Home Sustainable Travel The Best Eco-Friendly Travel Gear (all Vegan too!)

The Best Eco-Friendly Travel Gear (all Vegan too!)

written by Sam and Veren November 11, 2017
The Best Eco-Friendly Travel Gear (all Vegan too!)

Do you care about the environment but like traveling? Enter: the best eco-friendly travel gear, to the rescue!

Unfortunately, conventional travel tends to accumulate a lot of waste.

The plastic water bottles. The plastic grocery and shopping bags. The takeaway containers and coffee cups.  You try to make coffee wherever you’re staying but then have to buy filters because there’s never any.

What’s an eco-conscious traveler to do?

With some sustainable and eco-friendly travel gear, you can quickly and easily reduce your environmental impact while traveling and at home. While we normally don’t condone buying lots of stuff, all of the things listed here are things that we use to avoid the accumulation of other stuff. (Modern society is quite the catch-22, isn’t it?)

Here are our sustainable travel products and eco-friendly travel gear (all vegan as well, of course)! Since we travel via house sitting, you’ll see that our recommendations are most suited to travelers staying in hostels, Airbnb, or hotels. For outdoor adventure travel, check out this guide to eco friendly camping.

Also! You’ll notice that we’ve include links to Amazon and to Earth Hero, an eco-friendly Amazon-esque site. Read more about why to avoid Amazon + other alternatives in our article: Best Ethical Alternatives to Amazon.

Reusable Containers for Eating on the Go

It’s no secret that we love food. What we don’t love is how much waste eating out can accumulate if you’re not careful. We always carry the following items to reduce container waste on the go.

Nomader Water Bottles

Nomader is a collapsible water bottle that is recent and very welcome addition to our eco-friendly travel gear. We’ve been actually wondering if something like Nomader existed for a long time when the answer landed in our inbox one day!

We’ve been using Vapur water bottles, but they have a few fatal flaws (see below). Happily, the Nomader bottle has improved upon these with a great reusable, collapsible bottle.

The Nomader bottle is made out of BPA free silicone, comes with an easy carry-strap, folds up when not in use, and is leak-proof with a screw cap so that it doesn’t accidentally leak in your bag (not that that has ever happened to us before…).

They also have a lifetime warranty and offer bottles in tons of fun colors. We’ve got purple and green. What’s not to love?!

Click here to pick out your Nomader water bottle. Read more about Nomader and why to avoid plastic water bottles in our Instagram post below:

View this post on Instagram

EASY PLASTIC FREE SWAP: REUSABLE WATER BOTTLE ⁠ ⁠ Reusable water bottles are such an easy win when it comes to reducing plastic free use! Most people have water bottles lying around their house. It’s just about making that habit to carry it with you when you’re headed out! ⁠ ⁠ Did you know: ⁠ 🚰Humans buy 1 million plastic water bottles per minute⁠ 🚰Americans purchase about 50 billion water bottles per year, averaging about 13 bottles per month/person.! By using a reusable water bottle, you could save an average of 156 plastic bottles annually.⁠ 🚰Only 1 out of 5 plastic bottles is recycled. The rest becomes litter, ends up in a landfill or the ocean. ⁠ 🚰It takes 700 years for a PET plastic bottle to start decomposing⁠ ⁠ We’ve been using collapsible Vapur water bottles for years now, but they aren’t that sturdy and we’ve had a few casualties over the years. We also have a metal water bottle, but it’s pretty heavy for adventuring! ⁠ ⁠ We were so excited to learn about @nomader bottles, who kindly sent us bottle to test out. You guys know that we don’t usually go for brand collaborations, but when they reached out to us with the water bottle we’ve actively been looking for (lightweight and collapsible yet sturdy), we thought you guys would love to hear our honest review. ⁠ ⁠ We’re big fans! Veren has already stolen this water bottle from me, he loves it so much 😅The bottle is made of silicone and rolls up for saving space in a bag if needed. They also come in all kinds of different colors as well, which is pretty cool. Obviously we went for an eco-friendly green 😉⁠ ⁠ Plastic bottle stats: @earthdaynetwork and TheWorldCounts.com⁠ ⁠ Photo: A socially distanced visit to Niagara Falls the other day, will share more about that soon! ⁠

A post shared by Sam + Veren | Digital Nomads (@alternativetravelers) on

Vapur water bottles

We carry these everywhere, whether we are traveling or at home in Madrid. Apparently, staying hydrated is a very American thing, but we don’t care if drinking water marks us as a foreigner.

The Vapur bottles come in a variety of colors and two sizes. When they are empty, they roll up and take up a quarter of the space that a metal bottle does (and weigh much less). The clip even allows you to take them without a bag – just attach to a belt loop or pocket.

Vapur Foldable Water Bottles for Eco-Friendly Packing

While we still like and use the Vapur water bottle, there are a few drawbacks. First, it isn’t the sturdiest. All that folding eventually causes weak points in the bottle. One of ours became scraped and developed a hole. To be fair, this was after a few years of solid use.

The other drawback is that these don’t stand up on their own when not full of water. Doesn’t sound like a huge deal, but it can lead to flopping all over the place or blowing around if you want to set it on a table or something.

Reusable Coffee/Tea Cup

Whether you’re caffeinating yourself in a train station, bus station, airport, or cafe, all those takeaway cups add up.

