Each year, millions of tons of plastic end up in the ocean — it’s the terrifying reality. But it’s not too late to make a difference, both at home and while traveling. While air travel, in particular, is one of the more environmentally problematic modes of transport, it’s oftentimes unavoidable.
So, the travel and tourism industries are taking steps to reduce the use of plastics — especially single-use plastics. For example, hotels around the world have gotten rid of plastic toiletry bottles and airlines have emphasized reducing the amount of plastic used to wrap headphones and blankets.
And travelers themselves can do their part to reduce their plastic use too. In fact, it’s easy to take action with a few key tips and tricks. Here are some of the best ways you can use less plastic when traveling and the best items to help you do so.
Keep your hands clean with a refillable hand sanitizer
$25 at Nordstrom
Travelers who are extra dedicated to sustainability can participate in the brand’s Terracycle program by mailing six or more empty products back to Noshinku (or via the Terracycle bin at participating Nordstrom locations) for 20% off their next purchase.
Brush with a biodegradable toothbrush
$12.99 $8.99 at Amazon
Pack your own cutlery
$14.99 at Amazon
Using this set, you’ll never need to use plastic forks and spoons when you’re traveling. And if you’re ordering takeout from your hotel room, you won’t need to wait for the hotel to send you actual silverware either.
Save space in your suitcase with solid shampoo
$15.99 at Amazon
And for the perfect holder to transport your shampoo or conditioner bar, you can pick up the draining Ethique bamboo carrying case too.
Take a reusable laundry bag
$11.95 at Amazon
Bring a silicone bottle set for toiletries
$25.99 $14.98 at Amazon
The four small bottles, which are designed specifically to avoid spillage with a three-layer top closure, are made of soft, malleable silicone and hold up to 89 milliliters (3 ounces) of liquid. The bottles come with small labels so you’ll never forget which one has soap and which has shampoo, and all fit nicely into a special compact carrying case. The pack also has two toothbrush covers and three small jars apt for things like face cream.
Stop buying plastic water bottles
$36.95 $34.95 at Amazon
This water bottle comes in several color options and has a sturdy lid with a spout cover. It also has a carry strap you can use to hold the bottle when open or attach it to a travel backpack.
Say no to plastic straws and use your own
$6.99 at Amazon
Doboli’s collapsible stainless steel straws are made from sustainable materials, complete with a telescopic design small enough to snap onto your keychain or backpack when closed up. Each straw comes with its own cleaning brush long enough to reach even the furthest parts of the straw to keep it fresh and clean.
Tab instead of tube when it comes to toothpaste
$11.99 $7.99 at Amazon
The tabs do all this without the waste of a plastic tube, coming in a reusable tin. Or slip just a couple of tabs into a reusable pouch when traveling for just a weekend, making this not only a sustainable and vegan product but a space-saving one too. Each tin comes with 60 tabs, which is enough for 60 brushes.
Avoid plastic bags
$19.99 $16.99 at Amazon
BeeGreen’s six-pack of reusable tote bags are rip-proof and waterproof, easily folding up into small squares when not in use. The bags are also washable and can hold up to 50 pounds for those heavier purchases or larger loads of groceries.
Skip the face wash and use a wipe instead
$26 at Amazon
Not only will you avoid carrying a heavy face wash in your bag, but you can also rest easy knowing that these wipes are free of parabens, fragrances, silicones and other harmful and toxic chemicals. They’re biodegradable and contain natural ingredients such as aloe to soothe skin, willow bark to hydrate and sugarcane to brighten your face for an all-around healthy glow.
Stay at hotels that work to eliminate plastic
Make informed choices about where you’re staying when you travel by choosing a hotel dedicated to reducing plastic. For example, Marriott and Accor Hotels have worked to eliminate travel-size toiletries. Accor is also working to use other materials besides plastic for things like key cards, laundry bags and cups. Hyatt Hotels has also reduced single-use plastic amenity bottles and water bottles.
Six Senses properties are working to become plastic-free by the end of 2022. Many boutique properties around the world have also worked to eliminate plastic use as well as commit to eco-friendly waste management or energy consumption. When it comes to selecting your hotel or lodging option, make sure to check if the sustainability commitment of your chosen accommodation matches your own.
Looking for a travel credit card? Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as our best travel credit cards of 2022.