, and any extra bagging or packaging, you’re doing the planet a favor. In most cases, you’re also doing your health a favor, since wrapperless food is typically fresh whole food.
10) Homemade hand sanitizer and other things. This idea goes hand in hand with #2 above. If you have a natural alternative to store bought toiletries, such as my friend who makes her own hand sanitizer, you can avoid indirectly contaminating waterways with harmful detergents and other chemicals. You can then decant what you’ve made into your reusable toiletry containers for bonus points!
You will notice that a lot of these things have at least one of two things in common: they’re reusable or they’re biodegradable. Look for these qualities in things you use daily and you’ll be able to make a positive impact on our gorgeous planet!
The most important thing you can do? Share your ideas for environmentally friendly travel in the comments section!
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