1. Water Bottle
Many tourists are so afraid of the water in foreign countries that they end up buying bottle after plastic bottle that then lands either on the ground or in the local dump. Even when recycled, plastic exacts a terrible toll on the environment and never biodegrades. But in developing countries using plastic bottles is even worse because they frequently lack recycling facilities. A good, durable water bottle that was made without Bisphenol A (BPA), an organic compound that is considered by some to be toxic to humans, will last forever and leave you with a clear conscience.
2. Water Filter
But maybe the water isn’t safe to drink, you say? In some countries this is a valid concern. This author usually drinks the local water because it’s safer than most people think, and bottled water, since it is less regulated than municipal supply centers, often contains harmful chemicals. Recently in Saudi Arabia, for example, it was found that one company was selling water laced with Bromate – a chemical that causes tumors in rats and mice, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). Still, it’s not safe to drink water in some places, in which case a water filter is a great solution. We picked this one from REI but there are dozens of them on the market. Check out camping stores for one that suits you.
3. Travel Coffee Cup
We’re addicted to the bean, there’s no way around it. While it’s not always easy to find fair trade coffee on our travels, the least we can do is carry this coffee cup so that we’re not throwing away paper or styrofoam cups every time we go to a cafe for a caffeine fix. Even if you prefer tea, this is still a handy thing to keep, it packs pretty easily, and it has the added benefit of keeping your warm beverage warm.
4. Organic Hygiene Products
We don’t want to pollute the water sources in foreign countries any more than we do in our home town, but it can be really difficult to find shops that carry biodegradable shampoo, conditioner, or body wash. So what we usually do is stock up when we reach an urban center that has an organic market or local shops that carry homemade products that are free of nitrates and other chemicals that pollute the water supply.
5. Lightweight Clothing Made of Natural Materials
Of all fabrics in the world, denim has one of the worst embodied environmental footprints. It requires a lot of water to make jeans and jackets, for example, and the industry (particularly in China) is often deeply socially irresponsible. Also, the dye used to put the blue in blue jeans in under-regulated countries often leaks into nearby water ways. Apart from one pair of jeans, this author mostly carries clothing made of natural materials like hemp and bamboo. Not only are they more earth-friendly, but they also take up less space and dry more quickly. (It’s possible to find natural materials that are suitable for cooler climes too.)
6. A Sarong
This may not seem like an obvious eco-choice, but the sarong is one of the best investments a green traveler can make. Ours doubles as a towel, which requires more water to wash and more “air-time” to dry, and a wet wipe. A wet wipe? That’s right: instead of carrying around wet wipes to freshen up on a long bus or train journey, for example, the corner of a fast-drying sarong can work wonders and then you don’t leave behind a trail of wasted paper. Plus, if you buy a sarong that was made locally, somebody earns money from your purchase, and you have a nice souvenir to take home!
Disclaimer: we do not endorse any particular brand. It just so happens that these are the products we are carrying with us right now.