Top Ten Gifts for the Eco-Friendly Traveler

This year we’re putting our money where our principles are. No more of the mounds of holiday plastic and fast fashion. We have committed to a more green, sustainable lifestyle and we plan to choose gifts to reflect that. If you have travelers on your gift list, they are probably acutely aware of the need to support conservation and leave a smaller carbon footprint.

What is environmentally aware travel? Very generally, traveling in a sustainable way means lowering your toll on the ecosystem. How to do this and still enjoy traveling? Travel light, travel clean, and support the local communities at your destination. Oh yes, and commit to living a sustainable lifestyle when you’re not traveling.

With this in mind, what can you purchase that will help your friend travel well, and won’t contribute to plastic pollution? Fortunately there are many great eco friendly travel products available today. Countdown with us for our Top Ten favorite eco friendly gifts!

gifts for sustainable travel - water bottle, utensils, eBook, Lush bars, Sheldrick elephants


silicone reusable water bottle packs small - image of collapsible bottel

#10 Collapsible Water Bottle

Most of us have a collection of reusable bottles, but leave them behind on our travels because they’re too bulky or heavy. Then we’re stuck buying plastic water bottles as we travel – expensive and not environmentally friendly. A collapsible bottle eliminates these issues. We’ve tried a few with not-so-great results. Some are difficult to clean, or added a taste to your water. We’ve since settled on silicone wide mouth bottles, like this one from Hydaway. East to clean and…No taste, no waste!

Consider a travel hot beverage cup for your coffee lovers. Again, collapsible ones save space in their luggage! Hydaway makes a 16 ounce cup we’re hoping to try!


solid shampoo and soap bars for travelers

#9 Solid Soap & Shampoo Bars

These are great stocking stuffers! Solid cleansing bars have been around forever – think Dr. Bronner’s – but in recent years the trend to create eco-friendly travel products has resulted in soap and shampoo bars for every skin and hair type. These bars eliminate plastic bottles, but also save your traveling friend from the restrictions on liquids in air travel.

My favorite eco friendly toiletries:

  • Ethique brand solid soaps and shampoos – the Frizz Wrangler works great for my unruly hair.
  • Honey House solid lotion in those tiny tins. I don’t leave home without one.
  • Lush cosmetics has many great products. I love the Sleepy lotion and am looking forward to trying the toothy tabs to eliminate the plastic of toothpaste tubes!

Do you have favorite eco-friendly toiletries? Please share!!!


bamboo utensils in a wrap. reusable spoons, fork, straw, toothbrush.

#8 A Gift to Reduce Single Use Plastic

Reducing single use plastic is always a challenge to us when we travel. It’s so easy to forget to pack reusables or forget to tell the waitstaff that you don’t want a straw. But we’re trying…

There are lots of great products on the market that make this commitment easier. Stasher silicone bags are great at home, but also work well for travel. Travel cosmetic containers are game changers! No need to buy ‘travel sized’ products – just dispense some of your favorite brands into a silicone tube or jar for the trip. Save money and space with this eco travel gift!

Tip: When I’m home, I keep a set of reusable cutlery in my car and in my child care bag. I have a different colored stainless steel straw with a silicone tip for each one of my grandchildren. They are the first to remind me to take out the straws when we’re dining out. I also carry small cloth napkins (from Marley’s Monsters) in a variety of patterns for the same reason. Stash them in a reusable bag when we’re done, wash, and back in the bag for our next outing.


#7 Memories! Create a photo album of their travels

If you’ve traveled with your friend, frame a special photo from the trip. Or put together a simple scrapbook. Or create a memory journal from the trip. If you plan on doing this, make sure to keep notes as you travel. Adding anecdotes from your trip is sure to make your friend smile.

Even if you’ve not been involved in the travels, your friend may share images on social media which you can use to create a photo book. Or give them a gift card so they can create their own.

Tip: we wrote about how we create a travel photo book on Shutterfly here- Decorate With Travel Memories


reusable spiral notebook for travel notes. image of rocketbook

#6 Rocketbook Journal for Travel Notes

These spiral notebooks (Rocketbook, etc.) can be written on, scanned into a digital file, and then erased. Perfect for keeping track of itineraries, notes, and travel memories. The notebook can be used as is, or customized by its owner to work for their system of journaling.

