Let’s be honest: As world-traveling digital nomads, we aren’t exactly living an eco-friendly lifestyle. Frequent flying shoots our carbon footprint sky-high (yep, pun intended). Travel in general produces a lot of toxic waste.
The good news is, we can all do something about it. Each one of us can contribute to a more eco-friendly, sustainable lifestyle as a digital nomad.
Triber Karol already covered How To Be An Eco-Friendly Digital Nomad, and much to our delight, Jess compiled a list of the Top Eco-Friendly Countries to visit which is giving all of us serious FOMO. Today, we’re going to be focusing on eco-friendly products that are more digital nomad specific than your average list of eco-friendly travel products.
We are a pretty specific bunch of people, after all.
Our toiletries produce a lot of plastic waste and many of them contain ingredients harmful to the environment. Much of both ends up polluting our oceans and winds up back on our dinner plates by working its way up the food chain. With a few simple hacks, we can prevent our share of that happening.
Shampoo and Soap Bars
A recent “discovery” of mine are shampoo bars. Of course, they’ve been around for quite a while, but it wasn’t until about three months ago that I gave them a chance. I picked Lush’s Seanik shampoo bar and haven’t strayed since. It’s perfect for my type of hair.
Not only do they work just as well as liquid shampoo, but shampoo- and of course soap bars
save space in your luggage,
they last longer and
they don’t come in plastic containers that end up thrown away as waste.
You can get small and reusable soap containers for them - et voilà! A triple-win all around.
Two caveats for the Lush shampoo bars: They’re fairly expensive (almost 10€ per bar) and if you order them online they come in a cardboard box with lots of Styrofoam flips, which totally ruined the less-waste effect I was going for. Better to buy them packaging-free in the Lush stores located in most major cities. And I’ve been using my Lush bar now for five weeks and it’s down by a third of its volume at the most, lasting me about three times as long as a normal-sized bottle of liquid shampoo.
Reusable Toiletry Bottles
Of course, you may want to stick with your liquid shampoos and body washes, and other things still come in liquid or lotion form. Body lotion, sunscreen and after sun, for example, all of which can often be found in tiny little travel tubes. They sound like every minimalist traveler’s dream - but they actually produce so much more waste than their large counterparts.
Instead of buying these small one-offs, consider buying reusable toiletry bottles, like these Gotoobs - which can also be used for food and drinks. Refill those from your big bottles whenever you’re home and you’ll end up saving quite a bit of waste over the course of, let’s say, a year.
Reefs all over the world are bleaching and dying - due in most part, to pollution. In the Caribbean, about 90 percent of the reefs have disappeared since 1980.
90 percent! In not quite 40 years. Something that took nature centuries to slowly, painstakingly build (coral grows only half a centimeter a year!), gone in not even half of one.
Coral reefs are a vital eco-system that many environments and also people depend on. They’re also an indicator for the health of our planet and the precarious, life-granting balance nature has managed to hold for millions of years.
Part of the pollution destroying the reefs, especially in touristy areas, is sunscreen. Certain chemicals used in our popular sunscreens have been identified as extremely dangerous for eco-systems. These include oxybenzone, octocrylene, octinoxate, octisalate, homosalate and avobenzone. They make coral more susceptible to bleaching, deform baby coral and break down its resilience to climate change.
While sunscreen isn’t the only thing killing coral reefs, it’s a big contributing factor - and something each and every one of us can help mitigate whenever we go to the beach. Good thing there are a myriad of organic sunscreens to be had.
Eco-Friendly Travel Items
As constant travelers, we digital nomads appreciate any gadget or gimmick that makes our travels easier. Here are a few such gizmos that not only make us travel-ready but do so in an eco-friendly way.
If you haven’t discovered packing cubes, yet, it’s about time. Not only do they help you keep your stuff organized inside your bags and save you a ton of space (especially the compressible ones), but it’s environmentally friendly to use them. They’re reusable, reduce the use of plastic or Ziploc bags and make your luggage shrink.
