Being a responsible traveler or going zero waste doesn’t have to be hard nor expensive. This packing list I’ve put together highlights some of the best eco-friendly travel products you can buy – all for under $20! Whether you’re transitioning to become a responsible traveler or you’re looking for ways to reduce your plastic waste, this packing list is for you.
Did you know that many plastics made globally are single-use and cannot be recycled? The best examples of this are plastic water bottles, cups, and utensils.
From a standard water bottle, only about 30% of it can be recycled, which ends up beinginto fabric such as carpets and clothing. What about the other 70%? It ends up in landfills and oceans.
Traveling with limited use of plastic might sound difficult, maybe even impossible! I’m here to tell you that it is possible, though it might be a bit uncomfortable at first.
This roundup of eco-friendly products I put together are affordable and easy to find. Not only does this list contain products which are good for the environment, but I also try my best to showcase eco-friendly products with zero waste packaging.
Bamboo Straw and Utensils
Bamboo is an organic plant known for its strength and being lightweight. It’s commonly used in building materials for architecture and roads, and making items such as clothes, instruments, and household products.
We’re here to talk about traveling so what bamboo products could you purchase to make a positive impact on the environment? Bamboo straws, forks, knives, and spoons.
By purchasing a bamboo utensil travel set like the one from Global WAKEcup (where 10% of profits are donated to the Marine Conservation Society), you are eliminating the need to use plastic straws and cutlery.
When traveling, your chances of grabbing and drinks on the go are high. By packing this utensil set in your bag, you have the opportunity to say “no” when you’re offered a plastic straw with that fresh squeezed juice you’ve just ordered on a tropical island.
Bamboo is a great alternative to plastic, but don’t expect them to last forever! Bamboo is organic which means it will eventually decompose. Don’t let that stop from you buying these products though. By making the switch from plastic to bamboo, you’re already making a positive impact on the environment.
Bamboo Cotton Swabs
Have you ever considered that traditional cotton swabs may not be so environmentally friendly? It’s alright if you haven’t.
We regularly use cotton swabs for various needs such as cleaning our ears and make-up application, then we throw it in the trash without much regard. Cotton swabs are normally made with plastic which means they’re not biodegradable and cannot be recycled.
Because cotton and bamboo are 100% organic and biodegradable, bamboo cotton swabs serve the same purpose as traditional swabs, but are better for the environment.
Bamboo Toothbrush with Plant-Based Bristles
A toothbrush is something that we all use daily, and since we need to replace it regularly, why not purchase a toothbrush made of 100% biodegradable material?
With a bamboo toothbrush, what would normally be the plastic handle is replaced by a natural, biodegradable resource. This means that once it’s time to replace your toothbrush, you can do so knowing that you’re not leaving any plastic waste behind.
Be careful when purchasing bamboo toothbrushes though. Many on the market are made with nylon bristles. While the bamboo is biodegradable, the nylon isn’t.
Bonus: be sure to invest in a bamboo, convenient for taking your toothbrush on the go.
I’ve always found traditional toothpaste packaging odd and unnecessary. Not only is toothpaste bottled up in a plastic tube, but most manufacturers then pack that tube in another package.
When you switch to solid toothpaste, you’re really making an effort in going zero waste. Another perk of using solid toothpaste? It doesn’t count towards your liquid restrictions in your carry-on!
sells a 62-tablet pack (a one month supply) for around $5 and comes in recyclable packaging.
offers a one month supply of toothpaste for about $12. The tabs come in a glass bottle which allows you to reuse or recycle it once you’re done. Their four month supply of toothpaste costs $30.
Shampoo and Conditioner Bars
Not only does switching to shampoo and conditioner bars reduce plastic waste, but you also end up using less. The bars lather up real good, so a little bit really goes a long way.
And like solid toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner bars don’t count towards your liquid restrictions in your carry-on!
Here are some brands serving up eco friendly, zero waste alternatives to bottled shampoo and conditioner.
is a black owned hair care line committed to creating hair products for all hair types and textures. Tree Naturals offers its customers a zero waste alternative to some of their products. For $15-16, you can purchase their bamboo & lemongrass shampoo bar and green tea & coconut conditioner bar.
, another hair care line with black founders, sells shampoo bars for about $10. They’ve got shampoo bars made from coconut oil, hibiscus, and Jamaican black castor oil. Unfortunately, Shea Moisture does not sell conditioner bars.
shampoo and conditioner bars sell for $14-$17. They’ve got a wide selection depending on your hair type and needs (dry, oily, volumizing…). Though the bars might be a bit pricey, Ethique claims that one of their shampoo bars is the equivalent of three bottles, and one conditioner bar is equivalent to five bottles.
is a household brand, known for making homemade hair, cosmetics, and bath & body products. Lush has a wide selection of shampoo & conditioner bars, but I want to pay special attention to their vegan line! Their vegan shampoo bars begin at $12, are made with fresh ingredients, and are not tested on animals.
