Every time we board a plane, take to the open road, or simply order a plate of seafood in a landlocked locale, we’re racking up significant tolls on the environment.
You could minimize your footprint by giving up your frequent flyer miles and adopting a vegan lifestyle, but if you’re not ready – pardon the expression – to go cold turkey quite yet, there are plenty of ways to make a positive impact in less extreme fashion. From solar-powered packs to recycled goods galore, these nine items will start you off on the right foot.
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1. Solgaard Shore-Tex Lifepack
Between the anti-theft features, the solar-charging battery pack, and the upcycled-plastic construction, Solgaard’s Shore-Tex Lifepack is a savior in more ways than one. Its removable power bank weighs nearly two pounds, so it’s a bit heavy, but it’s fully integrated into the bag’s design and only needs an hour of bright sunshine to boost your smartphone by 25%. (It works with non-direct sunlight too.) The company pledges to remove 5 pounds of plastic from the ocean for every item sold, partnering with The Plastic Bank to get the material out of the seas and cleaned, processed, heated, stretched into fiber, and woven into fabric for its line of bags and suitcases. Plus, all purchases are shipped in water-resistant, reversible tote bags, with zero waste or single-use plastics involved.
Shore-Tex Lifepack + Solarbank, $165; amazon.com
2. Nimble 10-day fast portable charger
There aren’t many items that earn a permanent spot in the ol’ daypack, but a portable charger is one of them. At almost 1.5 pounds, Nimble’s 10-day version is a little brick, but true to its name, it holds enough juice to last for a week and a half, and it offers an 80% charge in just 30 minutes. It’s compatible with iPhone and Android, Samsung and Nintendo Switch, and for each product purchased, you’ll get a prepaid return envelope so you can send an old item back to be recycled. Best of all, the charger is made with sustainable materials, from the internal components – made from plant-based plastics derived from renewable materials like sugarcane – to the protective housing, made from extruded and anodized aluminum that’s completely recyclable.
10-day Fast Portable Charger, $130; amazon.com
3. Karst Stone Paper recycled stone notebooks
A certified B-Corp turning out paper made from recycled construction-site and mining-quarry rubble, Karst Stone Paper creates notebooks that not only write more smoothly than their traditional counterparts, they also resist moisture and tear less easily. The production process saves trees, obviously, but it also wastes fewer natural resources, with each metric ton of stone paper requiring just 27 gallons of water, as opposed to the 15 thousand-some gallons that go into the same amount of wood-pulp paper – at nearly six times the energy outlay. In 2018 alone, the company sold 60,000 notebooks equalling 40 metric tons of stone paper, saving 720 large timber trees, 110,800 liters of water, 38,000 kilos of carbon dioxide, and 188,800 kilowatts of energy.
Recycled stone notebooks, from $12; karststonepaper.com
4. Caran d’Ache x Nespresso recycled coffee-pod pen
A slim, stylish stylus with the environmentally-friendly bonafides to match, this collaboration between Swiss company Caran d’Ache and coffee giant Nespresso gives new life to disposable coffee pods – specifically, the matte-green aluminum capsules used for the brand’s Master Origins India blend, gathered from a network of a thousand-plus recycling drop-off points and mail-back programs. The second-generation ballpoint pen (the first version debuted in 2018) is made from an aluminum alloy, while micro-beading and an electrostatic treatment give it added luster. Its blue ink cartridge is guaranteed to last for 600 sheets of A4-size paper, and its plastic-free packaging is icing on the cake.
Ballpoint Pen 849 NESPRESSO Limited Edition 2, $54; amazon.com
5. Bureo Fishnet Flyer frisbee
The essentials are all well and good, but what’s a vacation without a little room for fun and games? Certified B corporation Bureo’s aim is to keep discarded fishing nets – a harmful form of pollution that represents an estimated 10% the ocean’s plastic waste – from reaching the world’s most vulnerable waters. To that end, the company has collected more than 400 tons of material from fisheries in South America, transforming them into products like skateboards and sunglasses while funding sustainable development initiatives in coastal communities. Emblazoned with custom art by designer Lake Buckley, the California-made frisbee is particularly travel-friendly, especially if you’re bound for the beach.
Fishnet Flyer frisbee, $12; bureo.co
6. Eco-Pals reusable collapsible straw
As the movement against single-use plastics rolls on and straw bans become status quo, you’re more likely than ever to order a frosty beverage that's served without the tool to suck it up. Paper straws are more sturdy than they used to be, but they still create waste and use precious natural resources to produce. The collapsible stainless-steel straws from Eco-Pals, on the other hand, are endlessly reusable, and they fit handily into bags and pockets or clip onto key rings with ease, thanks to a carrying case no bigger than a tube of lip gloss. The only inconvenience is recalling that the cleaning brush is stashed inside the straw before you sip – and remembering to take it out and put it to work between uses.
Eco-Pals reusable collapsible straw, $7; myecopals.com
7. BergHoff Leo travel flatware set
While disposable flatware made from corn or bamboo may seem like an environmentally conscious alternative to plastic, the reality is that in most cases, these so-called compostable or biodegradable items won’t break down without the help of a significant heat source, so they usually wind up in the landfill with the rest of the garbage anyway. One way to avoid the issue? Invest in sturdy, portable, cost-efficient utensils that can accompany you wherever you roam, like BergHoff’s stainless-steel Leo set, which includes a dishwasher-safe knife, fork, and spoon, plus a tight-fitting silicone sleeve to hold them all.
BergHoff Leo travel flatware set, $15; amazon.com
8. Package Free soft silicone travel bottles
The US Transportation Security Administration's 3-1-1 rule doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, and with hotels around the world eliminating mini toiletries from their supply chain, frequent fliers’ need for reusable bottles shows no signs of abating. Available in three TSA-approved sizes, these soft silicone vessels from zero-waste hub Package Free are easy to squeeze and should last a lifetime – but just in case, the Brooklyn-based company says the lids are recyclable and the silicone is naturally biodegradable if it’s burned.
Soft silicone travel bottles, from $7; packagefreeshop.com
9. Etee reusable snack bags and wraps
When the deepest ocean dive on record revealed litter – likely plastic – at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, it cast the issue of plastic pollution in a whole new light. Clearly, the problem runs deep, and alternative materials can be hard to come by – a struggle that led one small-business owner to create his own line of reusable, biodegradable goods, inspired by ancient Egyptian methods of food preservation. The Canadian company Etee offers a selection of organic-cotton wraps and bags, infused with beeswax and tree resin to naturally seal and preserve the food within. They shouldn’t be used for anything hot, but if you’re packing treats for the plane, train, or automobile, they're a great way to curb your reliance on Ziploc bags and Tupperware.
Reusable snack bags, $25 for three; amazon.com
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