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How to Be a More Eco-Friendly Traveler

Updated: June 14, 2024

Culprit: Food Packaging

From coffee cups to takeout containers, few categories can top food and beverage when it comes to single-use plastics. Here are a few simple ways to make greener choices.
• Travel with a water bottle. It’s cuter, it’s cheaper and it’s definitely greener.
• Bring your own reusable coffee cup. Maybe it’s an insulated tumbler or an actual coffee or teacup (yes, I really do travel with my own teacup!). Whatever the case, it’s not only less wasteful, but it keeps your drink warmer and/or makes your experience more elegant.
• Reusable straws. Yes, paper straws are better than plastic, but who likes drinking out of a soggy paper straw? Not me, especially when I know you can get stainless steel or fun, colorful silicone ones!
• Beeswax wrap. Too-da-loo, plastic cling wrap! This reusable item is perfect for saving food for later.
• Lunch boxes aren’t just for kids. Pack your own lunch for the plane in a stainless steel bento box (ugh, just think of all the plastic used in serving airplane meals!). Bring it to restaurants to use in lieu of a doggie bag. Will it feel weird to ask your server to use this instead of a clamshell? Maybe, but with everyone’s dietary restrictions these days, your request isn’t anywhere near the strangest thing they’ve heard.
• Nylon shopping bags. I love the ones from Baggu — they fold up to next to nothing, and they’re so cute, I can barely stand it.

Culprit: Travel-sized Toiletries

Tiny toiletries seem unavoidable, especially since enforcing the 3-ounce liquids rule. That said, they’re often a huge waste of plastic.
• Just pack your full-sized items. Years ago, I decided I was over decanting my products into tiny little containers — especially if I was checking my bag anyhow.
• Decant your full-sized items. If you really don’t want to make room for larger items, invest in travel-sized, leak-proof containers.
• Rethink your toothpaste. You really can’t put toothpaste back in the tube, and the travel-sized option’s ratio of toothpaste to plastic is abysmal. If you’re not keen on bringing your full-sized paste, would you consider zero-waste toothpaste tablets? Simply chew them up, then brush like normal. Since they aren’t liquid, you can pack ‘em in your carry-on.
• Biodegradable toothbrushes. Not only are they eco-friendly, but they’re stylish to boot!
• Up your makeup remover game. Single-use wipes and cotton rounds make Mother Earth cry off her mascara. Try reusable bamboo makeup remover pads, which can be washed with your laundry. Good for travel or at home.
• Peace out, plastic deodorant container. Not only is Meow Meow Tweet’s adorable deodorant a healthier choice (vegan and no aluminum), but it comes in a biodegradable package.
• Get yourself a shampoo bar. I can barely think of those tiny hotel shampoos and conditioners without cringing at all the plastic (luckily, this is changing!). That’s why I love Lush Cosmetics’ shampoo and conditioner bars. They’re like bars of soap, but for your hair (and are good for 80 washes!). Buy a reusable tin to house it in, and voila! Clean hair and conscience. Bonus: since they’re solid, they don’t count against your carry-on liquids!

About AAA Travel and Samantha Brown

New places, different perspectives and heartwarming people around the world sharing their day...what’s not to love? That’s why is sponsoring Season 3 of “Samantha Brown’s Places to Love” — offering you added insight that brings our trusted travel information to life.

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