Scrubba Wash Bag
If you’re a digital nomad who travels very light and minimalist, you’re probably doing a lot of hand washing of your clothes. Or, when you do use a washing machine, it’s only filled to a quarter.
Ever heard of the Scrubba Wash Bag? It’s basically a portable washing machine that folds up to be compact and light, and uses very little water. It's perfect for traveling and super easy and fast to use for small loads. For full loads, finding a laundromat is still the more eco-friendly option, but if you’re only looking to hand wash a few socks, undies and t-shirts every few days, the bag uses less water than if you do it all in the sink.
Reusable Collapsible Bags
I always carry at least two of those tote bags that can be scrunched up and stuffed into tiny little pouches. They’re surprisingly resilient, considering how flimsy they appear, and come in all kinds of pretty colors and motifs. They fit in any purse or pocket, making it easy to carry around and put to use for impromptu shopping sprees.
I’ve used them to carry and transport all kinds of things while traveling:
As a beach bag
To pack for weekend trips
Reusable Water Bottle
I know, I know, you can’t drink the water out of the tap in every country without risking a serious case of belly blowout. But there are definitely countries where you can - most European countries, the US and Canada come to mind - and carrying your own refillable water bottle will cut down on plastic bottle waste. The oceans and all its beautiful creatures will thank you for it.
There are reusable water bottles of all shapes, colors and sizes on the market. My personal favorite at the moment is this beauty, which has a second advantage to its reusability: it’s made from silicone, and can be tinyfied in a hot second. Meaning when it’s empty and you want to pack it in your suitcase, it won’t take up as much space as an inflexible metal or plastic bottle.
Without our electronic devices, the digital nomad lifestyle wouldn’t be possible. They’re as essential to our way of life as traveling itself. That doesn’t mean we can’t be smart and eco-friendly in our use of them.
Solar Power Banks
Our electronic devices are no use to us flat, so many of us carry power banks to ensure we have power to spare for our phones, tablets and even laptops. Why not use solar-powered power banks?
Solar power banks charge without any electrical input. Basically, you don’t have to pay for electricity and it doesn’t have to be produced, because sunlight does the job. And that’s all you need for solar power banks to work: access to sunlight.
Which there is an abundance of in a lot of the places we digital nomads like to travel to. So our solar power bank actually running out of power to charge our devices with is highly unlikely.
Here’s a list of the Top 10 Solar Power Banks in 2018.
Battery Phone Cases
Power banks come in all shapes and sizes - some of them even come in the form of phone casings. They keep your smartphone charged as well as protected. They aren’t made for every type of phone, but maybe you’ll find a battery case for your phone in this list of The Best Smartphone Battery Cases.
The eco-friendly key here is that the cases only charge the phones when they need it, meaning no electricity is wasted. There are even a few solar powered battery cases, though they’re always for very specific phones, like this Sunny Case for iPhone 7, 6S or 6.
Rocket Book (Erasable Notebook)
If you’re a writer who still loves to scribble down hand-written notes, diary entries or whole novels, consider getting a paper-saving Rocket Book. It’s an erasable, reusable notebook that comes in a few different sizes and lets you scan and file every page via a phone-app.
Instead of having to lug around a growing number of paper notebooks or having to throw them away once they’re full, you can use the Rocket Book indefinitely over and over again while preserving every single page.
So this year, when you’re making your lists of products you want to incorporate into your travel bags, why not consider some of these options; you’ll likely find that in the long run, they’re not only better for the environment, but better for you too! Let us know in the comments below what your favorite products are that keep you and the environment happy!
Pia Newman is a copywriter, translator, virtual assistant and novelist. She finds her inspiration in many things, but above all in traveling around the world as a digital nomad and a happy member of WiFi Tribe. Follow both her novel writing- and digital nomad journey on her English blog, or find out more about her services, as well as her guidebooks on virtual assistance and earning money online on her German website.