Maria Miracle is a traveling photographer and aspiring conservationist. She's set out to share stories and discoveries from her travels, from photographs to books to best sustainability practices.

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An Eco-Traveler's Must Haves

An Eco-Traveler's Must Haves

I take at least one or two flights per month, traveling primarily for work but also for personal adventure. All my time spent up in the air has made me realize how wasteful and harmful to the planet plane travel is. Every passenger gets at least one plastic cup for drinks, we buy unnecessary travel-sized bottles of products from toothpaste to shampoo, often made from virgin plastic, and nearly everything you can buy at an airport is thoughtlessly disposable. 

My experiences have taught me that a little preparation can have a hugely positive impact. We can significantly reduce our carbon footprint by planning ahead, and after a good amount of trial and error, I now have a few must-have items that I take with me whenever I travel.

From left, clockwise.

(1) Sleep Master Sleep Mask

This is the hypoallergenic sleep mask I never knew I needed. I've never been one to use eye masks on planes (or anywhere else for that matter), but I saw a recommendation for this mask and decided to try it out. I'm always so cold on long haul flights and I didn't realize that so much heat was escaping from the top of my head and my ears. That's what makes this mask unique; it completely covers your ears while blocking out the light. It's basically the Bose headphones of eye masks, and I managed to sleep for 10 hours straight on a recent flight to Rwanda, which really is a miracle. 

It's also made in the US, and without latex.

(2) Living Libations Immune Illume Essential Oil

Plane travel is the germ-iest. I never feel more at risk of catching a cold or illness than when I'm on a flight, so I always travel with this immune-boosting essential oil and dab some onto my wrists, back of neck, and chest. Living Libations' products are also organic, 100% vegan, not tested on animals, fair trade, and packaged in recycled or recyclable materials.

(3) 8Greens

It's always difficult to find fresh greens and vegetable juices in airports, and certainly on planes. These are little tablets that you pop in water, just like Airborne tablets. The tablets are made from spinach, wheatgrass, kale, blue green algae, spirulina, aloe vera, chlorella, and barley grass. They're vegan and gluten free, and help decrease inflammation, which I find critical when flying and turn into a puffy, tired version of myself.

(4) Lush Limelight Toothpaste Tabs

I think these tablets are such a genius invention. Toothpaste packaging is rarely recycled or recyclable, and travel-sized toothpaste packages never last for the duration of my travels. I always run out and end up having to buy expensive, chemical-laden toothpaste in a foreign country. Lush (such a cool company doing some really innovative things around sustainability) created these cool little tablets that you pop into your mouth, chew up, and then they lather up like regular toothpaste and you brush your teeth as normal. These are also so handy to have when running water isn't easily accessible. And Lush never packages any of their products in virgin plastic; in fact, some products are package-free! See my favorite shampoo below...

(5) Caboo Bamboo Tissues

I read an article a year or two ago about a woman who managed to live an almost entirely trash-free life. It was definitely inspiring, but I just haven't been able to give up tissues and toilet paper like she did. Fortunately, I recently found these bamboo and sugarcane-made products from Caboo that are 100% biodegradable. They're also very soft, which isn't always the case with environmentally-friendly products. Get an 8-pack for $5.99, or find them on Amazon.

(6) Klean Kanteen

Do I really need to say anything here? Don't be lazy, always use a reusable water bottle. Particularly one purchased from a certified B corp. It's so simple and most airports now have filtered water fountains. This insulated bottle is my favorite as it doesn't get too heavy when full, unlike glass bottles.

(7) Bamboa Hand Towel

I'm known for my love of towels. I always travel with a few, and never sleep without a towel over my pillow. No matter where in the world I'm sleeping, whether it's an airbnb or a friend's couch or a bench outside of an airport (seriously), sleeping on my own towel gives me such a feeling of comfort and familiarity. I picked this towel up at Hong Kong's Conscious Festival Marketplace last month, and it is the silkiest, softest towel made from locally harvested and biodegradable bamboo. 

(8) Wax Earplugs

These aren't a new invention but I see so many people tossing out those one-time-use orange earplugs when these ones block out sound so much better and can be reused. You never know when you're going to end up sleeping in a loud, busy area, or next to a snorer on a plane. Apparently you can also use these when swimming if you're concerned about picking up ear infections in lakes or other open bodies of water.

(9) Lush Godiva 2-in-1 Shampoo Bar

Another genius invention from Lush. Not only is this the best smelling jasmine shampoo, but this is a package-free, shampoo and conditioner all-in-one product. I never have to worry about using up the little travel-sized bottles and running out of shampoo while traveling. Lush sells a little tin can to keep these in, but I usually just stick mine in a small tupperware container.

(10) Vapour Beauty AER Deodorant

I have been on a two year journey to find the best non-toxic, aluminium-free deodorant, and I can safely say it has not always been a pleasant journey. I finally found one that works better than my old Dove, in this gel to powder formula. If this gives you a rash and it's not painful, stick it out. I've read a few articles about the armpit detoxing process, and it appears to be perfectly safe.* It took a few weeks for my rash to die down but I'm happy to now be able to rely on a non-toxic formula that dries instantly. Not to mention that Vapour Organic Beauty is an incredible company. They use high quality organic and natural ingredients, use passive-solar and wind power in their offices, warehouse and lab, and choose packaging that is either recycled or recyclable.

*I'm not a doctor! Although the rash I got from using this deodorant wasn't painful, I have used natural deodorants in the past that gave me very painful rashes. Apparently this can mean that you're allergic to one of the ingredients, but it could also be because excess aluminium is working its way out of your lymph system. But if you're having any discomfort or pain, you may want to reach out to your GP. Last year, I reached out to natural deodorant expert and Soapwalla founder Rachel Winard when I was really struggling with some painful underarm rashes. She is the kindest, coolest lady, and gave me so much helpful information about transitioning over to natural deodorants. If you are interested in that info, I'm happy to share it! Just send me an email.

(11) Kaia Naturals Juicy Bamboo Face Wipes

Face wipes are terrible for the environment; most aren't biodegradable and usually made from a combination of plastics, wood pulp and cotton. They clog up sewers and end up polluting the ocean and beaches, not to mention the wipes are full of chemicals we're pressing into our skin and bodies. But Kaia Naturals has made incredible biodegradable and synthetic-fragrance free alternatives, harvested from unbleached bamboo natural fibres. Once you've used them, you can plant them in the garden or any soil, and they'll have biodegraded within two months!

Sustainability in South Africa

Sustainability in South Africa