Eco-Friendly Travel Tips from Eco18

‘Tis the season for being outdoors and enjoying all the natural wonders this world has to offer! It’s important, however, to remember to do all we can to remain eco-friendly while we travel – especially because planes, trains, and automobiles contribute so much to greenhouse gas emissions. To help get you started, the Eco18 team is sharing some of our favourite ways to be eco-friendly while we travel!

Packing and Planning Go a Long Way

“When I travel, I always like to pack light, and pack as few liquids as I can. This eliminates the need for that clear plastic bag (hello carry on) and eliminates the need to check a bag when flying. Flying is terrible for the environment, but by removing excess weight (aka that extra checked bag), it does help with the fuel emissions of the plane. Also, I am a fan of air drying my hair: I use fewer kilowatts of energy, avoid heat damage, and again, that bag stays lighter. Who said travelling light was no fun?” — Rachel Collins

“I travel quite a bit, so I always try to make each trip a little less stressful and more eco-friendly. I’m not always successful but I like to do a couple of things each time I travel. I use a combination of rolled and flat clothing when packing to take up less space, and I use reusable bottles for things like shampoo and conditioner so I don’t have to take the full-size products. I usually have small baggies of healthy snacks like almonds, sunflower seeds, and dried fruit for long flights. They’re healthier, handy, and less expensive! And I always have sugar-free gum on hand because it freshens your breath and can quell hunger. If I’m on a short trip, I don’t request new bed linens and I try to reuse the towels as much as possible but I think it is very important to also not leave the taps running or take long showers too.” — Sue Taggart

“Although I’m still learning how to be more environmentally conscious when travelling, there are a few things I do everywhere I go. When planning a vacation, I research the hotels I stay at and try to look for options that offer healthier choices, whether it’s with their food menus, transportation, use of water, or anything else. I try to pack light and I’m getting better at it – practice makes perfect! When I get to the hotel, I reuse my towels and use the same sheets throughout my stay. My shampoo, body creams, and make-up are packed in small containers. This is a challenge, especially with hair products because the quantities are very limited but I try! I have also been packing my water bottle so I can refill it during the trip, because staying hydrated and saving the planet are both important!” — Giselle Chollett

“I usually try to use the shampoo and soaps in hotel rooms and take them all home with me when I leave because the cleaning staff usually throws them away. I also stayed at this hostel in Europe once where the showers were set on automatic timers and turned off when you were in there for too long and I’m not going to lie, they most definitely turned off on me. But now I set timers for showers (at least for when I’m travelling). I also recommend always rolling your clothes when you pack. I was taught that it was “military style” and the BEST style (which it truly is) by an aunt who served. And I bring reusable water bottles with me everywhere… I’m a very trusting person when it comes to tap water. So I try to drink tap water whenever I can, except for places I know I shouldn’t be drinking the tap water. But it is important to look into it before you leave or ask around while you’re travelling because it could help you save money and the environment in a new place!” — Carly Holm

Investing in Reusable Products is Worth It

“Whenever I’m travelling, I always try to be mindful of ways I can become more eco-conscious while I’m on-the-go. One trick I’ve been making a habit of is always packing eco-friendly, reusable water bottles, straws and cutlery, to help reduce my use of plastics and waste while away. I also have been using eco-friendly travel containers to put my shampoo, conditioner and moisturizers into – I’ve been really liking the GoToob travel bottles!” — Sara White

These GoToob travel tubes are dishwasher safe and have a no-drip valve! They are squeezable and air-plane approved too as well as FDA food safe, and 100% free of BPA, PC, and phthalate.  

“While travelling, I always bring my eco-friendly, metal straws with me. Since I usually eat out while on trips, it saves a lot of plastic. I also always (always!) have a re-usable water bottle, whether I am travelling or simply at home. You’d be surprised at how many places — especially airports — have easy bottle-filling water fountains. Along with being eco-friendly and eliminating waste, it’s also healthier not to drink out of plastic! Finally, in terms of packing, instead of using plastic bags to separate my dirty shoes from my clothes, I use recyclable paper bags. You can also buy paper bags made from recycled materials, too!” — Liz Bartzokis


These metal straws come in a lot of different colours and also include straw cleaners and a carry case! But you can also clean straws by boiling them in hot water and it works just as well!
These reusable, mesh bags come in multiple different sizes and are machine washable! They come in many different colours beyond even the green, blue, and green pictured here and can also be made from cotton.
Check out this sunscreen made with 23 antioxidant ingredients and made without oxybenzone or octinoxate to protect coral reefs.

