You go on a trip and take with you…. As many sustainable, plastic-free and multiple-use products as possible! By swapping a few travel items with sustainable alternatives, you can make your trip a lot less polluting.
To make it easy we have a handy list of n easy list of 25 sustainable swaps for you that you can easily cross off before you go on your trip. We start easy and then go into more detail. Let’s go!
Before you go…
1. (Travel) books, folders, paper boarding tickets → apps, e-books
Making a printout is less and less necessary with the advent of digital alternatives. Which is a good thing, because we all use a lot of paper. So instead of a hardcopy book, opt for an e-book, find your information online and save your tickets in an app or on your phone.
2. Flying, driving → walking, cycling, taking the train
Before you hit the road, think about how you want to travel. Flying is always the fastest way, but can’t you reach the same place by train? Maybe you want to be much more adventurous and go by bike or on foot to your final destination. Even once you’re at your destination, instead of taking the bus or cab, opt for public transport or go for a walk!
3. Compensate your CO2 emissions
Not a swap, but a tip. Sometimes it is unavoidable to fly or drive. You can then calculate your CO2 emissions and donate to projects that make sure your emissions are compensated.
4. Plastic water bottle → reusable water bottle
As we said, we start easy. Almost everywhere you can refill your bottle with fresh water. So never buy plastic bottles of water when you are on the road, rather fill a reusable bottle. Fresh water comes out of the tap for free. So refilling your bottle is better for your wallet and the planet!
Are you traveling in a country where you can’t drink the tap water? Then take a water filter or filter tablets with you.
5. Plastic bag → reusable bag
Actually also a no-brainer. In the Netherlands, all consumers together use about 3 billion plastic bags every year. A large part ends up in the bin and another part becomes litter. The European Union has therefore obliged all member states to reduce the use of plastic bags. As you probably know, you can still buy a plastic bag when shopping, but you pay a small amount for it. It is of course much more convenient to bring your own bag. Hang a few bags near your keys or your door so you don’t forget them! Even when traveling, it’s always handy to have an extra bag with you in case you need it.
6. Takeaway coffee in takeaway cups → your own coffee mug
If you’re going to be driving long distances in the car or RV you’ll undoubtedly get a coffee on the go. A very simple swap is to just take a mug from your kitchen cupboard and put it in your car. This way you always have a sustainable alternative to disposable cups with you!
Personal care and hygiene products
7. Plastic toothbrush → bamboo toothbrush
You may use your plastic toothbrush more than once, but it’s still a disposable product that causes pollution. So exchange it for a bamboo one for example.
8. Toothpaste from a plastic tube → toothpaste tablets
Buying a plastic toothpaste tube over and over again creates a lot of plastic waste in a lifetime. Nowadays you can find toothpaste tablets in glass or recycled packaging in several places. You can also make your own!
9. Liquid shampoo & body wash → solid shampoo bars and soap bars
Shampoo and body wash are easy to replace with solid variants. So leave those plastic bottles and look for soap bars. Advantage if you’re flying: they can always go in your hand luggage!
10. Deodorant spray → deodorant stick
As above, you can also very well swap your deodorant with a solid variant. For example, you can buy a deodorant holder of which you can change the contents, buy a deodorant stick in a cardboard package or go for deodorant in a glass jar. Again, making your own is always an option!
11. Sunscreen and/or mosquito spray in plastic bottles → solid and/or natural variants
Indispensable, but still polluting. It’s already getting a little harder to go packaging-free here, but you can opt for better packaging. For example, choose spray from a glass or recycled bottle or go for ointment from a glass jar. Also pay attention to the ingredients, there are now many natural variants on the market that are less polluting if you go swimming in the sea for example.
12. Perfumed toilet paper → unbleached, unscented and 100% recycled toilet paper
Of course, you can choose not to use toilet paper at all and jump au naturel into the sea or a lake after the deed, but you might not be into that. When you buy toilet paper, go for unbleached, unscented and 100% recycled paper. This is easily available at almost any supermarket these days.
Fact: paper and cardboard can be recycled about 7 times. The toilet paper sold in the Netherlands consists of slightly more than half of old, recycled paper fibers and the rest of new paper fibers. So that means that the toilet paper you buy is probably already half recycled anyway. However, 100% recycled toilet paper is not enough. Toilet paper is also made with, for example, receipts or other printed waste paper, which means that it can contain all kinds of substances that are actually not pleasant for your skin. In addition, chlorine is sometimes used to bleach the paper. Not nice for your skin, but certainly not for the environment.
