15 Simple Items You Can Use Today to be a Green Traveler

Be a green traveler. Make mindful choices. Prevent or reduce wastes in your travel, save money and save our environment. Start by using these simple travel products on your next trip. 

Why Become a Green Traveler?

Each of us generate around 0.1 to more than 1 kg of solid wastes per day.  Unfortunately, we tend to generate more wastes than normal when traveling due to the use of travel-size toiletries and single-use products.  More and more consumer goods are becoming disposable items.  Why do we choose to purchase them? This question leads us to the word “convenience”. 

Our preference for convenience and improper waste disposal practices, however, caused threats to biodiversity.  News on dead whale sharks/whales due to ingestion of plastics found in the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Mediterranean, Spain and Germany, and other cases around the world should serve as wake-up calls to rethink how we use plastics today.  The same is true for wastes disposed on land. Landfill space will not forever be available to accommodate the world’s wastes.

Traveling green and making mindful choices seem inconvenient, even expensive, at first.  Being a green traveler does not only bring environmental benefits.  Avoiding wastes in the first place or reducing waste at source can save money in the long run.  More importantly, it can save our planet, too.

Reducing waste doesn’t have to be complicated. The truth is, making several small changes taken collectively can make a large impact.  You can start with packing and using the right eco-friendly products for your trip.  Below are simple travel products that you should start using on your next trip towards becoming a green traveler. 

List of Eco Friendly Products for the Green Traveler

1.  Reusable spoon and fork

Green traveler - Reusable spoon and fork

First off, dine in instead of taking the food out to avoid disposable packaging wastes and one-time use of disposable cutleries.  If you happen to eat in a restaurant or fast food chains that serve food with disposable spoon and fork, that’s the time to use your own reusable spoon and fork.  This will also come in handy to carry around at picnics, camping or bringing food when hiking. 

Be careful though with carrying metal fork in your carry-on baggage if you are traveling by air.  I once brought a pair of metal spoon and fork in my carry-on baggage and was stopped by the security at the hand carry baggage check.  I left the boarding gate with my spoon forever separated with her fork.

Start using reusable spoon and fork while on travel. Check products and price here.

2. Eco Friendly Bamboo Toothbrush

We replace our toothbrush every three months or so.  Multiply that per year by the number of toothbrush users in the entire world and you will have billions of waste toothbrushes ending up on landfills.  Check out this infographic for a better appreciation of the environmental impacts of a toothbrush over its life cycle

I can’t tell you to eliminate toothbrush in your life.  As much as air pollution from oral sources should be prevented, the same should be our concern for pollution caused by toothbrush disposal.

Most toothbrushes available in the market today are made of non-biodegradable, petroleum-based plastic.  Bamboo toothbrush is an eco-friendly alternative to plastic toothbrush.  Bamboo is a member of the grass family and grows fast.  It does not need too much water nor require fertilizers or pesticides as it thrives in a variety of environment.  Bamboo is also biodegradable and compostable. 

Most commercially available bamboo toothbrushes, however, have bristles that are still made of nylon, also a plastic.  Bristles can be plucked from the handle upon disposal to segregate the biodegradable part from the nylon.   At least, shifting to a bamboo toothbrush will lessen the amount of waste for final disposal.  

Just another suggestion, whatever toothbrush you’re using right now, you can still prolong its life after serving your teeth.  Why not re-use it for household scrubbing or perhaps use it for washing your bag or rubber shoes?

 

Support a company that supports the local community.  Check out Minka Venture’s bamboo toothbrushes here.

3. Washable feminine pads or menstrual cups

Green Traveler - washable feminine pads

A woman approximately uses 15-20 disposable menstrual pads per period, translating to 180 to 240 pieces of disposable pads per woman.  Multiply that with millions of the world’s menstruating population and you have mountains of pads that are diverted to landfills. 

Now, let’s look at the disposable pad’s life cycle from the time raw materials are extracted up to its disposal fate.  Starting with the raw materials, a disposable pad practically comes from trees, which are pulped using large amounts of water, chemicals and heat energy to break down wood into fiber. 

All pads are bleached by introducing bleaching chemicals in the manufacturing process.  Other chemical inputs include fragrance chemicals, pad adhesives and absorbency enhancers.   Those who experience allergic reactions or rashes to disposable pads will probably suspect by now where these reactions are potentially coming from.  On top of that, disposable pads are normally wrapped in plastic packaging, which goes to the garbage bins together with the pads.    

