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While travel is not the most environmentally friendly activity, we can still take actions to reduce our negative impact on the environment when we’re traveling.
We can do this by making sustainable, eco-friendly decisions. Whether it’s the items we purchase, refusing disposable plastic products or making informed decisions on the tours we take, we can all have a positive impact on the world.
I put together this eco-friendly travel gift guide for:
- Travelers who LOVE travel, but care about the environment
- For people who care about the environment and want to give a gift to their travel-obsessed loved one.
So here are some ideas for eco-friendly travel gifts…
Experiences & Donations
Gifting experiences are the most sustainable or environmentally friendly gift you can give.
Have you ever received a gift that you didn’t need or like? Gift giving is hard, but if you gift an experience, you’re more likely to give something that your loved one will remember (rather than something you weren’t sure that they wanted!)
1. Book a tour with G Adventures
G Adventures is a tour company that focuses on small tour groups and exploring destinations sustainably. Their focus is adventure travel, safaris, and expedition.
2. Book a tour with Intrepid travel (US / Canada)
Intrepid travel also focuses on small group tours, with an emphasis on local tour guides and sustainable travel.
They’re the world’s largest small group adventure travel company, founded in Melbourne, Australia (my home city yay!)
3. Donating to a cause that your loved one holds dear to their heart
Donations are also a super eco-friendly gift. Whether it’s pollution, animal shelters or medical research – everyone has a cause that they’re passionate about.
While it’s tempting to buy a physical gift, I don’t think anyone was ever upset at receiving a donation made in their name to their favorite cause!
Gifting gear they can take with them
This section covers travel focused items that either reduce unnecessary waste or are made sustainably and ethically. Read on for some gear gift ideas!
4. Solar powered power banks
Yes, solar powered power banks are a thing now! These are great for travelers who want to reduce their impact (harnessing the sun is such an eco-friendly way to power your devices!) and is especially perfect for hikers or campers.
This is a great waterproof, heavy-duty option, perfect for those who like road trips or camping.
This is a great lightweight, water-resistant option, perfect for those who like hiking or do a lot of plane travel (where weight is really important!)
5. Portable wash bag
For travelers who like camping, hiking or going on long trips, a portable wash bag is a must.
The Scrubba™ Wash Bag only weighs 145 g (only 5 oz!) and uses Scrubba nobules technology helps you achieve machine quality wash in just 3 minutes. It can also be used as a dry bag for electronics when it’s raining heavily or when you’re doing water sports.
If your loved one is an adventure traveler, this is a great gift. Check it out here!
Food & Drink
Food and drink are some of the largest contributors to waste. From single use to water bottles to disposable cutlery, there’s a gift here for the travel lover in your life.
6. Water cleaning technology
Many of us take for granted the fact that we have clean water readily available.
In many countries around the world, however, clean water is not always available. For many, the only source of clean water is via bottled water – not the most environmentally friendly of sources!
The Life Straw is a physical water filter, that filters out debris and cleans water. This straw is a great lightweight option for those who already have drink bottles.
Alternatively, the Life Straw drink bottle is a great alternative for those who don’t have a travel-friendly water bottle.
Another water cleaning device is the ever so famous (and award-winning!) Steripen.
Instead of using a physical filter, the Steripen uses UV light to kill pathogens. You’ll need a wide-open mouthed drink bottle or container to use this, and it won’t work for cloudy liquids. BUT it’s perfect for those who want that extra reassurance that their water is clean.
And for those on a budget, this is an older version, but also charges via USB
If you’re after a cheaper version, this SteriPen doesn’t have rechargeable batteries (it uses CR123A batteries), but it still does the job and is excellent if you’re on a budget!
7. Bamboo cutlery set
A bamboo cutlery set is a must for any eco-conscious traveler.
I’ve used my bamboo cutlery with me on road trips (great if you’ve got a packed lunch), on airplanes or when the only option is single-use disposable plastic cutlery.
Bamboo cutlery is perfect for travel because it’s lightweight and you can bring it onto a plane (unlike stainless steel cutlery which can be confiscated at the airport!)
8. Reusable metal straw
I’d never want to give up a cold drink (especially when I’m traveling during summer) because of a straw. I love using reusable metal straws (rather than bamboo or plastic versions) as they’re easier to clean.
This metal straw comes with a cleaning brush and straw holder (it’s a set of 2 straws so your loved one can lend one to a friend when they’re traveling!)
9. Stainless steel lunch box
I’ve used my lunch box to bring my food onto a plane or to get takeout (like pastries or sandwiches from cafes when traveling!)
I recommend stainless steel as it’s long lasting, lightweight and easy to clean (opposed to plastic or glass which can get heavy when you’re traveling!)
This stainless steel lunch box is great for lunches. It has a section for sandwiches and a tray where you can have a small salad. It is also dishwasher safe (but not microwavable as its metal!)
This LunchBots lunch box is great for sandwiches, salads or pastries. This is also dishwasher safe, but not microwavable.
10. Re-usable water bottle
I’d only recommend purchasing a drink bottle if you 100% are sure that your loved one doesn’t already have one. As any environmental enthusiast knows, reusable drink bottles are all the rage now, and most people have multiple drink bottles (I know I do!)
If you’re on the market for a travel-friendly bottle, I’d recommend the Rolla Bottle. The bottles are made from silicone, and they roll down when not in use. When they’re rolled up, they take up next to no space (perfect for situations where weight and space is an issue!)
They also have a lifetime guarantee and are dishwasher safe. Rolla donates 10% of their profits are donated to various clean ocean campaigns and organizations working to remove plastic already in our oceans.
11. Reusable coffee cup
Reusable coffee cups are such multi-purpose items. I use mine for coffee/ hot chocolates, but also for tea (especially when I can’t finish my pot of tea in a cafe) or for when I have small leftovers I chuck ’em into my cup (weird, but effective!)
For situations where weight is not a problem like road trips, the glass keep cups are a favorite. They’re easy to wash, are machine washable and durable.
If you’re after an insulated version, this is also a great insulated double walled option.
Where weight is a problem (like overseas or plane travel), lightweight is best. This reusable coffee cup is made from bamboo, comes with a silicone lid (and spill stopper!) and is also dishwasher safe. Check it out here!
Toiletries are another category where we unnecessarily produce a lot of waste. Don’t even get me started on those tiny hotel shampoo bottles! For gift ideas, read on!
12. Shampoo bars
Yes – you can get shampoo in the form of bars! They have minimal packaging (great for those who are eco-conscious) and are lightweight, which makes them ideal for travelers.
My favorite brand is Ethique, a New Zealand based company who’s shampoo bars are palm oil free and come in a cardboard box with minimal packaging.
13. Re-usable ziplock bags
While plastic ziplock bags can be re-used, they do eventually get holes in them and don’t last the long haul.
Luckily, now you can get reusable ziplock bags which are perfect for travelers. I use mine for snacks (like nuts) or to put my toiletries in so they don’t leak into my bag.
If this is a bit out of your budget, these are a cheaper version (though they are not made from silicone and potentially not as long lasting).
Environmentally friendly gifts do exist for travel lovers. So whether you care about the environment AND travel, or your friend does, there’s something in this guide for you!