The rise of sustainable travel has spawned many an eco-friendly travel product, but while most are produced with great intentions, only of a fraction are particularly useful. For who is going to cart around a recycled-material laptop case that doesn’t have enough padding? Or wear organic travel clothing that’s ugly? In the lead-up to an eight-month trip, I’ve been painstakingly researching and testing eco-friendly products worth the space in my backpack. Here’s what made the cut…
Over the past few years I’ve been transitioning my skincare and make-up to natural, sustainable options – better for me, and for the planet. Some of my Aussie-made travel faves include Sunbear sunscreen, a natural sunscreen that’s safe for coral reefs and helps to support the plight of endangered sun bears (double win!), Alpine + Sea’s serums and skin waters (which smell like heaven) and Gaia Retreat & Spa’s certified organic Retreatment skin care range. I often decant my favourite products into reusable travel-size containers, and I also pack biodegradable cotton buds, face and body wipes, and sanitary products. Eco-friendly menstrual products like the Diva Cup aren’t for me, but many lady travellers swear by them. I prefer to use natural insect repellants (oil of lemon eucalyptus is a goodie), but as the science says DEET is the most effective, I don’t mess around when dengue fever and malaria are a risk. Many people think DEET is toxic, but despite the fact that it stinks and can melt plastic, it’s actually quite safe.
Sustainable travel clothing
Some pretty harmful ingredients have traditionally been used to create high-performance travel gear, but times are changing. Patagonia is well known for inspiring sustainable change within the industry, and many other travel brands are now doing great things in the sustainability space, from using recycled plastic in their garments to minimising packaging. I’m pleased that Kathmandu – the travel brand I grew up with – is one of them. I’m also a big fan of Osprey packs, which are super-sustainable without compromising on performance. Some smaller local brands I love for chic, timeless, travel basics you can feel good about buying include Tasi Travels, Annukka and The Hemp Temple. Travel gear isn’t traditionally cheap, so it pays to do your research to ensure your hard-earned benefits the planet (not to mention the people who make it) as well as your needs.
The Scrubba wash bag
I’ve lost count of the dirty sinks I’ve washed my travel clothes in, not to mention the number of garments that have mysteriously disappeared after paying to have my laundry done in various hotels and guesthouses around the world. So I was pretty stoked to discover the Scrubba bag, the world’s smallest portable washing machine – we’re talking 142 grams! I love that I can now do my own washing on the road using my own eco-friendly detergent and minimal water. After scrubbing your clothes on the internal washboard, you simply tip out the soapy water, fill the Scrubba bag with fresh water, rinse and voila! Super-clean threads! Scrubba also dedicates a portion of its proceeds to clean water projects around the world run by charity:water, which makes it an especially worthy buy.
Water purification devices
Just because the local tap water isn’t potable isn’t an excuse to reach for plastic bottles. Technology has come a long way since icky-tasting iodine tablets were the only way to purify water on the go (#Nepalmemories), with dozens of water purifying devices now available on the market. The Grayl bottle, for example, eliminates 300 single-use water bottles with every water purifier cartridge. The Adventure Travel Trade Association recently partnered with Grayl to inspire tour operators to rethink plastic bottles, which is the coolest thing I’ve heard an industry leader do since Intrepid Travel offered to cover the cost of catching An Inconvenient Sequel at the cinema last year. I’ll be using my Grayl (which I particularly love for its durability as I always drop water bottles) in tandem with my new SteriPEN, a hand-held UV water purifier that kills 99.9 per cent of bacteria and viruses in 8,000 one-litre treatments, on an upcoming trip to Africa during which I’m aiming to avoid plastic bottles entirely.
Using your own reusable water bottle and carry bag while travelling is great, but there are so many more steps you can take to minimise your use of single-use plastics on the road. To avoid plastic (and worse – polystyrene) takeaway food containers and implements, for example, I’ve just invested in an ultra-light titanium cutlery set from Kathmandu, as well as a reusable cup and bowl by from Sea to Summit that compresses for easy storage. I love whipping out my cute reusable straw by Clean Coast Collective at holiday cocktail o’clock, and I always travel with a KeepCup for coffees on the go.
I recently made a list of accessories I frequently use when I travel, and set about replacing them with lower-impact versions. Rather than burn through regular notebooks, I sought out Notely journals, which are beautifully designed from 100 per cent consumer waste. When my plastic iPhone case broke, I replaced it with a Pela case, a durable, cute and biodegradable case made from plant-based materials. I’ll be purchasing a plastic-free bamboo toothbrush when my current toothbrush needs to be replaced, and I’ve been using a solar power charger for years, which is super handy for off-the-grid device juicing. The difference you make as an individual by implementing these changes might be small, but it all adds up.
Disclosure: Some products mentioned in this article were gifted to me. I only recommend products I personally use (and love!).