Tip: I’ve created an itinerary page, a checklist of must-dos for the trip, and a balance sheet for travel expenses. There are plenty of pages left for journaling. I use a permanent marker to create my template pages. (The permanent marker cannot be erased, so plan carefully before using!) Then I fill in my template using the Pilot Frixion pen included in the package. I carry the Rocketbook notebook on my trip, as I would an itinerary, and scan it into a digital file once I’m home. Then a quick wipe with the included towel and my book is ready for the next adventure!


#5 Gifts that Support Local and Small Businesses

Buy local! Not just for your traveling friends, but for everyone on your gift list. Purchasing from small businesses, and supporting local artists and crafts people, is a big part of sustainable living. Not only are you supporting the local economy, but the carbon cost of shipping is eliminated.

Tip: for friends and family at a distance, find businesses local to their area online. It’s usually easy to purchase a gift card to a restaurant or favorite store from their website, but if not, give them a call! Most small businesses appreciate your efforts.


#4 Gift Certificate for Audible, or another Entertainment Service

Audiobooks are great for passing the time on a road trip or long flight. Audible offers bestsellers, classics, and travel guides your friend can download onto their phone or device.

eBooks are another great gift for travelers. Carrying your reading material on a device saves a LOT of space and weight in your luggage. Most travel guides come as eBooks and often allow for the traveler to highlight and note places of interest. In our opinion, these are best read on a tablet. But for our pleasure reading we greatly prefer an eReader. It is easier on the eyes and can be read in the dark without disturbing others.

Tip: eBooks and audiobooks can be downloaded from their local library.


donate to wildlife reserve - image of elephant orphan

#3 Donation in Their Name

Travel opens your eyes to the wonder of nature, and the challenges of society. Most travelers come home with a renewed dedication to causes they care about. Listen to what they talk about and make a donation in their name to a wildlife reserve or humanitarian charity that reflects their interests.

Make a donation to World Wildlife Fund and get a thank you item. Your animal-loving friend will appreciate your donation and will love their set of Bamboo Cutlery, cute animal socks, stuffed animal, etc., you’ve included in their package,

Our favorite charity is the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in East Africa. There work with orphaned elephants, and other wildlife, is remarkable. Donations to this group support not only the orphanage, but also anti-poaching teams, and mobile vets to assist animals injured on the savannah. We have been supporters of the trust for many years and had the opportunity to visit on our last trip to Kenya. Read about the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust here.


#2 A Shared Experience

As we’ve gotten older we really appreciate this gift.

Plan an adventure together. This can be a weekend getaway, a fun day in the city, or a bucket list experience. Bonus points if the experience is local. Remember – to some people your town may be a travel destination.

Local ideas to share with your friend: lunch and a museum, local winery, dinner at a special restaurant, tickets to a show.


Your Time!

Somewhat similar to #2 above, but this gift is all about them! In this busy world, the gift of time is priceless. This can be as simple as offering to babysit, or watch their pets, so they can enjoy free time, run errands for them so they can enjoy a day with their family, or offer to drive them on their errands if they don’t have transportation.

Sharing your time and talents by creating something for them – artwork, a quilt, a poem, etc., is a gift that’ll last forever.


How can a former librarian create a shopping list without including a book?!?

Don’t tell anyone, but several people on my list are getting The Book of Hope by Jane Goodall and Douglas Abrams. Look for a copy at your neighborhood bookstore!


Are you interested in environmentally friendly travel? What gifts would help you on your (sustainable) journey? Share your tips in the comments below! Thanks!

Top Ten Eco-Friendly gifts for travel. Suggestions for every budget (including FREE!) for anybody interested in green, sustainable travel.

4 thoughts on “Top Ten Gifts for the Eco-Friendly Traveler

  1. Great article! I have that collapsible cup, and it’s great! It’s so important to work towards sustainability, so thank you for this post. 🙂

  2. Great ideas. I use shampoo bars, but would caution that some of them seem to contain a lot of perfume – I was given one that I couldn’t use because of that.

  3. I love this list & especially your last 2 items (or 1 & 2?!). Giving your time is precious. I have one of the foldable water bottles & find it really useful & am a new convert to shampoo & conditioner bars. They have so many advantages for travellers. I use the Lush ones & they’re fab. I’m now going to look up the silicone bags & buy a cutlery set – great idea.

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