13. Lighter → matches
Even though you need a tree to make matches, using them is still better than using a lighter. To put it bluntly, the CO2 emissions from a burning match have already been cancelled out by the tree that the match came from. Lighters run on gas, which is emitted. The plastic of the lighter is made of oil and you throw it in the trash, which is also burned eventually. So you add something to the atmosphere that wasn’t there before. So go for a match rather than a lighter.
14. Plastic dishwashing brush → wooden dishwashing brush with replaceable head
You do the dishes (almost) every day when you travel, but also in everyday life. A simple way to do the laundry already a lot more sustainable is to replace your plastic dishwashing brush with a wooden one. The bristles of wooden dishwashing brushes are often durable as well and can be replaced!
15. Synthetic sponge → natural sponge
Simple swap: replace your plastic sponge with a loofah sponge or another natural sponge that you can easily find online.
16. Detergent from plastic bottle → sustainable and/or solid detergent
The easiest thing to do is to throw a bottle of Dreft in your shopping basket and do your dishes with it. But you’re not reading this article because you necessarily want to go for the easiest route. There are several brands of dishwashing liquid that do not harm the environment when you flush them down the drain and whose packaging is recycled. You can also work with a solid block of detergent. Easy does it!
17. Detergent → solid detergent
Here the same applies as for point 15. Choose a brand that doesn’t pollute and preferably go for a recyclable packaging. Whether you choose washing powder, liquid detergent or laundry soap, you can always find a sustainable detergent in the average supermarket.
18. Kitchen paper/serviettes → reusable kitchen towels
Save a lot of paper by using reusable kitchen towels instead of kitchen paper or napkins. You can go for a synthetic kitchen towel, but you also have for example beautiful (sustainably produced and recyclable) bamboo wipes on the market. Even better: use old pieces of fabric or cut up old pieces of clothing that you no longer use into kitchen cloths.
19. Plastic packaging → packaging-free or recyclable packaging
Easier said than done, you might think. Yet if you delve into the world of packaging-free food, you’ll see that it’s quite doable. For example, plan ahead, go to the store with your own bags and/or trays, say no to plastic bags at the market and shop in bulk. Food packaged in cardboard is always better than plastic. Want to know more about packaging-free camping? Also read our article A Beginners’ Guide to Zero-Waste Camping.
20. Plastic cutlery → wooden or bamboo cutlery, or just cutlery from your cutlery drawer!
Plastic cutlery is easy (because: no washing up) and nice and light to carry around. True, but you can just as easily take bamboo or wooden cutlery with you. Even better: if you don’t have to watch your weight on your trip, just take some cutlery out of your cutlery drawer.
21. Aluminum foil, cling film and/or sandwich bags → beeswax film
This swap may require some adjustment at first, but is very easy to do in practice. Instead of aluminum foil, cling film and/or sandwich bags, just use a resealable cling film container. That’s also easier to take with you! If you still want to pack something loose to keep it fresh, go for reusable beeswax foil or reusable sandwich bags.
22. Soft drinks or other cold drinks in plastic bottle → glass bottles
If you like a Coke on occasion, this swap is a little trickier. Fortunately, there are plenty of cold drinks – like milk or juices – available in glass bottles. And otherwise, this is a great time to get off the soda! Wink, wink.
23. New → borrowed
Second hand or vintage is not only for clothing, but also for outdoor and travel gear! Before you buy something new, go through Marktplaats and see if you can find a second hand version of what you are looking for. These days Facebook also has a sort of marketplace and you can also go to the thrift store. You’ll be amazed at what they have to offer for very little money, from tents to hiking boots! Besides buying second hand, you can of course also see if you can borrow something, even easier.
24. Cheap brands with a short lifespan → durable brands
You know them: those throw-away tents that are taken to festivals or campsites and then simply left there afterwards. These tents are cheap and probably not of good enough quality to last a few more rounds. Make sure you go for a brand that produces durable and long lasting products. This might be an investment at first, but you will enjoy your gear much longer.
25. Broken → fix it!
And then, last but not least, is your product broken? Fix it! It is often not necessary to buy a new product. Often you can make it yourself or have it made and it will last for years! So get behind your sewing machine, look around at (online) outdoor stores for repair kits and/or send your product in for repair.
All of the above points can easily be applied to any kind of trip. Hopefully these swaps will help you make your trip a little more sustainable! Good luck and above all: have fun.