How to Pack Sustainably for a Beach Vacation

Nothing says summer like flopping onto a towel and soaking up the sun just yards from the surf. Here’s how to make your next beach...
Man on beach with sustainable tote bag

Nothing says summer like flopping onto a towel and soaking up the sun just yards from the surf. Here’s how to make your next beach trip extra green so you can better protect the briny blue.

1. Flipflops

We’re starting with this one because of how ubiquitous this footwear is in ocean waste — some estimates say flipflops comprise 25% of ocean plastic pollution. Even worse, there aren’t many sustainable options to choose from just yet, although many brands are working on solutions ranging from recycling old footwear to using ocean algae and other biodegradable materials. So shop sustainably, but also remember to recycle or donate your gently used flipflops and footwear.

2. Sunscreen

After a 2019 study showed that active sunscreen ingredients can be absorbed into the bloodstream, many consumers rushed to find alternative ways to fend off UV and UVA rays. Thankfully, just a few years later, we now have a wide array of nontoxic, ocean-friendly sunscreens to choose from. Avoid brands that contain avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, or ecamsule, and instead look for products that use zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which are also safer for marine life.

3. Sunhats

The right beach hat can guard against sunburn and protect your eyes — all while helping you look fabulous, dahling. When it comes to eco-friendly options, it’s all in the materials. Avoid synthetics (which create microplastics that end up in our waterways) and instead look for recycled or upcycled materials, making sure to research where they come from. Case in point: Trendy Panama hats are greenest when they’re made from fronds that are sustainably sourced and harvested.

4. Swimwear

Believe it or not, even your bathing suit might not be Earth-friendly. When suit shopping, opt for natural materials rather than synthetic and research the company’s sustainability practices. For swimsuits that are as green as they are chic, check out Harper’s Bazaar’s 2022 list of sustainable swimwear brands.

5. Beach towels

As with swimwear, a beach towel’s sustainability depends on its material and the company’s eco-mindedness. The greenest options are towels made from recycled plastic or bamboo, with organic cotton a distant third. Bonus: Organic fabrics tend to be more absorbent.

6. Beach toys

Since kids outgrow toys almost as quickly as their clothes, ask other parents if they have unused pails and shovels languishing in the garage. If you must buy new products, look for ones made from natural or recycled materials, which tend to be sturdier than flimsy plastic anyway. Once your child has outgrown their toys, pass ‘em on to the next kid so they don’t end up in the landfill.

7. Water bottles

As we mentioned in our post about sustainable gear for music festivals, reusable bottles are both more eco-friendly and affordable than buying single-use bottles. Since reusables are often also unbreakable, they’re also safer for the sand and other places bare feet frequently tread. Pro tip: Reusable bottles can help camouflage your adult beverages from the beach patrol. (Or so we’ve heard.)

8. Food storage

Single-use sandwich bags and similar plastics are literal killers to marine life, who often mistake the floating objects for jellyfish. Keep snacks sand-free and turtle-friendly by choosing reusable storage bags from Barebones, which have the added bonus of being microwave- and dishwasher-safe.

9. Tote bag

With all this gear, you’re going to need something sustainable and stylish to carry it across the sand. Our Pure Cord tote makes for a totally nautical pick, complete with contrasting rope handles and scads of space for your swag.


Of course, the “eco-friendly” moniker doesn’t mean much if the company’s ethics are iffy, so be sure to read up on the brand’s overall practices to make sure they align with your values — green and otherwise.

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