With an estimated 1.8 billion international travelers in 2018, if travelers everywhere used just one of the eco-friendly products below, travel would become a lot more sustainable.
That’s why we’ve compiled this list of 30 sustainable gift ideas for travelers. From birthdays to holidays, these eco-friendly travel gifts will bring a smile to any responsible traveler’s face while making our planet happy, too!
All of the items on this list are either items we use ourselves or items that we’ve researched and want to upgrade to at some point.
- Sustainable Travel Gifts: Food and Drinks
- Sustainable Travel Gifts: Gear
- Sustainable Travel Gifts: Toiletries
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Sustainable Travel Gifts: Food and Drinks
Let’s start with one of the most wasteful parts of not just travel, but everyday life: one-time use utensils, plates, cups, and straws. Eliminating the plastic utensils and styrofoam cups we use once for 30 minutes only to be thrown into a dump is one of the best things one can do to become a more sustainable traveler. It’s also super easy!
One of our favorite things to do while traveling is to taste the local street food. The downfall is vendors around the world usually give out plastic utensils that you’ll use for that one meal and then throw away. Bringing along and using their own utensils at food carts and restaurants helps travelers avoid getting stuck with one-time use plastic utensils.
This bamboo utensil set includes a fork, spoon, knife (which should be TSA-safe since it’s neither metal nor serrated), and a pair of chopsticks. The lightweight utensils come in a variety of colored pouches made from recycled plastic bottles and a carabiner clip.
For the minimalist traveler, there’s also this super lightweight titanium spork with a bottle opener on the handle and it’s own bag. That’s what we use, except we didn’t know about this cool bottle opener version until now.
Reusable Food Container
Bringing your own food container to street food stalls is another good thing you can do to help reduce your use of styrofoam and plastic containers. This space-saving collapsible silicone bowl with lid is a good choice to pair with the utensils above for the sustainable traveler in your life.
This durable stainless steel container is another good option.
By now pretty much everyone is convinced that plastic drinking straws are pure evil.
Telling your server you don’t want a straw and using this collapsible stainless steel straw in a keychain case (plus cleaning brush) will help reduce the amount of plastic straws floating in our oceans.
Collapsible Travel Coffee Mug
For the coffee or tea loving traveler in your life. Here’s a silicone coffee mug with lid and straw that collapses down to 2-inches by 4-inches for easy packing. With this in their bag, they can steer clear of gross styrofoam cups AND maybe even get a discount for bringing their own mug. Ahh, the gift that keeps on giving.
If you’re looking for something a little more heavy-duty that can also retain the temperature of the beverage inside, check out this double-wall insulated 20 oz stainless steel tumbler from Yeti. I received this as a gift from a co-worker (thanks, Kari!) before leaving my 9-5 to travel full-time. It’s AMAZING (like keeps ice cubes for hours amazing) and it’s one of my camping essentials.
A water bottle is another essential item in any responsible traveler’s bag. About 50 billion water bottles are purchased per year in the US alone, which means that a reusable water bottle helps save over 150 plastic bottles per person  annually.
For a classic, durable, stainless steel water bottle, get a Klean Kanteen. I’ve had the 40 oz with leak-proof cap for over 10 years (It’s a miracle I haven’t lost it yet!) and I highly recommend it.
Another popular option is a stainless steel and vacuum insulated Hydro Flask which regulates the temperature of the drink inside. It also has a leak-proof cap which is super important when you’re throwing it in your backpack and walking around all day!
UV Filter Pen
A SteriPen is the perfect gift for those traveling to countries where the water quality is iffy for drinking from the tap. It’s a small USB-powered device that destroys viruses and bacteria with UV light. You can dip it straight into either of the water bottles above or any beverage made with questionable water or ice.
Water Purification Bottle
The Grayl Geopress is the ultimate all-in-one water purification bottle. It’s also one of the best water purifiers out there for traveling to countries without potable tap water and for purifying lake and river water during outdoor adventures.
Unlike UV pen filters, which only kill pathogens (viruses, bacteria, and protozoa), the Grayl also filters pesticides, chemicals, heavy metals, and micro-plastics in water.
It’s super easy to use: all you have to do is fill up the orange cup, push in the filter part, and then drink. The company is also eco-friendly and is working on starting up a zero waste cartridge recycling program.
We use and love the Sawyer Mini Water Filter, but it doesn’t filter out viruses, so the Grayl or a Steripen are on our wishlist.
Sustainable Travel Gifts: Gear
From leather made froms leaves to portable solar panel chargers, the gifts below are the ideal sustainable travel gear gifts.
This leaf “leather” notebook is the perfect gift for travelers who want to keep a journal of their adventures. It’s handmade with teak “leaf leather”, a plant-based, vegan alternative to leather. We also love that the company behind these journals, Tree Tribe, plants a tree for every sale!
These 100% organic cotton Turkish towels are quick-drying (there’s nothing worse than carrying around a wet towel in your bag), lightweight, biodegradable, and come in a cute plastic-free gift box. The company behind these towels donates 5% of profits to the Marine Conservation Society to help create a sustainable future for our oceans.
Portable Solar Charger
This portable solar charger is a sustainable way to charge phones and tablets while traveling or camping. It’s about the size of an iPhone 8 and in full-sun it takes 1 to 1.5 hours to charge a smartphone. It also has LED emergency lights AND it’s waterproof.
Crazy, right?! Let’s take a moment to appreciate how far solar technology has come.
