5 Green Essentials for the Road
If you travel often, you’ve probably have a list of basic travel gear you could put together in your sleep.
However, even if you live a green lifestyle, the ugly truth is that most of your travel essentials probably
That toothbrush, for example, is made out of plastic and nylon, which are not biodegradable. The
packaging for your toothpaste, deodorant and floss contribute to solid waste production, while the
batteries for your many gadgets can leak toxic chemicals during the recycling process.
Thankfully, in recent years the commercial industry has spawned an increasing number of eco-friendly
products to appeal to the environmental awareness of consumers. Below, we present some vacation
must-haves that provide a green alternative to your usual travel kit.
Most travel bags use new materials like canvas and polymer fabric. While this makes them durable
enough for long-term use, it also means they do not degrade easily and contribute to solid waste once
they get thrown in the dumpster.
In response, major brands like Lowepro and Targus now use recycled materials in their bags. Part of the
cost is donated to American Forests, a nonprofit conservation organization. Basically, you help plant a
tree and restore forest ecosystems by purchasing a bag.
One high-tech alternative is the Max Solar Backpack. The bag is made from recycled PET material and
features a waterproof, scratch-resistant solar panel built right into the backpack face, useful for charging
gadgets on the road. Each one-hour sun exposure provides enough juice for a one and half long call on
your mobile phone. It also has three spacious compartments large enough to fit a laptop, making it the
perfect stowing bag for traveling gearheads.
Its Maker Sun-Plugged also offers other bags that double as solar charging stations, like the Solar Bicycle
Messenger Bag and the AroundTown Solar Tote.
2. Travel blankets
As airlines struggle to make a profit, complimentary items we once took for granted have started
disappearing. Among these is the travel blanket.
Why not bring your own green blanket? The Bamboo Travel Blanket Set from PB Travel is made from
100% bamboo fiber cloth, which is naturally hypoallergenic and anti-bacterial. Since it doesn’t require
chemical treatment, it’s the perfect snoozing companion for travelers with allergies. Bamboo is one of
the fastest growing plants on the market and doesn’t need pesticides, making it an easily renewable raw
3. Water purifier
The US Army recently began fielding a new type of water filter that’s good enough to filter urine, useful
for rehydrating food and supplying water in emergency situations.
While that’s too much for civilian use (unless you’re Bear Grylls), there are plenty of compact water
purifying systems you can take on the road. One high-tech solution, the Steripen Traveler, uses
ultraviolet light to purify tap water. UV rays are proven to be 99% effective at killing bacteria, and the
same process is used by municipal water plants to treat water.
The device can clean a small bottle’s contents in under one minute. It uses 4 AA batteries, enough to
purify up to 200 liters before requiring a fresh set.
CamelBak also offers a water purified bottle that uses the same UV technology. The All Clear Water
Bottle is made of copolyester and can hold up to .75 liters. The cap houses the UV light and a lithium-
ion battery good for 80 treatments. While it’s a little more costly than than the Steripen at $100, the li-
ion battery can be recharged with an included USB cable in 4 hours, dispensing the need for disposable
If you insist on drinking bottled water, then prepare to get short-changed. For each $1.29 bottle you
buy, the actual water itself costs only about 12 cents. The rest of your money goes to the bottle, cap,
transportation, distribution and of course, profit.
Thanks to global warming and the discovery of skin cancer, sun block lotion has become as essential as
toothpaste. Unfortunately, regular sunscreen products typically use chemicals like preservatives and
fragrance essences that are harmful to the environment. In some cases, the same ingredients can be just
as toxic to users. One report by the Environmental Working Group found that 56% of sunscreen lotions
contain oxybenzone, which is effective at blocking harmful UV rays but ironically enough, can cause
hormone disruptions that lead to skin cancer.
In this case, your best bet would be a sunscreen lotion that uses organic or naturally-occurring
compounds instead of synthesized absorbers. Soleo Organics makes an all-natural sunscreen that
doesn’t use chemical absorbers and artificial preservatives. The primary ingredients, ranging from seed
oil extracts to beeswax, are all organically sourced. Both the container and packaging box are also made
from 100% recyclable material, making the whole product safe and environment-friendly.
5. Personal hygiene
Roughly 350 million gallons of shampoo flow down drains in the US each year. According to the
Environmental Working Group, most of these suds contain chemicals that are harmful to the
environment. Many shampoos have over 22 ingredients, making it difficult to isolate which ones can
cause ecological damage. Of the 80,000 chemicals that have been registered in the US since the 1940’s,
less than 500 have been comprehensively studied for their effects on health and the environment.
Livestrong has identified some of the mainstream ingredients used by most shampoos that can cause
potential side-effects, not to mention damage ecological systems when they leach into the soil.
The backlash against potentially harmful hygiene products have led to a rise in organic alternatives.
Nature’s Gate is one of the low-volume makers responding to the demand by offering an all-natural line
of personal hygiene products. These include everything from shampoo and conditioner to deodorant,
skin lotion and cosmetics that use only organic ingredients. Unlike most shampoo bottles that boast
pictures of plants and fruits merely for decoration, the company’s products make use of botanical
blends and PH-balanced formulas with no lasting effects on the soil. The ingredients are sourced from an
organic farm in California and use runoff water from the snow packs of the Sierra Nevada mountains.