Eco-Friendly Travel Essentials: A Packing List for Conscious Travellers

I am a lover of travel to say the least. I have built my blog around the art of roaming the world and have taken the readers of this magazine along with me to corners of the world from Thailand to Edinburgh. But if there is one thing I don’t like about travelling – there always is a “but”, isn’t there? – it is the impact it can have on the planet. From the heavy pollution caused by traffic to the many plastic-wrapped amenities we use on the road to the waste produced at the hotels we stay at.

The obvious solution to the problem is, of course, to stop travelling or at least to travel less. Less time in transit means leaving behind a smaller footprint overall. But where is the fun in that?

If you take the right precautions you can significantly minimise the impact you as a traveller have on the planet. It may sound selfish, but I think the positive effects travelling will have on you and subsequently, the people around you, outweigh the negative impact of travelling. Just make sure you pack these eco-friendly travel essentials to lower your impact and make you a more conscious traveller.

Make sure the planet comes first on your travels.

Reusable coffee cup

Travel and takeaway coffee tend go hand in hand. Who hasn’t bought a coffee at an airport or train station, just to kill some time? The amount of rubbish this produces  is insane – especially when you consider that you only use the paper cup with the plastic lid for half an hour max. Often, you’d even have the time to sit down for your beverage, but coffee shops might still use the single-use cups – so that’s not the solution.

I got my first KeepCup a few years ago and I use it a lot, even when I don’t travel abroad. I take it on every trip that involves air or train travel. There are of course many brands producing these reusable coffee cups, but I like this one because they produce their cups sustainably and there are hundreds of colour variations in different styles. You can even customise your own personal KeepCup!

The only downside from a travelling point of view is the space the coffee cup takes up when it’s empty. If you – like me – travel a lot with hand luggage only, you might want to look into getting a collapsible coffee cup, like the one from Stojo (available via Amazon).

A reusable coffee cup is the first step to be a greener traveller.

Metal Straw

While I hardly ever have a drink that is served with a straw in my daily life – and if I ask for “no straw” – this is a different game on holidays. In a lot of countries water or soft drinks and then, of course, cocktails are served with single-use plastic straws. I’m sure you’ve heard that in the UK alone, we use approximately 8.5 billion plastic straws a year. That’s 8.5 billion too much.

While you can now also get eco-friendly and bio-degradable paper or bamboo straws, there really is no reason to produce even that kind of waste. Just get a steel straw!

Girls that Scuba, a platform that was started to talk about – well – girls that scuba dive, has launched a zero-waste product line which includes a set of three steel straws. They come with a small bag and a brush to clean them, and you can rest assured that they are not delivered wrapped in plastic.

Steripen and water bottle

Buying bottles water seems unavoidable in many destinations, where tap water is not safe to drink. But there is a way around it!

A Steripen is a handheld water purifying device that uses ultraviolet light to sterilise water and make it safe to drink. It kills off microbes and viruses without changing anything about the taste or colour of the water – unlike chlorine tablets. The Steripen has a lamp life of 8,000 litres, which means it will last you for around 7 years!

Of course, you’ll need something to hold that water in before you can purify it, and that’s why you should travel with a reusable water bottle. Again, there are tons of brands out there for you to choose from. Just make sure you get a BPA-free bottle with a wide enough opening to fit the Steripen.

I love my one-litre water bottle by Primus, because it has a wide lid to fill it, but a smaller opening to drink from. I use it a lot when I’m camping, as I can fill it with hot water too and use it as a hot water bottle in my sleeping bag.


A reusable water bottle with a wide lid is perfect to use with a water purifier on the road.

Tote bags

Plastic bags contribute significantly to the pollution of our oceans and soils – so ditch them. While some countries are finally starting to get rid of single-use plastic bags, you can easily do so yourself with one simple step: carry reusable shopping bags.

I’m storing at least one tote bag in every single one of my travel bags, just to make sure I don’t forget to pack one. Tote bags can be used to carry your shopping from the market, store your items when you go to the beach or as a casual day bag when you explore a city. There really is no reason not to bring a tote bag with you.

If you’re looking for a smaller and more permanent solution for your handbag, get one of those bags that fold down into a tiny square-sized pocket and keep it at the bottom of your bag at all times. BAGGU does some lovely styles!


Bio-degradable sun lotion

Did you know that some destinations ban people from using regular sun lotion because it pollutes the ocean? Think about it: whether you go swimming in the sea or simply sunbathe and wash off the lotion at night in the shower – your sun lotion ends up in our water one way or another.

The problem in most sun lotion (and especially spray-on lotion) is a chemical called oxybenzone, which once in the water contributes to coral bleaching and has an incredibly negative impact on reefs.

Luckily there are now many bio-degradable reef-friendly sun lotions available that protect your skin and won’t harm the ocean. Badger sun lotion is available on Amazon, Sun Safe is another great choice and 30p of every bottle of Green People sunscreen sold is donated to the Marine Conservation Society UK.

Bio-degradable sun lotion is an eco-friendly travel essential.

Menstrual cup

It sucks enough to travel while you’re on your period, but that doesn’t mean you have to take the planet down with you. Tampons and sanitary pads produce an awful lot of waste that is not easy to recycle.

To be completely honest, it takes a bit of time and skill to get used to a menstrual cup, but overall it’s worth the effort. Not only do you avoid producing waste, you also save a lot of money over time! I recently purchased the OrganiCup which  delivers entirely plastic-free!

Of course, there are many more things you can pack and ways to travel to make you a more conscious traveller. A reusable utensil set is useful if you plan to eat out a lot. Eco-friendly and plastic-free toiletries help reduce waste, are good for the planet and minimise your luggage. Bamboo toothbrushes, safety razors and wooden hairbrushes all make your packing list more sustainable.

When you travel, shop at local businesses and stay at hotels that are owned by, employ and/or train locals. Choose tour companies that provide environmentally and culturally sustainable experiences. Travel slowly and take local means of transport. Walk, bike or take public transport instead of calling a taxi. Eat food that is sourced locally and in season, and avoid animal products where you can.

I could go on an on with tips and tricks for more eco-friendly travel, but I hope that armed with this list for beginners, you will love your new way of travelling consciously.


Photo credits:

#1: Gem & Lauris RK via Unsplash

#2: Goran Ivos via Unsplash

#3: Alan Carrillo via Unsplash

#4: Jeremy Bishop via Unsplash

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Kathi Kamleitner

Travel Writer

Born and raised in Vienna, Kathi has been dreaming of a life in the green land of Scotland ever since she was a teenager. In her mid-20s she turned this dream into reality and moved to one of the UK's most-vegan friendly cities, Glasgow. Always an animal lover and leaning towards a vegetarian diet, it was the warm and ever-present vegan community in Glasgow that brought her to the conclusion to change to a plant-based diet entirely. For her, traveling the world responsibly, living a vegan lifestyle and being a feminist at heart go hand in hand, and inform every aspect of her writing. She shares her vegan adventures around Scotland on her travel blog Watch Me See, offers travel consultation for Scotland and recently launched, a one stop resource for vegan food and other businesses in Glasgow.

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