Reusable cloth pads are, likewise, sourced from tree fibers.  However, since they can be replaced every 3 to 5 years, you significantly reduce all the environmental impacts associated with a disposable pad’s manufacturing process and final disposal.  You can also replace your daily panty liners with the thinner variation of the reusable cloth pads.

Because they are washable, you can save money from not buying a pack of menstrual pads every month. On the other hand, washing reusable pads entail the use of additional water, detergent and effort.  However, the benefits from reduction of impacts during manufacture and disposal, far outweigh the impacts from additional resources for washing.

You can purchase washable and reusable cloth pads from Chill’sThe ChipperThe Eco Baby BoutiqueVeezes ClosetEarth Baby, and Green Pads, or buy online from Lazada for washable menstrual pads here and washable pantyliners here.

 

Alternatively, menstrual cup is another eco-friendly option.  It is made of medical grade silicone that is foldable and opens easily once inserted.  It can protect from leaks by emptying the cup every 4 to 12 hours, or more frequently, depending on heaviness of menstrual flow. Menstrual cup is available at Sinaya Cup and Lazada.

4. Reusable Facial Cloth Rounds

Green Traveler - reusable facial cotton rounds

Eliminate one time use and disposal of cotton rounds or pads by switching to reusable facial cloth rounds.  Save money while avoiding solid wastes. You can buy washable, soft and absorbent cloth rounds at Green Pads and Lazada

5. Reusable Water Bottle

Don’t take reusable water bottles for granted.  These are one of the simplest, yet money and earth-saving products that you must include in your eco-friendly kit.  If you are bringing in your own bottle with water at the airport, you will most likely be forced to toss it at the disposal bin at the end of the security gate.  Then you’ll be forced to buy overpriced bottled water inside the airport stores.  What I normally do is bring in an empty water bottle then fill it with drinking water at drinking water stations within the airport.

6. Reusable Straw

 
 
 
 
 
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Chocolate Brown, Khaki, and Forest Green 🌿 #RoadToZeroWaste #GoZeroPH

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If it is possible to avoid using any kind of straw at all, then do it.  Prevention by elimination is the best option for waste straw reduction.  When buying drinks and they give you a disposable straw with it, refuse the straw and tell them you don’t need it.  The second best option is to carry your own reusable straw everywhere, refuse to be given disposable straw when you buy a drink and use your reusable one when you need it. 

Need some motivation? Just remember the viral video of the sea turtle found in Costa Rica struggling with a plastic straw in its nostril.

Wondering where to buy reusable straws? Check out from the links here: Lazada, GoZeroPH and Sip PH.

7. Shampoo and conditioner bars

Green traveler - shampoo bar

Shampoo bars or solid shampoo and conditioner bars are environment friendly products because they are free of plastic packaging. Be careful though when choosing the right shampoo bar.  Check the ingredients and prefer those that use natural and organic ingredients.

Where to buy shampoo bars? I have tried Lush (more pricey due to its international brand) and Ecobar, both available in the Philippines. Ecobar now has resellers so check their Instagram account to know where the nearest reseller in your area.  Lush, on the other hand, has a store in Level 3 Trinoma Mall and SM City North EDSA. Other makers of shampoo bars and conditioners in the Philippines are Suds, Zero Basics and Paraluman PH.

8. Reusable bags

I always carry around a reusable foldable cloth bag when shopping for groceries or souvenir items. Other countries like in Europe, encourage the use of one’s own shopping bag by charging additional fee when using plastic bags from the store.

9. Solar charger

Green traveler - solar charger

Reduce electricity consumption and you will reduce on carbon emissions, as well.  A solar charger for your devices like phones and tablets will help you save energy while on travel by harnessing the sun’s renewable energy.  This is also particularly useful when camping, hiking or going on a road trip where electricity outlets are not always available.

Portable solar chargers are available here.


Read about Hiking Red and Rose Valley in Cappadocia, Turkey


10. Eco-friendly sun screen

Conventional sun screens normally contain oxybenzone and octinoxate, which are active ingredients that absorb harmful UV rays.  These chemicals protect us from the UV rays but on the other hand, cause coral bleaching, even in small concentrations, as reported by Dr. Craig A. Downs, Ph.D., Executive Director of Haereticus Environmental Laboratory.  

