Did you know that each year we produce around 300 million tons of plastic worldwide? And did you know that 91 percent of that plastic waste doesn’t get recycled—even when you put it in the recycling bin? Instead, it ends up in landfills (not breaking down), or even worse, in our rivers and oceans! Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to discourage you from recycling your recyclables (please keep recycling!). That being said, the phrase is “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” so clearly the best way to solve the plastic problem is to reduce! Every little change makes a difference, and even imperfect and inconsistent changes to our plastic consumption is a step in the right director toward taking better care of our planet!

As a passionate advocate for the environment, but also as a poor college student, I understand that spending more money on eco-friendly alternatives to everyday items (let alone travel gear) can feel unnecessary and outside of the budget. With this in mind, I surveyed a number of my least environmentally-conscious friends on which items they would likely use the most and would be willing to spend money on. I gathered the following items as most worth your time and money:

Organic and Reef-Safe Sunscreen

If you’re traveling to the beach be sure to take one of these organic and reef-safe sunscreens to keep your skin and the reefs protected! These sunscreens contain no added chemicals and are made with all organic ingredients that are safe for your skin and safe for the ocean.

  • Raw Elements Face + Body Sunscreen: $20 for 3 oz.
  • Mama Kuleana Reef Safe and Biodegradable Container: $20 for 2 oz.


Reusable Utensils

If you eat on the go while traveling, these reusable utensils will come in handy! Making this change will help reduce the amount of single-use plastic that ends up in our landfills, rivers, and oceans.

  • Bamboo Utensil Kit  (Zero Waste Store) $14.99
  • Bamboo Travel Utensils Cutlery Set (Eko Traveler) $11.99

But honestly, reusable cutlery could also cost you virtually nothing. Designate a spoon, knife, and fork from your existing cutlery to be your travel set. Throw them in a cute little cloth pouch, and there you have it!


Water Filter

There are many places that encourage tourists to buy bottles of filtered water rather than drink water from the tap. To save the oceans and landfills from more single-use plastic bottles, opt for a reusable bottle and water filter instead! There are bottles that have built-in filters like the Brita Filter Bottle or the LifeStraw Go Bottle, or there are small pod filters like the GoPure Pod Water filter that can be thrown right in your bottle.

  • GoPure Pod Water Filter: $24.99 (You can send your pod back after you’ve used it and GoPure recycles it properly for you!) (Each pod purifies continuously for up to six months or 264 gallons of water. It takes approximately two minutes to clean your water once you drop it in!—from the website.)


Reusable Snack Bags

I recently made the switch from single-use Ziploc bags to reusable silicone snack bags, and I will never go back. These bags are convenient and cute. Depending on the brand, they are usually dishwasher safe, can be stored in the fridge or freezer, and can even be boiled. These are super convenient to store snacks while you’re out and about on fun hikes and exploring new cities, and they will be useful when you’re back from your travels for snacks you take to work or school! My personal favorites are the Stasher brand snack bags—the quality is superior to others I’ve encountered, and it’s a company committed to sustainability and environmentally safe products.

These may be a more expensive up-front investment, but in the long run they will save you money and save mother nature from one more discarded single-use plastic bag.

  • There are a variety of sizes, colors, and bundles. (individuals: $8-$20, bundles: $14-$87)
  • If, however, this option seems too expensive for you, Amazon offers a wide variety of other reusable snack bag options.


Solar-Powered Charger

These chargers are an awesome tool to have while you’re out and about on your travels. Whether you’re backpacking, on the beach, or in the city, a charged cellphone, GPS, camera, or Kindle is key! No need to stress about your devices losing charge as you use them throughout the day. These solar chargers will make sure your devices are ready and charged to help you navigate, document, and enjoy your travels!

  • Hiluckey Solar Charger: $46.99
  • Feelle Technology makes solar-powered chargers that provide 24000-25000 mAh with various numbers of ports: $37.99 – $47.99
  • FKANT: Solar Charger 26800mAh, Qi Wireless Portable Solar Power Bank with 4 Outputs & Dual Inputs Type-C, Waterproof External Backup Battery Pack with 18 LED Flashlight for SmartPhone (Black): $45.99

—Tess Jackson