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Traveling Without Toxic Chemicals

If there is one thing my job requires, it is lots of travel. I find it to be one of the most rewarding parts of this work (I get to meet people like you in person!), but it also takes a toll on the environment. After traveling a lot this past year, I’ve learned some great ideas for reducing your toxic chemical exposures (and waste) while on the road.

When traveling it’s easy to create more waste than you usually do, and increase your exposure to toxic chemicals. As you may know, we’re advocating for stronger
in Washington to ensure chemicals are safe before they enter the marketplace. This common sense approach will someday eliminate the need for us to provide “tips” for reducing exposure to toxic chemicals, but in the meantime I hope these resources are helpful.

Tips for less-toxic travel

    1. Bring a reusable water bottle
      The use of a stainless steel water bottle while traveling can be very useful to stay hydrated and reduce “single use” plastic bottles. Some airports (like Salt Lake City) are now encouraging reusable water bottles by providing filtered water. Second best option: if you forget your water bottle at home, ask a coffee shop for a cup inside the gate and fill it with water, avoiding plastic bottled water.
    2. Skip the hand sanitizer
      It’s tempting to bring hand sanitizer on the plane, train or automobile, but many hand sanitizers contain toxic triclosan, a pesticide. There are some sanitizers that are triclosan-free, but washing your hands in warm water with soap is a good way to keep germs away.
    3. Re-use plastic bags used at security check points
      TSA security requires the use of plastic bags to store your liquids (under 3 oz!). I simply keep my travel personal care products in the same plastic bags, reusing them dozens of times. It’s a simple way to reduce plastic consumption.
    4. Use a digital boarding pass
      The boarding passes are printed on thermal paper, which have shown to have high levels of BPA, a hormone-disrupting chemical. By going paperless, and using the boarding document on your phone, you can save paper and avoid unnecessary exposure to BPA.
    5. Pack your own snacks
      Food packaging is a common route of exposure to toxic chemicals. A study by the Breast Cancer Fund and Silent Spring Institute found that families who avoided all food packaging reduced the levels of toxic chemicals in their bodies by 60% in just three days. To save space, I suggest cloth snack bags, which are great for storing nuts and fruits like oranges, which already come in their own packaging.

Green hotel

  1. Pack your own personal care products
    Most hotels still provide small shampoo, conditioner and lotion bottles in the room. This creates an unnecessary amount of plastic waste and the shampoo often contains synthetic fragrance. Instead, bring your own personal care products in 3 oz. containers, which reduces waste and allows you to use your own products. Or find an eco-friendly Bed & Breakfast or hotel (this picture was taken at a B&B in North Carolina, where they used glass jars for shampoo and conditioner!)
  2. Bring your own utensils
    I find that to-go food uses a lot of plastic packaging, and one way to reduce that is to bring your own utensils. These are reasonably priced and barely take up any space. Bamboo is a good material since the bamboo trees grow back very quickly and can be sustainably harvested.
  3. Research “green” shuttles and cab companies or take public transportation
    When arriving to your destination, there are ground transportation companies that use hybrid vehicles and aim to reduce air pollution levels. Another option is to skip the cab and take public transportation. If your destination has a good public transportation system, use that and help reduce harmful air pollution.
  4. Cover your shoes with a shower cap
    If you’re packing more than one pair of shoes, cover the unused pair with a shower cap (they usually have one in hotel bathrooms) to protect your clothes from the dirty shoe bottoms. Believe it or not, shoes are a major source of heavy metals and pesticides and are a route of transportation to bring toxic chemicals into our homes and hotel rooms. I have reused the same shower cap for years!
  5. Urge Congress to pass the Safe Chemicals Act!
    We are unnecessarily burdened by toxic chemicals due to our out of date federal laws on toxic chemicals. The time has come for us to shift that burden to the chemical industry so we don’t need to worry about toxic chemicals when we travel, or anytime! Take Action Now — ask your Senators to co-sponsor the Safe Chemicals Act!

What are your favorite non-toxic travel tips?

To follow Lindsay on Twitter: @Lindsay_SCHF