7 Tips for the Conscious Traveler

“I don’t want to protect the environment. I want to create a world where the environment doesn’t need protecting.”

Extensive travel can be very taxing on the environment, and given our Earth’s current worsening condition, that should be a concern for all travelers. In reality, aggressive international travel should be cut down significantly, if not entirely, but our global paradigm does not allow for it at this time. I believe in the near future we will be forced to reconsider the way we traverse lands and how it affects our ecosystem, and this may result in the extinction of international travel as we know it.

My hope is that our amazingly innovative human family will find ways to connect the world in a much more sustainable fashion, because to lose our accessibility to the incredible corners of the world would be devastating. So, although I feel conflicted for it at times, I’ve decided to take full advantage of the age of globalization while I can and embark on my dream to be a world nomad while doing my part to raise awareness on these issues.

Drifting from our norm is difficult at times because in our society we are constantly on the go and our natural inclination is to accomplish tasks as quickly and efficiently as possible. People often don’t associate “crunchy” alternatives as a viable solution to their busy lifestyles. However, this is a misconception. Many healthy and environmentally conscious options can cut down considerably on travel hassle, among other benefits. Below I’d like to share some ways to lower your carbon footprint on the road, and also make your life as a nomad a bit simpler:

  1. No Poo: One of the most helpful alternative habits you can adopt is the “no-poo” method. Don’t let the name turn you off! The name stands for “no shampoo”, and it is the practice of weaning oneself off traditional shampoo and conditioner. There is great information online debunking the myths of needing shampoo to keep your hair and scalp clean and healthy.  The no-poo method transitions people away from commercial shampoos in order to allow their scalp to regulate itself, which means some can swear off shampoo completely. There is far too much information to share here, but I encourage those interested in freeing themselves from the unnecessary use of shampoo, and simultaneously saving the money you would normally spend on products, to seriously consider making the transition. Imagine how great it will be to never carry shampoo or conditioner on your travels, to never worry about purchasing those toiletries on the road, and to cut down your showers by half or more. Not only will no-poo save you money but by eliminating use of traditional shampoos you will reduce your carbon footprint in multiple ways. You will rid of the wasteful plastic packaging, you will cut out the harmful chemicals running into the water supply, you will reduce your support of unsustainable corporations, and you will conserve water on shorter and less frequent showers.

2) Shampoo Bars: If no-poo isn’t up your alley there is another excellent solution to ridding of your bulky shower toiletries while on the road.  Instead of continuing use of traditional products I currently use shampoo bars from Chagrin Valley Soap and Salve. This is one of my favorite companies for all personal care items. They have an incredible story, and their products are void of all chemicals, synthetics, parabens, sulfates etc. Visit their website for wonderful testimonies on their amazing products.

Like no-poo, these shampoo bars still allow you to wean off frequent hair washing and they genuinely work to repair your damaged hair and recalibrate your scalp’s oil production. Since they are free off any nasties, they’re still health and environmentally conscious.

The best aspects of shampoo bars are that they’re void of wasteful plastic packaging and harmful chemicals, and they cause no mess when on the road. I can’t tell you how many times I opened my toiletry bag during my European backpacking trip and my shampoo and conditioner had burst open and spilled everywhere. Spills won’t happen with bars, and they can also be easily taken as a carry on since they are not in liquid form. I also love supporting an honest and local business that produces quality products.

Shampoo bars last much longer than traditional products as well, so one or two large bars can last you months and possibly over a year depending on the amount of hair you have and how much you wash it. Chagrin Valley’s shampoo bars can double as body and face soap as well, since their ingredients are safe for all body parts.

