Sustainable Packing GuideApril 23, 2021
Cuba Candela is committed to protecting the environment and creating trips that will endure into the future. To combat climate change, we are taking steps as a company to make our trips eco-friendly such as working with green suppliers in Cuba and offsetting our carbon footprint. In addition, we challenge every one of our travelers to join us in protecting the environment by becoming a sustainable traveler and individual.
Becoming a sustainable traveler requires preparation and research. It can often be overwhelming, but it is important to implement small changes to get started. A good first step is to substitute products you currently use for more sustainable alternatives. When looking for greener alternatives, you should consider where the ingredients are sourced, what ingredients are in the product, how the product is manufactured and tested, what type of packaging is used and how the company treats its workers. Also, keep in mind the types of single-use products you may come across in the average day or when traveling (plastic water bottles, straws, etc.) and substitute them for alternatives that may be reused.
When researching eco-friendly products, beware of “greenwashing” – companies using marketing to disinform consumers and present themselves as environmentally responsible when they are not. Certifications from trusted sources are one way to combat greenwashing as well as looking for proof of claims.
The following Eco-Friendly Packing Guide is a resource for you to make greener packing decisions and minimize your environmental footprint in Cuba and beyond.
Sustainable Packing Guide
Reusable Water Bottle with a Filter
Travelers that are not used to drinking water in Cuba may experience stomach illness when drinking from the tap. We recommend bringing a reusable water bottle with a filter to cut down on plastic waste.
LifeStraw is one example of a reusable water bottle with a filter that protects against bacteria, parasites and dirt keeping you and the environment safe.
Plastic straws cannot be recycled and do not decompose. They are lightweight and often blow away ending up in oceans and harming wildlife. Reusable straws are a great alternative allowing you to enjoy Cuban cocktails like the classic mojito, Cuba libre or daiquiri.
FinalStraw is a portable metal straw that collapses into a lightweight case that can clip onto a purse or backpack.
Reef Friendly Sunscreen
According to the National Park Service, up to 6,000 tons of sunscreen enter reefs annually. The sunscreen along with other marine pollutants causes corals to become sick, lose their vibrant colors and often die.
To protect the coral reefs in Cuba and around the world, look for sunscreens that use titanium oxide or zinc oxide as their active ingredient. These are mineral-based ingredients that have not been found to be harmful to reefs.
Raw Elements is a sunscreen company that uses zinc oxide as its active ingredient. The “FACE + BODY TIN SPF 30” sunscreen is plastic-free. All products are organic, never tested on animals and hypoallergenic.
Natural Insect Repellent
Travelers visiting Cuba may encounter mosquitos when visiting rural areas like Viñales and Trinidad or during the evenings in Havana. The Environmental Protection Agency conducted a research study on DEET in insect repellants and did not identify “any risks of concern to human health, non-target species or the environment”. There are, however, many natural alternatives to DEET that are eco-friendly.
Babyganics uses natural essential oils such as rosemary and lemongrass that are effective insect repellents and safe to use on children.
Zero Waste Shampoo and Conditioner
Soap bars are a great alternative to bottled soaps because they save water and reduce plastic. They are also convenient for travelers as you won’t have to worry about fluid ounce requirements when packing a bar of soap in your carry-on.
You should look at the ingredients when purchasing soaps and avoid Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Ammonium Chloride and Methylchloroisothiazolinone as they are harmful to animals and the environment. Look for shampoos with natural ingredients that are biodegradable.
Ethique offers a variety of shampoos and conditioners in plastic-free packaging. All products are vegan, cruelty-free and biodegradable.
Harsh chemicals found in deodorants such as Triclosan wash off into waterways and are harmful to the environment. Aerosol deodorants linger in the air and contribute to air pollution. Look for a deodorant with all-natural ingredients, plastic-free packaging and that comes in a paste or stick.
Elevated PITS! Stick by Taylors Natural offers a vegan, cruelty-free and natural deodorant. It comes in a plastic-free stick.
Every year, about 1 billion toothpaste tubes are thrown away. These tubes end up in landfills and our oceans. Many kinds of toothpaste are also made with harmful chemicals that pollute our soil and water.
Bite produces toothpaste tablets without harmful chemicals. The products are never tested on animals and come in a glass container. When you run out of tablets, a refill is shipped to you in an envelope made from recycled newspaper. Tablets are great for travel because you don’t have to worry about the fluid ounce limits for carry-ons.
It is recommended to change toothbrushes every 3 months. For most travelers, that means buying a new travel toothbrush every trip. Instead of taking a plastic toothbrush on your next trip, try one made from bamboo instead. Bamboo brushes are biodegradable reducing waste.
Woobamboo! makes bamboo toothbrushes for adults and children. The stem of the brush is biodegradable and the bristles are recyclable. The packaging is made from recycled materials and is recyclable after use.
Cut back on single-use waste and plastic by purchasing a plastic-free, reusable razor.
Jungle Culture sells razors for men and women. No plastic is used in the razor or packaging. The only thing you need to replace is the blade.
Menstrual cups are an eco-friendly alternative to pads and tampons that are single-use and often come in plastic packaging.
The DivaCup is one example of a menstrual cup made with BPA-free silicone. You can purchase a travel pouch, washing container and cleaning solution for convenience on your trip.
Journaling is a great way to store memories from traveling and reflect on past trips. Next time you need a travel journal, make sure you buy one that is made from recycled materials!
Gitchi Adventure Goods uses recycled paper and renewable energy to make its notebooks. It purchases carbon offsets to negate shipping emissions. In addition, Gitchi donates 10% of every purchase to support national parks, state parks and other outdoor spaces through its Public Lands Pledge.
Though Cuba is a great destination to unplug and embrace the digital detox, having a phone or camera to take pictures is still necessary for any trip. Take a solar-powered charger on your trip to keep your devices charged with renewable energy.
Blavor Solar Power Bank includes wireless charging and can store enough power to charge 2.3 iPhones.
Every traveler needs a suitcase, but have you ever stopped to think where yours came from? Next time you are in the market for a suitcase, look for one that is sustainably sourced, made from recycled or eco-friendly materials and is built to last.
Paravel Aviator Plus Carry-On is a carbon-neutral suitcase that incorporates recycled materials in its shell, zippers, linings and handles.
It is tempting to use a new trip as an excuse to update your wardrobe, but it is important to consider the negative impacts of overproduction and overconsumption. As we buy more goods, we are depleting the earth’s resources and releasing pollutants into the air contributing to global warming. Repurposing the clothes that you already have, buying second-hand and making sure new items that you buy are made responsibly are important practices to combat climate change.
Patagonia, United By Blue and Nisolo are just a few of the many brands that are reimagining the fashion industry for a more sustainable future.
Additional Steps to Becoming a Sustainable Traveler
- Conserve energy by turning off lights and electronics at your hotel when you are not using them.
- Save water on laundry by reusing towels and sheets in your hotel or casa particular.
- Avoid single-use plastic.
- Use conscious travel companies like Cuba Candela.
- Stay informed by following sustainable travel advocates and publications.