Single-use plastics are no longer the most convenient option when travelling. Nor are they the cheapest. Especially when they cost the planet billions of dollars in landfill every year.
There are oodles of reusable alternatives to bottled water, plastic cutlery and flimsy carrier bags. And many of these products are cleverly designed to fit effortlessly in your luggage. So choosing what’s best for the environment is easier than ever.
Here are our top picks of sustainable travel products you won’t want to go on holiday without.
Disclaimer: Rabbie’s have not been paid to advertise any of the following products. They’re simply well-made, environmentally friendly items we believe are worth writing about.
Stay hydrated. Your Mum’s probably told you 1000 times. But it’s even more important for your wellbeing while on holiday. And many urban establishments such as cafés and shopping centres are becoming increasingly supportive of travellers wishing to refill drink bottles rather than purchasing disposable bottles of water.
In the UK alone, 700, 000 plastic bottles are littered every day. And out of those which make it to the bin, 5.5 billion are placed in regular landfill rather than being recycled. It seems absurd that we spend so much money cleaning up after ourselves when the whole business can be avoided by simply carrying a reusable bottle.
Two of our favourites include 24 Bottles’ stainless steel drink bottles and Memobottle’s innovative flat BPA-BPS free plastic bottles. 24 Bottles offset the carbon emissions created during their manufacturing process by planting trees worldwide. Memobottle provides 2 months’ of clean drinking water to a person in a developing country for every bottle sold.
We’ve all heard of reusable coffee cups. But have you seen a collapsible one? They’re magnificent for travelling as they hardly take up any room in your backpack. A collapsible coffee cup is ideal for those day trips when you have next to no time to grab a coffee before jumping on a train or bus.
We rate Pokito collapsible cups, made in the UK from recyclable materials.
There’s nothing worse than opening your suitcase to find your shampoo has leaked all over your clothes. If you stop carrying liquids, you can avoid this issue altogether and wave goodbye to disposable plastic bottles.
Choosing solid products such as shampoo bars and toothpaste tabs also means you won’t have to battle with liquid restrictions when flying. It’s win-win. Here are our favourite eco-friendly toiletries.
Shampoo and conditioner bars
Lush sell separate shampoo and conditioner bars without packaging and are committed to eliminating unnecessary waste. The bars come in a range of delicious smelling fragrances, and you get double the amount of washes out of them than regular liquid shampoos and conditioners.
Toothpaste tabs or tablets are a solid alternative to tube toothpaste. The tabs cut down on packaging waste (as toothpaste tubes are very difficult to recycle) and are convenient and less messy for travellers. They work just as well with a toothbrush when scrubbing your teeth.
Denttabs create two types of teeth cleaning tablets – one which contains fluoride and one without, so you can choose which is best for your teeth. Order them online through The Plastic Free Shop and choose the amount you want in a handy refillable bottle or a compostable bag.
Eco-friendly deodorant often gets a bad rap. It doesn’t last long enough, gets tacky after a few hours, and difficult to apply. The Ben & Anna natural deodorant stick, however, conquers these issues with style and inventiveness. It certainly ticks all the boxes: it’s vegan, cruelty-free, palm oil free and easy to put on. It’s also packaged in a tube made from recycled paper, so the stick can be pushed up and applied without getting your hands waxy (as with solid tinned deodorants). This means it’s super easy to recycle too.
Using stick deodorant is very convenient for those trying to be more eco-conscious while travelling. It cuts down on plastic packaging (which is inevitable with liquid roll-on deodorant) and is cabin bag friendly, unlike aerosol deodorants.
Your luggage needs to withstand bumps, scrapes, tumbles and all kinds of weather. It must be made of sturdy stuff. Recycled materials fit the bill as they’re strong enough to withstand being melted down and reformed into another product.
Patagonia’s Black Hole duffle bags are made from recycled plastic bottles and are incredibly robust. Most of their designs can be either wheeled or carried on your back, making them very versatile for all kinds of adventurers.
If you’re looking for something a little sleeker, Samsonite has an Eco-Nu range of traditional suitcases also made from recycled plastic bottles.
One thing you find yourself needing on holidays is plastic snap lock bags. Need to store liquids for your flight, carry snacks or enclose a damp facecloth? The humble sandwich bag can handle it all. Unfortunately, however, it isn’t very environmentally friendly.
The good news is you can buy a biodegradable version of this favoured product. BioBag produces compostable snap lock bags in a range of sizes. They can be purchased from Whole Foods stores or online via Amazon.
Alternatively, when packing food for a day trip, use beeswax wraps instead. They can be reused plenty of times (for up to two years if you care for them properly) and will keep sandwiches, biscuits and many other snacks crisp and fresh. You can even put your origami skills to the test and make little pouches and boxes out of them. They’re versatile for something that can be folded flat in your suitcase.
Are you vegan? Never fear, there are reusable wax wraps for you too. They’re made from a range of plant-based waxes and oils and are free from palm oil.
Top Tip: wrap your shampoo bar in a wax wrap while you’re on the move. Rinse and pad dry when you get to your hotel and it’s ready to use for food storage again.
While we’re on the subject of food, let’s talk about disposable cutlery. The Ocean Conservancy lists plastic cutlery as one of the most harmful items to sea turtles, birds and other marine mammals. Yet billions of utensils continue to be thrown away each year, with most ending up in our oceans.
If you want to reduce your environmental footprint while you travel, take your cutlery with you. Eating on the go is common when you’re on holiday, and you don’t want to be using disposable utensils every time you grab a take-away meal.
Pack a knife, spoon and fork from home in a drawstring bag or invest in a lightweight bamboo travel cutlery set. It takes up minimal room and will save many turtles from an untimely death.
E-Readers tend to be quite divisive; you either love them or hate them. But it’s worth giving one a go if you know you’re going to have a lot of downtime. They’re light, space-efficient and convenient. And there’s a good range of them on the market for all budgets.
If you’re adamantly against E-Readers but fly through books while you’re travelling, look out for book swaps in the places you visit. These are becoming more commonplace in hostels and easily allow you to ditch a book you’ve read and pick up a new one without paying a penny. Swapping rather than buying new is environmentally friendly and leaves you with more room in your luggage.
Plastic bags are, thankfully, being gradually phased out. And in many countries, you pay to use them for shopping. So it’s always handy to carry a tote bag with you. Calico bags are lightweight and can be rolled up and popped in your backpack. But if you’re looking for something a bit sturdier, we recommend these heavy-duty bags by Wyatt and Jack . They’re made in the UK from broken bouncy castles, old pool inflatables, and retired deck chair canvas. So you know they’re going to last – rain, hail or shine!
If you want to know more about how you can be an eco-conscious and ethical traveller, view our blogs How to Choose Ethical Travel and How to Use Instagram Ethically When You Travel.