Nine tips to making your packing habits more environmentally friendly.
The majority of travelers these days know their jaunts around the globe have a significant impact on the health and longevity of that very globe. We are all looking for ways to travel by land more than by sky, to support local communities rather than big chains, to opt to stay nearer to home rather than traipse straight across the globe, all of those decisions are important and valuable, but what about what you pack in your bag regardless of where you go?
I’ve rounded up seven travel bloggers and gotten them to give me their top tips on how to keep your travel essentials as eco friendly as possible. From menstrual products to water bottles, here is what we all think you should consider the next time you’re stuffing a backpack full of a vacations worth of belongings.
Eco Friendly Packing Tips
Travel Carry On Only
By: Dani, Diapers in Paradise
It’s no secret that flying accounts for a huge portion of carbon emissions. While you may not be able to eliminate your flight, you do have control over one aspect of your carbon footprint while you fly: how much weight you add to the flight.
Airplanes emit so much carbon dioxide because it takes a lot of fuel to propel all that weight into the air. And it’s not just the people… it’s their luggage as well. By flying carry-on only, you limit the amount of weight that you add to the plane, thus reducing your carbon footprint. I love my Minaal Carry-on 2.0.
Traveling carry-on only has other environmental advantages, as well. When you have to think carefully about what you pack, you’re more likely to plan ahead and bring just enough of the things that you need. You’re also more likely to think hard about the souvenirs that you choose to bring home, and end up with carefully selected (ideally locally made!) items, instead of a bunch of random gift shop trinkets.
Traveling without big luggage also makes it easier to take public transportation to and from the airport, allowing you to take the bus or train instead of a taxi or shuttle.
While traveling carry on only is a helpful step toward reducing your carbon footprint while you fly, air travel is still the biggest contributor to most people’s annual carbon footprint. You can read more about offsetting your carbon footprint for air travel here.
Use a Wheeled Backpack
By: Kesi, Kesi To and Fro
You might not expect to see a piece of luggage on an enviro-friendly packing list, but your choice in travel bag can affect how you move around. A wheeled backpack brings together the best of both worlds of having a backpack and a suitcase. It is an excellent type of travel bag because it provides optionality. The flexibility to transform how you carry your bag can make you more motivated to walk instead of being tempted to take a taxi. Not only is walking good for your fitness, but it also is helpful for the environment.
A hybrid backpack allows you to adapt to your situation. If there are cobblestone streets or stairs, there are no worries because you can wear your bag as a backpack. If you have to walk a long distance and you want to save you back pain, then you can wheel your bag behind you. A 30-minute walk doesn’t sound so bad when you can switch between a backpack and suitcase, while also knowing that you are helping out the environment. The cons of a wheeled backpack are that the wheels add extra weight, and provide less packing space.
Pack a Reusable Tote
By: Caitlin, That’s Me!
If you’re here reading up on ways to be a more environmentally friendly packer than it’s very likely you are already very aware of your footprint at home in your day-to-day life. So, an easy way to think about how to be better when abroad is to simply take those same habits on the road.
Likely you will shop on vacation at some point. Whether you’re going out to buy groceries to cook in your Airbnb home or for some (locally made of course) souvenirs or even to jazz up your wardrobe a bit, throw a reusable tote so you don’t have to accept any plastic (or even paper) shopping bags. Totes take up no space in your luggage and can actually be used to separate items. I like to pack shoes in the tote, then I can just pull them out the day I need to use the tote for my shopping.
By the way, I sell a Country Jumper tote bag!
Bring a Reusable Water Bottle
By: Alex, Swedish Nomad
A reusable water bottle is one of the best things you can pack and bring on your next trip. There is a wide range of varieties to choose from and the best choice is personal according to your own preference and style of travel.
For those traveling light, choose a reusable water bottle that is soft. It won’t take up space when it’s empty, and you could even carry it in your pocket when transiting through airports. It might not be as advanced with filters as the hard case bottles, but it’s a great companion for backpackers and weekend trips.
If you want to save money and travel more environmentally friendly, you should bring a reusable water bottle that has a filter included, such as the Clearly Filtered water bottle. It removes bacterias and harmful substances from the water, and you can basically drink tap water all over the world without having to buy bottled water.
This will save money and reduce your impact on the environment while traveling. The one from clearly filtered is well-tested and made from the highest quality materials with a top-grade filter, removing up to 99.9% bacterias and chemicals. Even chlorine will be removed from the water and the taste will be neutral, no matter where in the world you use it.
Bring a Water Sterilizer
By: Wendy, The Nomadic Vegan
In destinations where the tap water is not drinkable, bringing a travel water purifier is a great idea. Not only will you cut out the extra expense of buying bottled water, but you’ll also be taking a major step towards becoming a zero waste traveler. I’ve used several different types of water filters and purifiers in the 20 or so years that I’ve been traveling the world, and my favorite is the Steripen Ultra.
