No matter what you do, traveling is not the most eco-friendly activity. To be fair, it’s difficult to do just about anything without having some sort of impact on the planet. So what’s a hippie to do? The best she can.
When I live on my own at home, I can take extra measures to live as sustainably as my limited income allows. I compost and recycle, I buy food in bulk using reusable bags, and I bike and use public transportation. But trying to live sustainably in a foreign country when you’re living out of your backpack is much more challenging.
Thus begins a series of blog posts about eco-friendly travel! Today, I’m focusing on one of the easier sustainability topics: hygiene. So how do you keep yourself clean and tidy without hurting the planet or smelling like a dirty hippie? You come prepared! So here are the tools of the trade I brought with me to help reduce the amount of waste I produce with my hygiene routine:
The shampoo bar has a number of benefits from my experience. From the logistical perspective, it takes up a lot less room in a backpack than a traditional bottle of shampoo. From a sustainability perspective, it allows me to wash my hair without using plastic. Yes, you can recycle the plastic bottle in many cases. But recycling still uses up energy and the quality of plastic is reduced each time it is recycled. So avoiding plastic altogether is the best way to go.
I’ve gone through a number of shampoo bars and the one that works best for my hair is the J.R. Liggett’s Original Formula. I picked two bars up at a local organic shop in the states before I left. I only wash my hair once a week, so at five months in, I still have a full bar left. Pretty darn good for $7.50! Most organic stores seem to be selling bar shampoo nowadays, so take a look around! Some folks have also been successful using regular soap bars that contain ingredients like coconut or aloe. And speaking of coconut…
Ah, the all-purpose wonder that is coconut oil. I brought a jar of the stuff all the way across the ocean with me because I use it for EVERYTHING! Conditioner, moisturizer, spread, you name it! I usually put about 1/4 teaspoon in my hair after each washing, which keeps most of the frizz at bay. It’s also used in quite a few DIY recipes (see below).
I have mixed feelings about crystal deodorant to be honest. I purchased it because it’s supposed to last for a year, the packaging is 100% recyclable (still plastic, but recyclable) and it doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals. My amazingly nutty ceramics teacher raved about it and that seemed like a good enough recommendation to me. That being said, I think some people may have better luck with this product than I did.
For starters, I didn’t think it worked that well to minimize odor. Given…I haven’t scared any dates off yet, so maybe it’s not so bad! Also…I am a clutz and when you drop this thing it SHATTERS. So if you don’t drop it and aren’t super active, I still might recommend it. Otherwise, keep reading to learn about my homemade deodorant routine!
I don’t shave much because I am really really lazy. And because women shouldn’t feel obligated to shave (but if you’re a women who prefers to shave, you do you girl!). Still, I brought a safety razor with me for kicks and giggles. Unlike most razors you find in stores nowadays, this guy is completely metal. No plastic! And in my experience, the blades last longer than those in the disposable razors I used to use. You can find them pretty much anywhere that sells disposable razors. I picked mine up at CVS!
This one is a new for me. I follow a vlogger named Gittemary Johansen and she posted a video about using soap nuts as a waste free alternative to laundry detergent. So when I saw them in an organic shop in Thames, I figured I’d give them a shot! No nasty chemicals or plastic? Sounds great! Since buying them however, I’ve heard some people talking about how the increased popularity of soap nuts has made it difficult for people in India (where this product originates from) to have access to them.
Since I already have them, I might as well use them. But next time, I’ll be trying a different alternative using chestnuts. It goes to show you that when it comes to sustainable living, nothing is perfect. All you can do is try to do your research and pick the best method you can find.
So that’s what I’ve got in the bag for the moment as I try to travel with the least amount of impact I can manage. Toothpaste is one area in which I’m behind in terms of the reduced plastic thing. While I’ve seen a number of recipes floating around for homemade toothpaste, I’m wary about trying them out…at least while my dental insurance is limited. But if you’ve tried anything out, definitely leave a comment below and let me know what you think!
One final thing I’ve added to my repertoire is my own homemade deodorant. Now before you think “ick!”, let me tell you that this stuff actually works! I mean…no one’s gone running for the hills anyway. So here’s what I use:
- 1/2 Cup Coconut Oil
- 1/3 Cup Baking Soda
- Essential Oils (I’ll be honest…I used the same stuff I use as natural sandfly repellent to save money. Hey…it has the same essential oils in it!)
Mix together and you’re good to go! Easy as that! This amount of deodorant will probably last me about two months since I use it sparingly. Unlike your typical antiperspirant, it will not stop you from sweating. But I don’t mind that so much if I’m not offending anyone’s nose!
So there you have it folks! The stepping stones for green travel. There will be more green travel posts in the future, so if that’s your thing, stay posted! If you have any of your own suggestions or have your own experiences with any of the recommendations I’ve listed, please leave a comment below!