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But often overlooked are newer travel-sized items that are more lightweight, easy to use, and have the added bonus of being better for the environment. Take a few minutes now to look at these 6 "must-have" travel products described in this post and decide for yourself. By the way, if you are looking for a small gift for your travel buddies, here you go!
#1 I think most people would agree that there is way too much plastic garbage being dumped into our landfills and rivers and oceans. One way to combat overuse of disposable plastic items is to carry your own sets of wooden and biodegradable cutlery - forks, spoons, and knives. So when you are on the go, whether in your hometown or overseas, and you stop by a deli or perhaps a street vendor or food truck to buy a take-away meal, you won't have to use their plastic utensils. You will just zip open a side pocket of your backpack and select what you need, such as a wooden spoon for a cup of hot soup. When you finish eating, you can toss the spoon into a trash bag or even better into a recycle bin. You can feel good knowing you've contributed one less piece of plastic to muck up the planet.
#2 Safe, potable drinking water. This is a big problem in many countries you might visit, especially in regions like southeast Asia or sub-Saharan Africa. The go-to answer for a majority of hotels and tour vendors in these places is to offer visitors bottled water. Which can mean lots and lots of empty used plastic water bottles by the end of a multi-day stay and tour. Most of these bottles will end up buried in trash dumps where they will leech chemicals into the ground and not fully decompose for the next 400 - 500 years!
You want to be a part of that problem? Or part of the solution?
An excellent alternative is to bring along your own travel-ready collapsible water container. There are several companies making these products today, and you can find them easily through online retailers such as Amazon. The "Hydaway" collapsible bottle comes in several colors and two sizes (adult, child). You can buy this product with or without the optional travel case (fits into the case when collapsed).
#3 If the source for your drinking water is a stream, a well, or from the faucet in the bathroom of your hotel room, and you are not sure if the water is safe to consume, then your best bet is to use a water filter. One of the most popular products of this type is the "LifeStraw" personal filter. The manufacturer claims this will remove nearly 100% of dangerous bacteria and other microbes and last up to 1,000 liters of water. Many hiking and camping enthusiasts say they always pack their LifeStraw before heading outdoors. Maybe travelers should do the same.
#4 Did you know that most brand-name sun lotions and sunscreens are not biodegradable? It is one thing when you take a dip into the pool, it is quite another when you go swimming or snorkeling in a natural water habitat such as a lagoon or the ocean. Even though these sun protection products get absorbed into your skin, a bit remains on the skin surface only to be sloughed off into the water where the chemicals can do much harm to coral reefs and sea grasses and the sea creatures that depend on them.
It is worth your while to learn more about available biodegradable products, preferably those made using only all-natural ingredients, that will protect you against the sun's harmful rays while also protecting marine life from harmful synthetic chemicals. Yes, these products do cost a bit more because ingredients like naturally-sourced organic essential oils don't come cheap. But if you care about personal health as well as the environment at large, consider a few extra dollars as money well spent. Here is a sample product under the brand name Sol Guard made by Caribbean Solutions.
#5 The same goes for body soaps and hair care products. Look around and your will discover a variety of biodegradable toiletries in small travel sizes that you can purchase. Some are single-use and others last for multiple washes and showers. This way you do not have to rely on the guest soaps, shampoos, and conditioners offered by hotels and resorts that are full of artificial fragrances and synthetic chemicals. "Sea to Summit" is one brand that you can readily find at your local travel specialty goods store or online.
#6 Hey, how about a towel? Seriously, a lightweight and fast-drying microfiber towel that folds down into a small compact size that fits easily into your daypack or tote bag. Perfect for camping and hiking trips or when you are heading to the beach. Some come with their own pouch too. Microfiber fabrics feel soft to the skin and hold up well to frequent washing. At prices that range from under US $10 to only $15 or just under $20, depending on the towel size, you can afford to give your friend or loved one a thoughtful gift (and maybe buy one for yourself too)!
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