12 Zero Waste Beach Essentials

12 Zero Waste Beach Essentials

Planning on hitting up the beach this summer? I know I certainly do. I love spending time near the water and wish I could literally do it every weekend. Unfortunately, that’s just not realistic for me at the moment. But, when I do go to the beach, I make sure to bring my handy zero waste beach essentials. It’s really important you leave the beach better than you found it. Whatever you bring with you, make sure you bring home with you. I also recommend cleaning up any litter you find in the sand. The last thing we want is more plastic waste entering our oceans. Did you know 8 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year? We need to do better, because our oceans deserve better. Without further ado, here are 12 zero waste beach essentials.

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12 Zero Waste Beach Essentials

Why bring zero waste beach essentials?

It’s very important to take a “leave no trace” approach to preserving our beautiful beaches. After all, whatever ends up on the beach can easily end up in the water.

8 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year – not counting all the covid waste we’ve created since 2020. It’s estimated by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean. Around 100,000 turtles and marine mammals, such as dolphins, whales and seals, are killed by plastic marine litter every year around the world.

Our oceans are vital to our health – many people depend on them for their livelihoods. Oceans provide jobs to so many, and they are a vital source of food for many communities. It becomes harder to sustain this human-ocean connection the more polluted it gets.

Did you know our ocean actually captures CO2?  It absorbs about one-quarter of the CO2 that we humans create when we burn fossil fuels. Approximately 93% of all CO2 is stored in the ocean.⁣⁣⁠ This is another huge reason protecting our oceans is key.

We can start by simply taking a look at the items we bring with us to the beach. It all starts there.

How can I further help the ocean?

There are several things you can do. Among the most basic? Travel consciously when you visit the beach and bring only what you know you can take back with you. I love the sea and always make sure I pack some zero waste beach essentials with me whenever I go for a visit.

Alongside that? Reducing your carbon footprint, ditching single use plastic, using reef safe sunscreen (which I talk about in this post), picking up beach litter, eating less seafood, hosting beach cleanups, and advocating for protected marine ecosystems are all amazing ways to help our oceans.

Truth is, our ocean is suffering from several problems at once – ocean acidification (caused by absorbing too much CO2), water pollution (from toxins being dumped into our seas), plastic pollution, and overfishing. I really want to do a deep dive into the problems our ocean is facing and more in-depth ways we can help it. If that interests you, let me know in the comments.

Suffice it to say, our oceans need us. And we need them.

Zero Waste Beach Swaps

12 Zero Waste Beach Essentials

1. Sunscreen

First and foremost, never forget the zero waste sunscreen. Conventional sunscreen contains chemicals that actually cause coral reef bleaching, specifically oxybenzone and octinoxate. Combine that with ocean acidification, rising sea temps and ocean acidification – it’s no wonder corals are dying out.

One of the best things you can do is switch over to reef safe sunscreen – bonus points if it’s packaged plastic free.

I recommend these reef safe sunscreen options specifically:

  • Raw Elements: Plastic-free, reusable tin, cruelty-free.
  • All Good: Plastic-free, reusable tin, sprayable options, cruelty-free.
  • EiR: Plastic-free, tin + compostable tube options, cruelty-free.
  • Coola: Spray-on available, cruelty-free and vegan, recycled materials.
  • Tierra and Lava: Plastic-free, reusable tin, organic + locally sourced ingredients.
  • Meow Meow Tweet: Reusable aluminum pump bottle, vegan and cruelty-free, organic ingredients.

All of these sunscreens are SPF 15+ and water resistant for at least 40 minutes or more. I personally adore Raw Elements and All Good – I use and have both.

Please be mindful, if you get spray-on sunscreen try to apply it indoors. Spray on sunscreen can easily be carried away by the wind and enter our waterways. Applying it indoors away from the wind is the best, most eco-friendly option.

12 Zero Waste Beach Essentials

2. Sunglasses

Most sunglasses are made from plastic. And, they’re made pretty cheaply too. I can attest to this because almost every single pair of sunglasses I’ve ever had has broken on me. That, or they’ve gotten really wonky looking over the years.

Thankfully, PelaCase makes sustainable sunglasses that are super cute, stylish and eco-friendly. Their sunglasses and packaging have 33% less CO2e Emissions, 34% less water usage, and 82% less waste than conventional sunglasses and packaging.

Also, when they’re at the end of their life, you can just return your old frames and lenses to them and they’ll be recycled or upcycled into new products. Talk about a closed loop system!

Other sustainable sunglass brands include SOLO Eyewear, Parafina, and Zeal Optics. A lot of them use recycled materials to make their sunglasses so they’re worth looking into.

I bought my mom a pair for Christmas and they’re still going strong. She absolutely loves them and to be honest, so do I.

12 Zero Waste Beach Essentials

3. Cooler

Looking for an eco-friendly beach cooler? I don’t blame you – most coolers are made from plastic. And trust me, I’ve seen people discard broken coolers pretty much everywhere – including the beach. That’s not okay!

I suggest checking out this Igloo cooler that’s actually made from biodegradable materials. It’s completely plastic-free and surprisingly durable.

It keeps ice frozen up to 12 hours and holds water up to 5 days without leaking. It can also easily fit 12 cans, 4 sandwiches, and ice. Pretty innovative if you ask me!

12 Zero Waste Beach Essentials

4. Swimsuit

Hitting up the beach calls for a sustainable swimsuit. If you didn’t know, most swimwear is made from virgin plastic and isn’t made to last. Hence needing a new one every year.

When shopping for sustainable swimwear, I recommend checking for eco-friendly fabrics like ECONYL which is regenerated nylon from pre and post-consumer products. Basically, it’s made from waste like discarded fishing nets, fabric scraps and carpet flooring which is really cool.

You also want to look for ethical production and quality products. You want to support brands doing right by people, paying fair wages, and making garments built to last.

Here are some sustainable swimwear brands I love:

  • Summersalt: 78% Recycled Polyamide, maternity swim options available, WRAP certificated factories.
  • Vitamin A: EcoLux material made from recycled nylon, donate portion of sales to environmental nonprofits.
  • Peony swimwear: Floral patterns, ECONYL and Repreve fabrics, linings are made from recycled content.
  • Wolven: Colorful patterns, 84% RPET material, each sale removes one pound of waste from oceans. Coupon code: GREENIFY20
  • Girlfriend: Extended sizing XXS-6XL, Made from recycled fishing nets and post and industrial waste recovered from the ocean.

These are some of my favorites, and I personally have a swimsuit from Summersalt. Their bathing suits are beautifully designed and really hold up – important because I like to swim laps in my community pool!

12 Zero Waste Beach Essentials

5. Beach towel

Can’t go to the beach without a towel, am I right? I always bring a big beach towel with me so me and my fiancé can lie down and soak up some sun. Plus, you want a place to put all your stuff down!

Not all beach towels are made equal though. I personally love and use Sand Cloud’s towels – they have extra large towels made from organic Turkish cotton. They come in so many beautiful patterns too. When you purchase one of their towels, 10% of profits go towards marine conservation.

It might be wise to buy a smaller towel as well to dry off with. Sand Cloud sells those as well, and their towels dry 3 times faster too! They’re also sand resistant which is super helpful.

12 Zero Waste Beach Essentials

6. Snacks + water

It goes without saying taking a cooler also means taking some drinks and snacks! For the beach, I like to take several zero waste snacks with me, plus my handy dandy reusable water bottle.

Here are my favorite beach snack tips:

  • Make sure your water bottle is filled to the brim and put it in the cooler. You can also pack a big glass or plastic jug of water with you for refills. Make sure to reuse it! If you’re going with other people, tell them to bring their own reusable water bottles too to reduce waste.
  • Cut fruit stored in Stasher bags or glassware is a great idea. You can get some fresh, in-season produce from the farmers market relatively waste free. Just bring your reusable tote bags and produce bags with you – then cut them up yourself at home. Peaches, melons, strawberries and apricots are great hydrating snacks in-season right now to look out for!
  • Store sandwiches in Beeswrap or Stasher bags. These can be reused over and over again.
  • Keep some dry foods on you from the bulk food store in a Stasher bag. Some trail mix, crackers, pretzels, raisins and nuts are all great snacks to bring to the beach.
  • Make some lemonade, iced tea or punch at home and bring it with you in a big glass jug with a swing open top. If you do this, make sure everyone has a reusable travel mug to enjoy their drink in, waste free!
12 Zero Waste Beach Essentials

7. Beach toys

If you’re bringing a kid to the beach, chances are you’ll be taking some beach toys with you. And hey, even adults can enjoy a frisbee or a shovel! But these are often made from virgin plastic materials.

Here are some sustainable beach toy options:

  • This Fishnet Flyer Frisbee is made from recycled nylon – aka fishnets from the ocean.
  • Adorable Love Lottee eco beach toy set – which includes a bamboo fiber bucket, scoop, rake and trowel. That means if they go missing, they would completely break down into harmless organic matter within 12 months – heck yes!
  • Seashells – These are honestly very fun to play with for older kids who know not to put them in their mouth. If they’re big enough, they can even be used to dig!
  • Thrifted beach toys – Check your local thrift shop or see if any of your friends/family members with babies will give you something secondhand. Even if it’s just to borrow, it’s better than buying new if you don’t have to.
  • Use what you have – Whatever toys you have on hand can be used too. No need to buy new, even if the toys you have are plastic. Use them until you can’t.
12 Zero Waste Beach Essentials

8. beach bag

You need a good bag to carry all this stuff in – not something that’s flimsy and could possibly rip. I cannot recommend investing in a good beach bag enough. And obviously, you want something you can use for other purposes too.

I really love this Moroccan shopping basket – it’s big enough to fit a lot of zero waste beach essentials like sunscreen, towels, etc. It’s handmade from large palms with a leather handle. I’m in love and seriously need something like this myself.

12 Zero Waste Beach Essentials

9. flip flops

Everyone loves wearing flip flops to the beach because they’re water resistant and easy to get in and out of. But it’s a well known fact flip flops are made from virgin plastic.

Thankfully, Tidal New York is changing that – they make flip flops for men + women from waste. Everything is made from start to finish in NYC inside a low waste factory. The factory is actually 100% wind powered too. All the materials are sourced from U.S. based family run companies.

They have several cute colors but I think these basic black pair goes with everything. Black is always stylish, ya know?

12 Zero Waste Beach Essentials

10. bluetooth speaker

Who doesn’t love jamming out to some tunes at the beach? Last time I went my friend played some beach lo-fi and I swear it was heaven. But a lot of bluetooth speakers aren’t exactly made with the environment in mind.

I really love this Sport Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker – it’s made from sustainable post-consumer recycled materials like cork, aluminum, and silicone. Also, for every purchase, it plants a tree! It’s perfect for the beach because it’s waterproof – and if you accidently splash some water onto it while ringing out your hair, it won’t be the end of the world.

12 Zero Waste Beach Essentials

11. umbrella

Want some sustainable shade? Check out Land and Sand’s eco-friendly beach umbrellas. They’re made from recycled plastic bottles in exclusive prints, with 100% cotton tassels. And, they’re super easy to assemble with a click in pole mechanism.

The fabric is lightweight but offers UPF 50+ which is excellent if you find you burn easy. Plus, you will look so cute sporting one of these beautiful umbrellas around – much more beautiful than a traditional beach umbrella by far.

12 Zero Waste Beach Essentials

12. beach chair

I’m so excited to find a beach chair that’s sustainably made. LowTides made reclining beach chairs (for adults + children!) that are built with upcycled ocean bound plastics. LowTides uses this ocean plastic to create their collection of Sandbar Low Chairs & Gully Child Chairs. The prints are so cute too!

Each chair has easy fold technology, 5 reclining positions, 2 cup holders, 1 smartphone slot, and a backpack strap that makes carrying it easy peasy. I seriously need to get my hands on one of these – I’m loving the whale wave print!

Which of these zero waste beach essentials would you bring with you? Have you been to the beach yet?

For more beach themed tips, check out my zero waste sunscreen post.

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By Ariana Palmieri

Ariana Palmieri is the founder of Greenify-Me, a blog dedicated to zero waste and sustainability. Her work has also been featured on Going Zero Waste, Green Matters, Mother Earth Living and several other online publications.

4 comments

  1. Lots of good stuff here, but I take issue with taking ANY sort of speaker/music system to the beach – I’ve had a lot of outings ruined by people who want to inflict their choice of music on the everyone within earshot – it’s selfish and inconsiderate; don’t do it! And noise is a pollutant, too …

    1. That’s understandable. When I go to the beach I’m very mindful of that myself and never play music if there are people around me, only if there aren’t any. Even then it’s not super loud. Good point about noise pollution too!

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