Aside from the abovementioned ingredients, the study also pointed out other toxic chemicals used in sun screen such as methyl paraben, butyl paraben or phenoxyethanol, which are also used as fish anesthetic.  

The best option to practice green tourism in this case is to prevent or reduce the use of sun screen, as much as possible, by using long sleeve swimsuits or rash guard.  You can then apply sun screen only to your sun-exposed body parts.  When choosing sun screen products, look for alternative less toxic ingredients such as non-nano zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.  Magwai offers this environment-friendly alternative.  Also check Lazada for other brands of eco-friendly sun screen.


Read about: Island Hopping in Port Barton, San Vicente, Palawan


11. Collapsible coffee cup

A lot of people love to drink coffee and wouldn’t last a day without at least a cup.  The problem with getting your dose of coffee while you’re out is the single-use cup that you have to dispose for every cup of coffee.  Bringing your own reusable cup and asking coffee shops to fill up your own up sounds like a good idea.  However, if you’re traveling, bringing along a coffee mug or cup will be inconvenient and violates the “travel light, travel further” adage.

Good thing, collapsible coffee cups are now available.  I have yet to own one but the potential benefits are clearly there.  What I have to test yet is how coffee shops in my country will take it if I ask them to fill my own cup.  I have read that in other western countries, coffee shops offer discounts when you use your own cup.  I wish other countries like mine would follow suit. 

It doesn’t have to be always coffee.  You can also use your collapsible cups when buying other drinks or food items that are normally provided in single-use plastic cups such as taho (soft tofu with syrup and sago pearl), fruit shakes and milk tea.  

You can order your first collapsible cup at EcoHeroes or Lazada.  

12. Collapsible food containers

 
 
 
 
 
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WE TAKE ZERO-WASTE SERIOUSLY . Here in Ecoheroes, we're trying to make all areas of our operations zero-waste. That's why when we get our supplies, we REFUSE individual packaging – plastic or otherwise – because silicone is very durable and easy to clean. It doesn't need "cushions" at all. And sure enough, they arrive at our doors in awesome condition even without the bubble wraps and whatnots. . We explain this to and insist this on our suppliers. And we're very happy to have found ones who are very supportive of our advocacy. . When shipping our orders, we don't put any more packaging, aside from the courier pouch, to further REDUCE #pointlessplastic. We also have partner Ecohubs (@wingsonthego, @blackportph, and #imafloraspamangan) where people can get our products for the same price, and try out some good food, too! PLUS, we are happy to announce that we will be making deliveries as zero-waste as possible as well. We are just smoothing out details, ensuring that rates will still be affordable and items will arrive to our customers in great condition. Again, thank you for supporting us! We've got a lot more sustainable surprises in store for you!😊💚 #IAmAnEcohero #BeAnEcohero #PlasticFree #Sustainablelifestyle #sustainableliving #notopointlessplastic #ecoheroesph #Collapsiblecups #Collapsiblecontainers #zerowaste #zerowastelifestyle

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Speaking of collapsible cups, joining the family are collapsible food containers.  I find these particularly useful when going island hopping or going out for picnics. In the Philippines, island hopping tours usually allow you to buy fresh fish and food then let the boat men cook it for you or grill it yourself.  The normal reaction when buying fresh food for cooking later is to also buy disposable plates and utensils.

Save money from using disposable plates and avoid adding up to solid wastes in your destination by using reusable collapsible food containers.  Collapsible containers are available at EcoHeroes and Lazada..

13. Packing cubes

packing cubes

I love using packing cubes because they keep my travel items organized inside my baggage.  I also use it to separate used clothes from clean ones.  Aside from these, packing cubes are great alternatives to plastics and can be re-used more often.  Choose packing cubes here.

14. Shawl or sarong or malong

green traveler - items to pack

Bring a shawl or sarong for your trip. Sarong or malong is a traditional tube or fabric sheet mostly used in Asian and Arab countries.  Shawls and sarongs are multi-purpose garments that can be used as scarf, dress, picnic mats, beach towel and blanket. 

When you’re travelling by air, instead of requesting for a blanket when you feel cold, use your shawl or sarong to keep you warm.  This will prevent disposal of clean plastics which airlines usually unnecessarily use to pack the blankets.  Check out sarong/ malong online here.