Okay, moving on now…
Kindle Ebook Reader
Give the gift of being able to carry around tons of books during your travels, including those 1,000+ page guidebooks, without the weight and saving paper while doing it.
Michael gave me a Kindle Paperwhite for my birthday a couple of years ago and I LOVE it.
It’s small, lightweight, the battery lasts forever, and you can read in direct sunlight without any glare issues. I have the WiFi + free cellular connectivity Kindle, which means that you can download books anywhere around the world where there’s cell phone signal without being charged anything.
Yes, really! The current, newer version of mine is also waterproof, which makes me super jealous that whoever you give this too will be relaxing by the pool worry-free.
Packable Yoga Mat
This Manduka eKo travel yoga mat is lightweight and folds up to easily fit inside your bag. It’s made from eco-friendly biodegradable natural tree rubber. These mats are manufactured with zero waste and with no harmful plasticizers and 1% of sales go to organizations empowering communities worldwide.
Foldable Tote Bag
An absolute essential on any sustainable travel packing list! This ChicoBag Sling rePETe Crossbody Tote Bag with attached pouch and carabiner clip is a huge improvement over the regular grocery totes and is ideal for travel. The cross-body style allows for hands-free market browsing or tuk tuk-riding. The bag itself is made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic bottles and carries up to 40 pounds. It also has a one-year warranty unlike other reusable bags that fall apart after one use.
Packable Puffy Jacket
Patagonia is one of the best companies around when it comes to sustainability and protecting our environment. They’ve recently come up with this amazingly lightweight, vegan-friendly, down alternative to a packable puffy jacket (a must-have for every traveler): Patagonia’s Nano Puff Hoody for women and men.
Mom, if you’re reading, this is what I want for Christmas. 🙂
Another great option to reduce the use of disposable bags is a small packable day back. The ChicoBag rePETe travel bag stuffs into a small pouch and weighs just 8 ounces. It has a carabiner clip, sternum strap, padded shoulder straps, and can accommodate a hydration reservoir.
As if all of that wasn’t enough for a packable backpack, it’s also made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic bottles. Yep, another perfect sustainable travel gift for the eco-friendly traveler.
If you’re looking for a sustainable duffel bag or carry-on size backpack, Patagonia has an entire line of bags made 100% from recycled plastic bottles. They used over 10 million plastic bottles to produce this season’s bags. Yeah, I told you they’re amazing!
Sustainable Travel Gifts: Toiletries
Switching to eco-friendly toiletries is one the easiest ways to start living a more sustainable lifestyle, especially while traveling. Little things like not using the hotel’s one-time use plastic bottles of shampoo or using reef-proof sunscreen can make a big difference!
Another way to reduce the use of plastic in your daily life and while traveling is to get a compostable toothbrush. This eco-friendly bamboo toothbrush set comes with 4 toothbrushes with beautiful designs, a travel case, and charcoal bamboo floss. It also comes in a paper box with instructions on how to properly dispose of each item. Another perfect sustainable travel gift!
If you want to gift something a bit more special, you can get this set of personalized bamboo toothbrushes with travel case.
Folding Wooden Comb
This folding wooden comb is another perfect gift for the eco-friendly traveler. It’s pocket sized, made from sandalwood, and can be used for hair, beards, and mustaches.
A classic safety razor is a great alternative to disposable plastic ones and will last decades longer. It’s also a perfect gift because it comes with some extra blades and a case with a mirror inside. Just make sure you don’t put it in your carry-on or TSA will take it away!
Shampoo, Conditioner and Face Soap Bars
Shampoo bars are super practical because they last a long time and you can bring them in your carry-on bag without having to worry about liquid allowances or spills. Plus, you’re reducing your use of those tiny travel-size shampoo bottles.
This Ethique hair care gift set comes with 3 shampoo bars and 2 conditioner bars (all vegan and biodegradable). The sampler set comes in a plastic-free paper box that’s 100% compostable. Ethique also makes lotion bars and body soap bars.
Liquid Travel Bottles
Not using the one-time use plastic bottles of toiletries at hotels is a hard habit to break, but it’s a big step in becoming a more eco-friendly traveler.
I’ve tried so many different types of TSA-approved containers for liquids during my years of travel. These GoToob silicone bottles are by far the best! They’re more expensive than the cheap containers in the travel section at stores (that you have to replace every year), but totally worth it! These don’t drip or spill, are super easy to clean, and have lasted me at least 5 years. I use them all the time and currently have one of these 3 ounce bottles in my purse with hand lotion. Best purchase ever!
Wearing reef-safe sunscreen is a must if you’re going in rivers, lakes, or the ocean during your travels.
Why? Chemically-based sunscreen contains certain ingredients, like oxybenzone and octinoxate, that are harmful to the ecosystem and contribute to coral bleaching. It’s so bad that Hawaii recently banned chemical sunscreens and most cenotes in Mexico don’t allow swimmers to wear them.
This travel-sized sunscreen is vegan, not greasy, and water resistant for up to 80 minutes. They also have this travel-size sun care set which includes lip balm, sun lotion, sunscreen butter, and a sunscreen stick.
The Best Sustainable Gift Ideas for Travelers
This completes our round-up of the best sustainable gift ideas for travel. We hope you’ve found the information in this article helpful for making the change to a more sustainable lifestyle and helping others do so as well.
Do you have anymore sustainable gift ideas? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll add them to our list!
More gift ideas for travelers: