20 Tips for Eco Friendly Vanlife — Always the Adventure

While we’re talking about going non-toxic, you should apply to every area of your life.

Bad synthetic ingredient in personal care products are a) bad for you, and b) eventually make  their way into the environment, even if you’re not directly dumping it there. Especially if you’re a big fan of swimming in rivers and streams like us! All that junk you’ve put on your body is suddenly floating around that crystal clear mountain lake.

The first step is to develop a minimalist personal care routine. Get rid of the nightmarish rainbow of plastic bottles bow the sink. No one needs four different shampoo, let alone the vanlifer.  We just don’t have the space for that. What does a minimalist care routine mean?

For us, it means cutting out most things. I stopped wearing make-up. Chris stopped shaving and doing his hair. I never did anything with my hair so I never had to make that shift. Minimizing your routine doesn’t mean being quite a cold turkey as us. If you want to get glam, then do it! You do you. Just find the things you do actually want and use on a regular basis.

Don’t keep multiple products with the same use and instead try to find one product with multiple uses!

For example, simple raw coconut oil has oh so many uses. It can be used for cooking, make-up remover, moisturizer, a carrier to any essential oil, and so much more.

Another way to minimize if you’re a vanlife couple: share!  None of that “his and hers” bullshit. We share everything, including deodorant, shampoo, toothpaste, and more. We even share a safety razor! Talk about shaving off tons of plastic consumption by avoiding disposable razors. 

By sharing all this, we’re  not only saving ourselves massive bathroom storage space, but minimizing a lot of unnecessary product packaging.

Once you’ve minimized, be conscious about choosing non-toxic, environmentally friendly  products for those that remain. This means no plastic micro beads, SLS, parabens, phthalates, synthetic fragrances, palm oil (read why here), and anything that sounds scary and unfamiliar on the ingredient list. If it sounds unnatural, it probably is.

Here are some essential switches you can make to be less toxic and wasteful in your personal care products:

Plastic Free Haircare:

Try to minimize all the plastic bottle waste! Bottles are a big pain in a van anyway as they take up tons of space and can pressurize weirdly when driving at higher elevations. Instead, opt for more compact, long lasting, and eco friendly hair care bars:

Reef Safe Sunscreen:

Natural Toothpaste:

We use Georganics natural zero waste toothpaste, but there are so many zero waste toothpaste options out there in powder, tablet, and paste form. We’re plannong on trying toothpaste tablets once our current stock is out because they seem better for transport (like if we opt to brush our teeth in a coffee shop or gas station). Some options depending on your form preference:

Alternatively, just use a mixture of homemade baking soda and peroxide! But don’t forget to use a bamboo biodegradable toothbrush (though the bristled likely won’t be compostable so you’ll need to remove them before composting).

Aluminum-free Deodorant:

Natural Skin Care:

Of all our personal care products, our skin care selection is the most gratuitous. And not because we use any facial products and the like (we’re au naturale when it comes to that). Because we’re rock climbers, skin care for our hands is of the utmost importance and we have a host of products specially designed to keep our skin moisturized but not soft. Even still, we aim for natural products. Joshua Tree Organic Climber Balm  is by far the best. Even for non-climbers, this all-natural oil salve provides intensive treatment for dry and split skin. We pair this with Climb Skin (available on Backcountry and Amazon) for cultivating generally tough skin.

For general dryness as a product of sticking our hands in skin drying chalk all day long, we use Burt’s Bees Almond Milk hand cream. Aside from smelling dreamy, it comes packaged in a reusable glass jar. 

Zero Waste Feminine Hygiene:

Amber alone talking here: I was always skeptical of the idea of a menstrual cup… until I took the plunge. Let me just say: it is LIFECHANGING. After the learning curve of taking it in and out (and a slight panic after thinking I got it stuck the first time), they’re so much easier.  

No more TSS risk. No more plastic wrappers and applicators. No more sleeping in a diaper! Yes the cup even works for overnight wear! Plus, having one cup is such a space saver over having an entire stash of various sized tampons and pads.

A word of caution: be really careful about what one you choose. Lots of greenwashing when it comes to menstrual cups. The cheap made-in-China ones are cheap for a reason. Their “medical grade silicone” is somewhat suspect. We know you want to save money for all your vanlife adventures, but think about all the money you’re saving on tampons. Just spring for the extra cash on a safe and reliable cup.

The most reliable brands currently in the market are:

  • The original Diva Cup (tried and true with lots of reliable reviews)

  • Saalt Cup (which also provides a cup to women in need for every purchase)

  • Pixie Cup (the cheapest and best for smaller ladies like myself; they also donate cups to women in need).

  • Lunette Cup (easy to pull out, good for smaller ladies, and available away from Amazon if you don’t support the company)

For light days, either a reusable period pad or “period panties” are the way to go (though you’ll want to do a load of laundry not too long after flo flees if using these).

Sustainable periods: who would have thought?!

For tons more recommendations about non-toxic, sustainable beauty and personal care products, check out some of Sustainable Jungle’s many zero waste beauty brand lists

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