Travelling – spending time in nature and exploring new cultures especially – is a great way to get away from the daily grind and recharge our batteries. We often come back from vacations with great memories and souvenirs, but have you considered what you leave behind in the places you visit?
Our adventures often come with a heavy eco-cost, and single-use plastics are the apparent culprits. Many countries lack proper waste segregation and recycling mechanisms, so disposable products like water bottles and shopping bags can irreversibly pollute their soil and water. This becomes even worse if you are exploring mountains or beaches, as you could inadvertently wreak havoc on fragile ecosystems in the name of convenience.
What does it mean to vacation sustainably?
It is our ethical and environmental responsibility to not burden our hosts with the duty of cleaning up after us. Thus, the goal of sustainable vacationing is to leave a light carbon footprint. Be conscious about your consumption as it can add to the waste management crisis.
The simple rule of sustainable vacationing is ‘no plastic, no pollution’. This can be done by replacing plastic and synthetic products in your luggage with eco-friendly ones. If you are new to sustainable practices, this can be quite difficult – even seasoned sustainability warriors can find it frustrating! Enter: My Eco Souk, an online shop for all things eco-friendly and recycled. Here, we share our top product picks from the souk for a sustainable holiday.
Reusable Water Bottles
Disposable water bottles are a common fixture in most vacations thanks to their convenience and local water safety or quality concerns. Still, they can be a menace to any ecosystem. Did you know that it takes roughly 1,000 years for a single water bottle to decompose? Switching to a stainless steel or hardwearing glass version is the simplest way you can prevent pollution from single-use water bottles.
Bamboo Flask, THE ECO LOOP
Stainless Steel Bottle, NATRL
Stainless Steel Bottle, RISAECO
Refillable Coffee Mugs
Carrying a hot liquid like coffee in cheap plastic cups is not exactly appealing – not only do they pollute the environment, but they also leach chemicals that you could ingest. Even paper cups might not be as innocent as they seem. Nearly 6.5 billion trees are cut down annually to manufacture compostable paper cups, so why not carry a reusable coffee mug or collapsible steel cup on your next trip?
Collapsible Steel Glass, Sustainable Souk
Reusable Shopping Bags
Shopping is a must during vacations, especially as it’s an opportunity to support local artisans. But shopping with disposable plastic bags is always a big no for anyone interested in going green. Most plastic bags end up clogging landfills and leach microplastics into soil and groundwater. Instead, pack a couple of canvas or cotton shopping bags. You can easily fold them and carry them around in your backpack or handbag.
Cotton Grocery Bag, UPCYCLE LETS TRANSFORM
Cassava Starch Based T‐shirt Handle Bag, My Earth Bags
Foldable Bag, RISAECO
Vacations often mean eating on the go. Unfortunately, disposable cutlery like spoons or forks is often too small and too light for recycling and, when disposed of improperly, can be harmful to marine and wildlife. We recommend steel cutlery as a budget-friendly alternative as it can be washed and reused safely as many times as needed. And if travelling light is a priority? Pick compostable or biodegradable cutlery made from materials like sugar pulp or bamboo.
Stainless Steel Cutlery, THE ECO LOOP
Compostable Or Biodegradable Cutlery, ECOZOE
Eco-Friendly Food Containers
Packing snacks is a must, especially if you’re travelling with kids. But how are you packing them? Do you use styrofoam or plastic containers? Or ziplock bags? Not only do such materials contribute to local pollution, but they also contain chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA), which have also been linked to cancer. This year, ditch them for eco-friendly alternatives like recyclable containers or reusable silicon bags. Another interesting idea is to carry beeswax wraps instead of using aluminium foil or saran wrap.
Recyclable Containers, MY EARTH BAGS
Humanity adds roughly 600 million kg in plastic toothbrush waste each year and, because plastic is practically indestructible, almost every toothbrush made since 1930 still exists. So, what can we replace them with? Bamboo toothbrushes. They’re ideal to take with you on holiday and even toss away at the end without any guilt as bamboo is completely biodegradable. Moreover, it is a fast-growing crop that does not pressure water resources.
Bamboo Toothbrush, PIYAS PLANET
Clean or Organic Personal Care Products
Obviously, the plastic packaging of our personal care products is a threat to the environment, but the chemicals within can cause significant harm, too. Around 14,000 tonnes of sunscreens are washed into the oceans every year and damage underwater habitats. VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) – found in hairspray and perfumes – can cause air pollution and add to carbon emissions, so start packing personal care products that are natural and organic. Carrying soap and shampoo bars will also save you from lugging multiple bottles around.
Organic Sunscreen, VAADI HERBALS
Oil Blends Calm, THE CLEAN TOUCH
Eco-Friendly Sanitary Products
Disposable sanitary products are a major pollutant, and there is nothing convenient about them when it comes to their consequences on the planet. A disposable pad or tampon will take around 500 to 800 years to disintegrate. Moreover, they cannot be recycled as they contain both organic and synthetic materials. We suggest you opt for a reusable menstrual cup to not only prevent pollution, but also gain major savings. Alternatively, you could replace your disposable pads or tampons with biodegradable ones.
Menstrual Cup, Sirona
Biodegradable Sanitary Pads, The Woman’s company
Plastic straws, although small in size, have big environmental consequences. Single-use plastic straws cannot be recycled or broken down naturally, so they end up as microplastics and release harmful chemicals into the soil and groundwater. They are particularly problematic for aquatic animals, who often confuse them for food. Thankfully, you can now carry steel, copper, or biodegradable straws that you can use multiple times. Another fun option would be edible straws – watch your kids chomp on their straws after finishing their drink!
Biodegradable Straws, ECOZOE
Stainless Steel Straws, The Eco Loop
Edible Drinking Straw, ECOZOE
Green Laundry Alternatives
Doing your own laundry when you are on vacation can not only add to your savings, but also bring down the amount of luggage that you need to lug around. But there is a catch. Most commercial laundry detergents contain harsh chemicals that damage your clothes and add significant pollutants to water bodies. For the most practical and eco-safe option during your trip, try a laundry egg. It is compact, chemical-free, and does the job of both detergent and conditioner.
Laundry Eggs, Eco Egg
Laundry Fabric Softener, DUTYBOX