“I have been looking into coral-safe sunscreens and they’re pretty incredible. The coral bleaching crisis is a scary reality and I recommend everyone watch Chasing Coral on Netflix to learn more about it. Try to look for brands that don’t have titanium dioxide or oxybenzone and octinoxate (which is banned already in states like Hawaii). Obviously, sun damage to skin is equally crucial and everyone who loves snorkelling like me needs to be smart about using sunscreen. Even if you don’t swim after applying sunscreen, it can get into the sand or wash off in the shower and find its way to the ocean. I am on a personal quest to see as much coral as possible before it goes away. Bleaching can happen in a matter of weeks and takes years to recover, so travellers looking for the same experience should check recent TripAdvisor reviews and call the location to make sure you’re heading to a place that will deliver the coral experience in the fun and eco-friendly way you are seeking.

Once you’re there, know the timing of tides – beachfront and reef conditions change daily, so ask your local accommodations for tide info as it may not be safe to walk out into the water during low tide. By doing so, you could kill precious coral or hurt your feet and ruin your vacation.

In terms of planning, call the location first and ask about the dangers of Zika and dengue fever as well as how the place control mosquitos locally — they all hopefully do, but some do so naturally. I recommend bringing along Earthkind’s Stay Away Mosquito® which comes in a travel size and is safe to use for the whole family. Otherwise, look at resort stores for sprays that have lemongrass as the main ingredient which works rather nicely as well. You’ll really want to load up on this stuff because you can’t use too much.

Check out Earthkind’s Stay Away Mosquito® which lasts up to 14-hours, is waterproof, and is safe for everyone – including children and pregnant women too! (Photo by Michael Kravit)

Finally, enjoy the local food that you can’t get back home! Many remote locations offer local raw honey at breakfast. Don’t pass this up, it will help with allergies and support sustainable food efforts. And it tastes delicious as well! Bonus points for those who tour the back end of the resort and visit the bees where they live, but don’t get too close!” — Michael Kravit

Exploration Can Be Eco-Friendly Too

“When I travel, I always try to look for hostels to stay at because they are always near the centre of the city, have fun activities planned, and help you meet new people in a foreign place! Recently, I have started to pick hostels that do more to be sustainable and there are often multiple places to choose from – especially if you are travelling to a place known for its natural wonders. When I was visiting the Plitvička Jezera National Park with some friends, we decided to stay in an eco-hostel just outside the park. Not only was it close to the park and resting at the foot of the beautiful mountains, it used solar thermal water heating, provided public transport to the park, and composted its organic waste! Once you start looking, hostels and hotels like these are all over and are reasonably priced. I also recently read a New York Times article for their travel section about the 5-4-3-2-1 packing method (check it out here) and I hope to try it out on my next trip!” — Catie Brown

“Planning is key. I make a list of essentials I need everywhere I go and I try not to bring anything that I wouldn’t count as a daily necessity. I recommend carrying your own reusable water bottle and a pair of eating utensils too because you never know when you’re going to need them. And packing snacks in reusable containers could come in handy too. To be prepared I also think it’s good to take your own shopping bag when you go to buy souvenirs at local markets! Planning for a trip starts way before you think about packing and can really make a difference in making your trip environmentally friendly. Instead of travelling many times per year, travel fewer times but stay in each destination a little longer. This way, you can cut down on flight pollution and explore the place more! Also, try to bring a phone and use e-tickets whenever you can to keep from using paper tickets. Planning ahead to travel by bus or local transportation can also help you reduce pollution and gain the experience of interacting with locals and hearing their stories. It is a good idea to buy a travel guide to better understand the rules of the place you plan to travel to and how you can respect the environment of that place before you go there.” — Pietro Baragiola

“No matter the vacation you are on, it is important to not take a vacation from being eco-friendly. Whether I am on a trip for work, a holiday or just for fun, I try to practice the same eco-habits that I do at home. When you are in a new city, avoid taking cars by walking! You are more likely to get a better feel for the environment you are in that way. Try eating at restaurants that source their food locally, which also means fresher food. If are you staying somewhere new, enjoy the shower but don’t make it too long. Even if you are a tourist it is still important to be cautious of your water use.” — Juliette Bauman

With a little extra planning and packing, travelling eco-friendly can be fun and easy! Always remember to bring that water bottle, metal straw, travel bottles, and reusable bag with you whenever you travel. Pack lighter, smarter, and stay longer when you go. And while you’re relaxing on a beach, hiking a mountain, or just visiting loved ones, share your tips and tricks with others so they can help keep the places you travel to as fresh and healthy as when you first arrived.

Catie Brown

Although I’ve always loved writing, I embarked on my journey into science journalism about three years ago. I am fascinated by all things water — oceans, ice, coral reefs, currents, extreme weather, sanitation, energy, and (of course!) climate change. I also love looking into the different ways we talk about climate change as a social, cultural, economic, spiritual, and political crisis. Big thanks to coffee and chemistry jokes for keeping me going. Happy reading!