15. E-copies of travel documents

This is technically not a product but I'll include it in the list, anyway. We need documents such as air tickets, boarding pass, hotel booking reservations, travel notes and maps as we travel.  These documents can be saved as e-copies, saving us on paper and printing ink consumption.  Instead of taking free printed maps and brochures, you can download maps which can be viewed offline. I use Maps.Me which allows me to download only the maps of areas or countries I need and view them even when offline.  

Make Source Reduction a Habit

landfill

Re-using and recycling are good practices but striving to prevent as much waste as possible by avoiding generating them in the first place is still the best method of living a life of eco travel.  Above listed items are not just for green tourism, most of these are applicable for use in our daily activities whether we are traveling or not.  Practicing something new and doing it on a regular basis will make it into a habit.  Let’s start slowly until we make source reduction a habit.

Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.

Vincent Van Gogh

As Vincent Van Gogh said, “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together”.  The solid waste problem looks like a mountain to conquer but if each person does several small things to solve this problem, then collectively, we can make a difference.   

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18 comments

  1. Marvi 2 March, 2019 at 19:17 Reply

    This is such a timely post as we are all moving towards responsible travel. 🙂 At the moment, we are using reusable water bottles and e-copies of our documents when we travel. Hopefully we can look for more eco-friendly products soon like reusable spoon and fork and bamboo toothbrush.

  2. Danik 3 March, 2019 at 20:19 Reply

    This is actually quite detailed with some items on this list I would have never thought of changing over. Already started with the straws and have a Bamboo stick toothbrush. Packing cubes, yup, I really need them.

  3. Nic Hilditch-Short 4 March, 2019 at 10:16 Reply

    These are such good tips. Sometimes it can seem like such a small action but if we all reduced our waste then the impact would be huge. I think when you travel, especially to developing countries, you really see so much more waste than you are accustomed to living in places like Australia and the UK. I remember in Thailand being so shocked by how much plastic is used, you literally have to be very forceful about not having a plastic bag or a straw! So having alternatives in those places hopefully helps!

    • findingjing 7 March, 2019 at 23:40 Reply

      Thanks for your comments, Nic. It’s the other way around for me. I live in Southeast Asia and although there are efforts to improve the solid waste situation, there are obviously a lot more to accomplish. A change of mindset for me is the most difficult but the very first thing that should be addressed. I admire countries who are much more advanced in terms of solid waste management implementation and hope countries like mine could learn from their best practices.

  4. Jenn and Ed Coleman 4 March, 2019 at 10:53 Reply

    I am such a big fan of reusable grocery bags. I keep a couple folded up in my purse that hold up to 35lbs. The clerks can’t belive I put the milk and everything in there but it all fits and there’s room for more. The come in handy for trips too.

  5. Candy 7 March, 2019 at 10:17 Reply

    I have many of the things you have listed here and was happy to see some new items I have yet to purchase. I really need to stop using cotton and get me those Reusable Facial Cloth Rounds. What a great idea! The collapsable food containers are great too!

  6. Kevin | Caffeinated Excursions 7 March, 2019 at 15:33 Reply

    What an inspirational list! Even making a conscious effort to reduce things like paper (as you mention) and single-use plastic (especially water bottles) is something I need to remind myself to do while traveling, but I love a lot of these ideas as well.

  7. Yukti 7 March, 2019 at 21:19 Reply

    Eco-travel is necessary nowadays with many re-usable things. I would opt for reusable plates, forks and bamboo tooth brush. Other options also look worth trying it out.

  8. Lola La Paz 7 March, 2019 at 22:19 Reply

    This topic should concern everyone. We try to be very conscious when we travel about the ecological footprint we leave behind. You have some very useful items here that can help with that. I am not sure about the washable feminine pads though 🙂 But thank you for creating this list and help people be more aware.

  9. Michael Hodgson 8 March, 2019 at 07:28 Reply

    Solid post. We do many of them. Some are, for us, simply not practical. Others, well, debatable. But regardless of what ones anyone does or chooses not to, the important thing is to think about how much we use, reuse, throw away etc. and what impact we each have by every action we take, every day … travel or not.

  10. Joanne 9 March, 2019 at 09:04 Reply

    Travelling with kids, I have historically taken the easy way out but really it’s so easy to use some of your ideas. Love the reusable straws!

  11. Alex 12 March, 2019 at 20:00 Reply

    This was such an eye opening read. I try to be mindful of the environment wherever I go but I never thought about some of these items. I will purchase for future travel. Thx

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