3) Water Purifiers: Many foreign countries don’t have the luxury of clean, drinkable tab water. Often travelers from Western countries are encouraged not to drink the tap water and instead buy filtered bottled water to avoid potential illness. I always flinch with reluctance if I have to purchase bottled water, and I generally avoid it whenever I can. Not only is the packaging wasteful and unnecessary, but often the companies who produce bottled water promote destruction of the environment and privatization of every water source in the world – that last piece was an actual quote by the CEO of Nestle. Of course, sometimes it becomes a choice between contracting an illness or supporting these companies by purchasing their water. Instead of bottled water, consider packing a portable water filtration system. A filtration system allows you to hydrate with normally non-potable water. Be sure to choose a high quality system that you will feel comfortable filling your reusable water bottle with. Also consider bringing Iodine or purification tablets which can kill any additional bacteria, viruses, and giardia, if your water source is especially contaminated. Some of those tablets include taste neutralization as well. Instead of spending your funds on endless bottled water, contributing to unnecessary waste, and supporting damaging corporations – you can reuse your non-disposable water bottle free of charge (aside from the initial investments).

4) DIY Toothpaste: Traditional toothpaste is another product to consider kicking to the curb. Studies show that fluoride can be very damaging to your brain and also causes calcification of the pineal gland – which is said to be our connection to higher dimensions. I avoid fluoride whenever I can, and a major source of it is found in traditional toothpaste. There are many  simple and easy recipes with only a few ingredients. My favorite recipe is coconut oil, baking soda, a pinch of sea salt, and peppermint abstract. I keep this mixture in a reusable tin and simply whip up another batch when I run out. I cut down my fluoride consumption by using this method and kick the excess packaging. Additionally, some research shows that coconut oil is incredibly beneficial to oral health. These recipes can be easily recreated most places you travel since the ingredients are straight forward and accessible.

5) DIY Deodorant: Similarly to toothpaste, there are many recipes out there for alternatives to traditional store-bought deodorant. DIY deodorants can be kept in tins or other reusable packaging so as to reduce associated waste. Crunchy recipes are also void of potentially harmful, and simply unnecessary, chemicals so you can feel good about putting them on your skin.

6) [For Ladies] Diva Cup or Menstrual Cup: a menstrual cup is probably the single most helpful item to have for extensive travel. Many women are initially turned off by this option, but I promise once you get over the initial out-of-your-comfort-zone experience you will be endlessly grateful. There are countless testimonials on menstrual cups, and I suggest perusing online reviews for answers to your questions and concerns. Not only are these cups very efficient, effective, and comfortable, but they are also a sustainable alternative to traditional tampons and pads. When you chose menstrual cups you eliminate all of your previous waste relating to your monthly cycle. Not to mention you say goodbye to the inevitable panic you experience when you get your period before you’re prepared with the necessary products. Since the cup is reusable you don’t have to worry about being under-prepared, since you will always have the one and only product you need right in your pack. You only have to change the cup every 12 hours, sometimes more, since there is no risk of TSS. So you can enjoy your entire day without running to the bathroom, and you can sleep worry free through the evenings. The cup pays for itself pretty quickly and last for years, so you also eventually pay nothing for feminine products. I cannot say enough about menstrual cups and urge every woman, especially those who travel extensively and outdoors, to strongly consider these life changing products.

7) Organic Makeup: For those ladies, or men, who like their makeup, consider bringing health conscious products on your travels. There are many vendors on Etsy who create organic, chemical free cosmetics that are not tested on animals. These are much better for your skin and usually cost less and last longer – since they are void of the planned obsolescence many traditional products contain.Planned obsolescence is when a product is purposefully made to fail, be less effective, or run out quickly in order to maintain a company’s profit – this can be seen in cosmetics that require using more for the desired effect. Consider all- in one type products that can be used as lip color, eye color, and cheek color so you can minimize what you pack.

Utilizing these tips can not only simplify your travel routine, cut down on wasted packing room by unnecessary products, but will also reduce your carbon footprint while on the road. For me it’s important to maintain a sustainable and healthy lifestyle as much as I can on my travels. You can also feel good about reducing your dependency on corporations that choose profit over our environment. We vote with our dollar, so it is so important to know where your dollars, and votes, are going when consuming. Every time we give our money to corporations who conduct themselves in reckless ways that we disagree with, we are enabling them to continue these actions and profit off destroying our Earth. Instead, we should learn to question our current lifestyles, and pursue ways to live more harmoniously with our environment and eliminate unnecessary and often harmful habits that we’ve been taught to follow.

Kate Townsend

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