Editor's Note: The following is the first story by LC Haughey, one of several new contributors.
After six years of traveling abroad, one thing has become abundantly clear.
The more I've traveled the world, the more I wanted to see of it. If I wanted to continue traveling, I had to figure out a way to put every dollar I had towards achieving this goal.
Correspondingly, Earth is more amazing than any adjective in the English language could adequately describe. It is our responsibility to take care of our planet and I often worry that traveling does more harm than good.
So, I made it my mission to find ways that I could cut waste when traveling and save money at the same time.
Despite first appearances, these statements are not contradictory. With a little forward planning and upfront investment, the two can go hand in hand.
Yes, you read that right. It is possible to do your bit for the planet and limit your waste output… while saving yourself money in the long run.
One way to reduce waste is to ditch single use items for more long-lasting products when you're on the road.
1. Hankies – Not Just for Children
Once I started carrying around a hanky (short for handkerchief), I was quick to realize just how versatile these little scraps of fabrics are. Use them in lieu of disposable tissues, for napkins, to wrap up delicates or wipe down dirty surfaces.
Once you’re done, chuck them in the wash, give them a clean and repeat the process.
I get mine from Tshu – a Canadian company that plant a tree for every hanky sold. Plus, they are so pretty. I’ve also bought from Hankybook, which sell as the name suggests, books of hankies that are made from organic cotton.
Of course, you don’t have to buy them new. Hankies tend to be abundant in thrift stores, you may have some lying around from your childhood… or ask a grandparent if you can borrow a couple off them.
2. Buy Yourself a Reusable Water Bottle
This one is a bit of a no-brainer, as single-use bottles are terrible for both the environment and your wallet. It's important to stay hydrated when on the road and having your own water bottle on hand goes a long way towards ensuring this happens.
I’ve carried a reusable bottle while traveling for years – in fact I never leave home without it!
I empty it before going through airport security, refilling at available stations on the other end. I top it up at any available tap (keeping in mind I have kept to Australia, North America, and Western Europe in my travels this year).
To my knowledge, there are no strange bugs incubating in my system from having drunk tap water in any of these countries.
If you feel particularly resentful about having to pay for water (especially in restaurants – here’s looking at you, Germany), then you’ll agree that the savings incurred from carrying around your own bottle are nothing to turn your nose up at.
A current obsession is my 750ml stainless steel S’Well water bottle.
My priority is using a bottle that’s not been made of plastic, won’t bend out of shape or break from excessive dropping (particularly handy if you’re like me and suffer from poor hand-eye coordination).
Another noteworthy option is Kleen Kanteen, a company that makes bottles that are particularly aesthetically pleasing.
If you’re concerned about the state of the tap water in the country you’re traveling through, Clearly Filtered design bottles out of stainless steel and BPA-free plastic that come with their own inbuilt replaceable filters.
Stainless steel can be rather hefty, so if weight is a deal-breaker for you there are plenty of other BPA free options available. Look around your local outdoor store or online prior to your departure.
3. Invest in a Long-Lasting Razor
I had beef with disposable razors long before it occurred to me that I would be better off buying one that would last longer than a few weeks.
The ones I bought tended to come wrapped in a horrific amount of plastic, for starters. I also found that the blade tended to rust and dull after only a couple of uses.
When I decided to make the switch from plastic, I chose to buy a razor made by the German company Merkur that is designed specifically for travel.
It collapses into three parts that take up hardly any room in my toiletries bag. You insert a blade, screw the razor together and you’re good to go. I use it both on the road and at home.
It never hurts to buy secondhand – scour Craigslist or Gumtree for options before turning to new.
4. Carry Around A Container For Food
One popular way of saving funds is to make use of the communal kitchens in hostels.
Consider cooking a little extra that you can bundle up into a food container, saving you the bother of having to worry about lunch the next day.
If size is an issue, collapsible lunch boxes are readily available all over the internet.
Containers are also a good place to store anything in your backpack that may have a tendency to leak or get damaged.
5. Replace Cumbersome Bottles with Shampoo Bars
I promise you that shampoo bars will revolutionize your toiletry bag! When I set off abroad, I used to have to pack body soap and big bottles of shampoo and conditioner… thank goodness those days are over!
While I’m still on the hunt for a conditioner that will play nice with my hair, I no longer take a bottle of shampoo when I travel and I leave the body soap at home.
I instead place a shampoo bar in my travel soap case. I use this to lather up head to toe when washing. They last a lot longer than my shampoo bottles ever did and I can use the bar down to the very last scrap.
With a little research, planning, and up-front investment, you will not only save a ton of money in the long run… You’ll be making a conscious effort to reduce your impact on our beautiful planet.
What's one item you recommend other travelers carry to help reduce waste?