Enter this silicone reusable and collapsible cup! Boom – no more takeaway cups. Saving the environment while drinking coffee – Sam’s a big fan. An added benefit is that this cup is way more secure than a takeaway cup. Veren has literally ran with it (lid on) to catch a train and didn’t spill a drop.

Collapsible Coffee Cup - AlternativeTravelers.com

Many coffee shops have also begun giving discounts for bringing your own cup. So eventually this cup pays for itself! Btw, if you’re not into the silicone collapsible kind, Keep Cup has a range of colors and sizes. Click here to see more information on Keep Cup.

Combine it with the reusable steel filter below for an even more budget-friendly cup of joe. 

Reusable Steel Mesh Basket for Making Coffee and Tea

We’ve already mentioned this in our mobile travel kitchen kit, but it’s just that useful. Tiny, durable, can be stuffed with anything to pack more tightly and reduces filter waste tremendously.

We’ve been using it (heavily) for almost two years and it’s still going strong. We usually wash it by hand, but every 6 months or so throw it in a dishwasher for an extra cleaning.

Just buy a bag of coffee grounds and make several cups of coffee for the cost of one out. Our reusable basket was just $7. Click to check current prices.

Reusable Collapsible Bags

Reusable bags are super handy to have packed neatly into your backpack at all times. Our favorite ones stuff into themselves in order to reduce to the size of a big baby fist.

Perfect for groceries, small purchases on the go, using as a laundry bag, etc. You never know when you might need one, so always take it with you – the habit is key. They come in a variety of different colors and sizes too!

Check Amazon // Check Earth Hero (10% off with code: ALTERNATIVETRAVELERS)

Sustainable Travel Accessories | AlternativeTravelers.com

Reusable Utensils

We don’t have as much of a need for reusable utensils as we either eat at home or sit down for a meal at a restaurant. We pretty much never get meals takeaway and it’s not really a thing here in Spain (though it’s catching on).

Still, in places like the U.S. and U.K. where takeaway and plastic utensils are the norm, reusable utensils are key for reducing waste while traveling.

This bamboo utensil set is durable, lightweight, and the carrying case is made from recycled plastic in a variety of different colors. The set comes with a fork, knife, spoon, and chopsticks for fellow chopstick lovers (is there anything better to eat rice or noodles with?!).

Buy on Earth Hero (10% off with code: ALTERNATIVETRAVELERS) // Buy on Amazon

Eco-Friendly Travel Toiletries

These eco-friendly toiletries will help reduce your plastic use AND save you money. Just what we like to hear.

Menstrual Cup

Ladies! If you don’t have a menstrual cup yet, you’re in for a life-changing experience (Sam can attest!). It takes a little getting used to at first, but the benefits far outweigh the transition period (pun intended). 

Not only do you avoid making all that messy monthly tampon/pad waste, but using a cup is more hygienic, and lasts up to 10 hours. It saves you money in the long run and you never have to worry about getting caught without a tampon or pad again. Click here to read all about traveling with a menstrual cup!

Unfortunately, many menstrual cups are tested on animals (including kitties). Luckily, vegan Youtuber Rehana Jomeen has done extensive research and shares her findings in her video on 7 vegan menstrual cups. Sam has and recommends the Moon Cup (mainly available in the UK). The Diva Cup - arguably the most popular menstrual cup in the U.S. - is also vegan. 

For more information about menstrual cups and how to choose the best one, head to this extensive guide on Menstrual Cup Site. Just make sure to get the right size (depends on whether you've had children or not). 

Diva Cup on Earth Hero (10% off w/ code ALTERNATIVETRAVELERS) // Diva Cup on Amazon

Bamboo Toothbrush

Why bamboo toothbrushes? Because unlike traditional plastic toothbrushes which end up sitting in landfills, bamboo toothbrushes are biodegradable. Read more about why bamboo toothbrushes are awesome here.

This pack of toothbrushes is a year’s supply for one person, comes in recyclable packaging, and is completely BPA free.

We make our own toothpaste from coconut oil, baking soda, and sea salt using this recipe from Paredown Home

Bamboo Toothbrushes on Earth Hero // Bamboo Toothbrushes on Amazon

Reef Friendly Sunscreen

Sadly most typical drugstore sunscreens (like Coppertone or Banana Boat) are very bad for the environment. They contain a chemical, oxybenzone, which poisons and damages coral reefs - even in minuscule quantities. Read more in The Guardian here.

Luckily, there are many reef friendly and vegan sunscreens available. Unfortunately most of the affordable natural sunscreens that we found still come in plastic, so if you prefer DIY, check out this mineral sunscreen recipe by Going Zero Waste.

Reef Friendly Sunscreens: Earth Hero // Amazon

Lush Vegan Cosmetics and Toiletries

Lush is a favorite in the vegan and eco-conscious crowd. 80% of their products are vegan (some contain honey, milk or eggs) - you can read more in their FAQ. They have everything from solid shampoo (perfect for traveling), solid perfume, toothpaste tablets, and more.

Lush also uses as little packaging as possible - if you buy their products in a store, you can buy many things “naked” aka, without any packaging at all. They contribute to carbon offset programs, don’t use palm oil, work to reduce their energy consumption, and more. Read about their Green Policy here.

The one downside of Lush is that their products are more expensive than typical “drugstore” cosmetic and toiletries, but this reflects the true cost of sustainable business practices.