While sunscreen is great for your skin, most are extremelyfor the environment. Several ingredients found in sunscreen have proven to be and marine life such as oxybenzone and octinoxate. These ingredients cause coral bleaching while others take years to biodegrade (some never even biodegrade!) which ends up being really toxic for marine life.
Hawaii became the first U.S. state to ban the sale of sunscreen containing these ingredients with the law going into place on January 1, 2021.
Fortunately, there are now many reef-safe sunscreens on the market.
- Black Girl Sunscreen, SPF 30 and SPF 50: As a black woman, I’ve personally tried many sunscreen brands to find the ONE that doesn’t leave residue on my face and body. In comes Black Girl Sunscreen, a black-owned and reef-safe sunscreen line created exclusively for melanin skin to provide sun protection without the white residue!
- Banana Boat Simply Protect SPF 50+ Sunscreen
- Alba Botanica Sunscreen Spray with Coconut Oil, SPF 50
- Goddess Garden Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50
Unfortunately, the sunscreen industry still has quite a way to go when it comes to offering affordable, reef-safe sunscreen in zero waste packaging.
Zero Waste Menstrual Products
There are so many zero waste/organic menstrual products on the market that I couldn’t pick just one for this article. Depending on your comfort level, I know you’ll pick the best one for you!
If you prefer to wear pads, there are two environmentally friendly alternatives to the disposable pads:
- Leak-proof period panties are washable, reusable, and can actually be worn by itself without the added protection of a tampon or pad.
- Reusable pads work just like the disposable pads, but are much better for the environment due to having zero waste.
While tampons are super convenient to wear while doing sports or being in the water, the amount of waste they create – thanks to the plastic applicators and non-organic materials – is enormous! Here are my recommendations for affordable eco-friendly alternatives to traditional tampons.
- Menstrual cups mean serious business. They can hold 2-3 tampons’ worth of blood and when inserted correctly, feel as though there’s nothing up there! Menstrual cups come in different sizes. The main downside to traveling with a menstrual cup is ensuring you have access to clean water when handling it.
- 100% Organic cotton tampons make a great alternative to the traditional kind if you’re not yet willing to move away from them. While the best option is to buy tampons with no applicators, the organic tampons made by o.b. can be bought with an applicator that’s 92% plant-based.
Reusable Makeup Remover Pads
I’m not going to lie. Makeup wipes are convenient as heck when I travel! But honestly, they’re not great for the environment. Using disposable wipes or pads may not seem like a big deal, but with daily use, the amount of waste quickly adds up.
That’s why I’m highlighting reusable makeup remover pads as an eco-friendly alternative to disposable makeup removers. Reusable pads can be washed after each use with some pads promising a life cycle of about 1000 uses.
For just under $15, these charcoal bamboo pads are made of two organic materials: bamboo and cotton. With your purchase, you’ll also receive a small laundry bag to store all your pads in so they don’t get lost in the machine.
Reusable Water Bottle
I get it, plastic water bottles are convenient. You can buy a water bottle whenever you need it and throw it away after you’ve drunk from it. But wouldn’t it feel great knowing that you don’t have to contribute to plastic waste?
A reusable water bottle is one of the best eco-friendly products you can buy because of how much use you’ll get out of it. You’d truly get your money’s worth, and then some!
Insulated bottles are my preference for home and travel because it keeps my water cool for hours. This is essentially your standard bottle with no filtering system.
For water bottles with a filtering system, you really can’t do better than the LifeStraw Go*. It’s consistently rated one of the top water filtering products on the market. It eliminates 99.99% of bacteria, parasites, chemicals, and heavy metals from water thanks to the filtering system.
*LifeStraw Go is the only product in this article that costs more than $20.
Silicone / Glass Carry-On Bottles
As a traveler, I cannot live without the 3 oz/100 ml bottles for my carry-on bag and I’m sure you feel the same!
Sadly, most of these bottles are made of plastic and though they can be reused over and over, plastic is not easily recycled. Whatever plastic bottles end up in the trash, they last a lifetime in our oceans and landfills. So, I’d like to introduce two eco-friendly bottles as alternatives to the plastic travel-size bottles: silicone and glass.
Though silicone is not a naturally biodegradable material, it is better for the environment and easier to recycle than plastic.
If you’re not risk averse or not prone to clumsiness, consider purchasing travel-size bottles made of glass. Glass is one of the easiest materials to recycle and, therefore, make a great eco-friendly alternative to the plastic (and silicone) bottles. As with all glass products, be careful when handling these bottles – especially when going through airport security!
Depending on your preference, you can find glass bottles with a spray top or just a simple lid.
Washable Tote Bag
Carrying an eco-friendly bag on your travels such as a fold-able, reusable allows you to avoid having to use a plastic bag both at home and when traveling. And let’s face it… shopping is inevitable when you travel. You might need to go to the supermarket or buy souvenirs from local vendors.
Invest in a waterproof, washable tote bag. Not only do these bags fold up and can fit inside a small purse or backpack, but they’re easy to wipe down when it gets wet and super easy to clean when it gets dirty.
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