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When my husband started working in the world of sustainability, we were amazed to start learning about the impact we as humans were having in our world. Our eyes were opened, and we have been on a journey to start reducing our waste and carbon footprint. The goal here is not to be perfect; it is a lifelong journey of improving and learning. Each day you can start to change the products and habits that you have in your everyday life.
In this post, I wanted to touch on how to start making a change in your packing list for when you are traveling. The travel industry has many positives associated with it, but it can also have many negatives. By becoming more aware and learning about the impact we are making, we can start to achieve sustainable tourism.
Reusable Toiletry Containers/Green Cosmetic Products
How tempting is it to hit up your local pharmacy and shop for those mini containers of shampoo and conditioner to pack away in your suitcase? That way, you are not taking up too much room or weight in your suitcase. Easy, simple, and low stress. However, did you know, our plastic use has increased 120 times since the 1970s? With 70% of it just piling up in landfills.
I am quite picky about the hair products that I use, and unfortunately, none of them come in plastic-free packaging. To help offset plastic packaging use, I opt for big bottles of my favorite products so that I go through bottles less frequently. When I am traveling, I can refill travel containers that I can continue to reuse. Not perfection, but still better. Another option for some people is the use of toiletries in bar form, like shampoo bars.
I have also been trying to get my cosmetic products in packaging that is recycled, low waste, or refillable. One of my most significant switches has been to natural deodorant. Let it be known that I am someone who is frequently stress sweating, and it SMELLS. No shame, it happens. I did try a few different products out, but the only brand that works for me is Routine deodorant (not sponsored, but would love to be). It is a woman-run company based in Alberta. The deodorant comes in glass containers that you can either refill at certain stores, reuse, or wash out and recycle. I have tested it out for long flights and have been pleasantly surprised at how well it works.
Reusable Period Products
There are close to 20 billion tampons, applicators, and pads dumped into North American garbage every year. The average woman will use about 20 tampons per period, and it could cost them roughly $4,500 over their lifetime (#endperiodpoverty). Readily available disposable period products not only have an impact on the environment; they can also have a massive impact on your health. There are many studies out there that talk about the harm from all of the dyes and chemicals they use.
One way to help solve this is to switch to reusable period products. Some options are menstrual cups, discs, sponges, and reusable pads. I entirely switched to a menstrual cup one year ago and will honestly never go back. It is light, easily packed, and one cup can be used for years. I recommend doing some research on what would work best for you as there are many options out there; try taking the put a cup in it quiz!. It can be a little frustrating at first, but it is fully worth the trouble. They save you money and can help to lessen your impact on the environment.
Reusable Water bottle
I think we all know by now the impacts of the plastic water bottle industry on our planet. It also can heavily affect your pocket. Bringing your own reusable water bottle not only helps to keep costs down (especially if you are on a budget), but it can also have a considerable impact on the environment. Choosing options like glass or metal are the best options as they are easier to recycle and can break down much easier.
Many places are starting to ban the use of plastic straws. It becomes harder and harder to find places that will serve you anything but a paper straw. Does anybody actually enjoy drinking out of a paper straw?? No, thank you, I am okay. Metal straws are an easy way to ensure you have your optimal drinking specifications met. They are small, usually, come with a carrying case, and can easily fit into any bag. You do not have to worry about them disintegrating into your drink or getting an ice cube to the face.
Toothbrushes are up there when it comes to landfill waste with plastic straws. Unfortunately, it is harder to get away from not brushing your teeth. Sustainable bamboo brushes are an easy fix that you can implement in your home life and your traveling life. Bamboo is a biodegradable product that is quickly grown. Just make sure the bristles are also biodegradable and are not plastic.
Reef Safe Sunscreen
Sun protection is critical in the protection against skin cancers, and sunscreen is the best way to help protect yourself (besides avoiding the sun). Even if you are not going on a hot beach vacation, it is wise to invest in a reef-safe sunscreen. One of the active ingredients in sunscreen is oxybenzone, which is a dangerous chemical for our ocean. It bleaches/kills coral, contributes to fish infertility, and has been found in the cells of other marine life, negatively impacting their life. When sunscreen gets washed off our bodies, it ends up in our water systems. This is why you should always be using the reef-safe formulas, even if you are just in a lake, as it can affect any marine life.
Unfortunately, the term “reef safe” is not FDA regulated at the moment. So, this means that a company can put that it is reef safe and it is not. It is up to the consumer to ensure that they avoid these ingredients;
Here is a list of some reef-safe sunscreens from Hawaii.com
- Kokua Sun Care Hawaiian SPF 50 Natural Zinc Sunscreen
- Mama Kuleana Waterproof SPF 30 Reef-safe Sunscreen
- Little Hands Hawaii SPF 35+ All-natural and Organic Sunscreen
- Manda Organic SPF 50 Sun Paste
- Raw Love SPF 35 All-natural Mineral Sunscreen
- Thinksport SPF 50 Sunscreen
- All Good SPF 30 Sport Sunscreen Lotion
- Babo Botanicals SPF 30 Clear Zinc Lotion
- Suntegrity Natural Mineral Sunscreen
- Badger SPF 30 Unscented Sunscreen Cream
- Raw Elements SPF 30 Certified Natural Sunscreen
- Stream2Sea SPF 30 Mineral Sunblock
- Loving Naturals Clear Body SPF 30+ All-natural Sunscreen
- Banana Boat Simply Protect SPF 50+ Sunscreen (spray, not lotion)
- Olita Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30
Buy Your Clothing from Local Makers
Fast fashion has become a norm across big-brand clothing stores. There are a few issues that make fast fashion an ecological problem. Often clothes in the model are marketed to young females because they offer low costs and marketing strategies to entice women. The clothing is made with poor worker conditions, uses unsustainable materials, and is only made to be worn a few times, and then it is thrown out. This also usually includes clothing in the souvenir stores.
Ways to help combat fast fashion are investing in clothing from local makers or visiting your local thrift stores instead of buying new. Most of my clothing is definitely not all ethical (still learning), but instead of throwing out all of my old stuff, I will continue to wear it until I can no longer, and then replace it with more ethical versions. When you are out traveling, try to do some research on locals who are selling/making clothing, and you could have a wonderful piece that you can feel good about wearing. I have fallen victim to buying the “I LOVE (insert country here),” sweatshirt but would it not be better to buy a local item? For example, I have been buying a few 100% wool items from my time in Scotland from local farms.
One clothing company in Canada I have recently found is The Great North. A clothing line made using sustainable materials, ethically sourced facilities, 10% of proceeds from each purchase going to conservation efforts, and is cruelty-free. If you are interested in purchasing, you could receive 30% off your order using my code here or use cdninwanderland at the checkout!