It’s very small and lightweight, and it recharges through a USB connector cable, so you never have to worry about replacing the batteries. So how does it work? At the touch of a button, the Steripen emits a UV light that kills viruses and bacteria. If you’re purifying one liter of water, you just need to move it around inside the water bottle for 90 seconds to make sure the light reaches whatever may be lurking in the bottle.
It’s important to note that the Steripen is a purifier, not a filter. So, while it will kill any dangerous pathogens, it won’t remove floating particles or make dirty-looking brown water appear clean and clear. In fact, it may not work very well with dirty or murky water, so if you are planning any outdoor adventures where you will be drinking from streams, you might want to bring a filter in addition to the Steripen. I’ve used it in multiple countries in South America, Asia and Africa, and it has been a life-saver.
Pack Collapsible Containers
By: Jing, Finding Jing
Collapsible food containers can be flattened for easy storage and transport, taking up little space in your travel pack. You might think that collapsible food containers are only useful when you’re camping or 4-wheel driving. Here’s a list showing how collapsible containers are useful and environmentally beneficial for any kind of traveler.
- Take it with you when hiking or going anywhere outdoors. Instead of buying individually wrapped snacks, go for larger snack packs. Toss on the go food in your container and reduce your food packaging waste as well.
- Booked a room with free breakfast but need to check out early in the morning? Ask your hotel if you can pre-order your breakfast so they could prepare it for take-away before you leave. Offer your reusable container so they don’t have to pack your food in a disposable meal box.
- Going on a picnic at the park or island hopping someplace where you can buy fresh fish and grill your own food? You don’t need to buy disposable plastic-coated paper plates if you have your collapsible food container.
- Found some delicious street food and decided you want to buy some more for later? Avoid disposable food containers by using your own reusable one.
Food containers for take-out are usually made of plastics or coated with plastics. By bringing your own reusable container, you avoid disposing one-time use food boxes. These wastes are non-recyclable and will most likely end up in landfills, or worse, leak into the ocean.
Bring a Metal Straw
By: Caitlin, That’s Me!
We all know what can happen to a plastic straw once we’ve used and discarded it. The images of sea turtles with a plastic stick of our waste coming from their noses haunts us all. So why are we still using these plastic enemies? The simple answer; we don’t need to be. Metal straws are an excellent alternative, they last a long time and don’t have the weird taste or mushiness that paper straws have.
We are yet to see the majority of cafes and restaurants switch over, so it’s time to take matters into our own hands (who’s surprised?). Luckily, the majority of places will be very understanding if you tell them you’ve brought your own. Unfortunately, you sometimes have to tell your server not to give you a straw when you’re placing your order. And remember, if a plastic straw touches the table (even if it’s in a wrapper) it’ll get thrown straight in the trash. So, it’s a bit to remember, but totally worth it.
Most metal straws come with little dowels which make cleaning simple and fast. You can get collapsible straws, or stick with one thats full-sized, they’re not very big either way.
Use Shampoo Bars
By: Megan, Red Around the World
Shampoo bars are perfect for traveling more sustainably. Not only are they plastic/packaging-free, but they’re also a lot more compact than a full bottle of shampoo. Plus, they last a long time. I personally love the LUSH shampoo bars, especially Jumping Juniper (online only), Lullaby (online only), and Honey I Washed My Hair (my absolute favorite.) To make it even easier to carry around, they sell tins for them. I would recommend the square one from LUSH so it’s easier to get out. Mine got stuck in the round one on the first use.
To use them, just lather it up like soap in your hands, then do the same on your hair and you’re good to go. Just make sure you let it dry out so it doesn’t get goopy. If you’re feeling adventurous, they also have a conditioner bar that works the same way. The Jungle bar smells great, but it didn’t work too well for me, but I know other people love them. You can also find shampoo and conditioner bars on Etsy and Amazon, so there are plenty to choose from.
Use Sustainable Menstrual Products
By: Corritta, My Eco Flow
As a traveling woman there is something that you have to keep in mind, that time of the month. It can show at up anytime and put a wrench in your plans. Looking for disposable menstrual products in another country can be stressful and overwhelming. Not only can they be difficult to find, they may not be safe. Many feminine hygiene products are filled with harmful chemicals and are non-biodegradable. That means a single plastic applicator can take 500 years to decompose.
To save you stress and the planet there are eco-friendly alternatives for your cycle. Menstrual cups are one of the most popular alternatives for a zero-waste period. They are environmentally friendly, cost effective, long lasting, and more convenient. Although there is a learning curve, when it comes to using menstrual cups the benefits far outweigh the cons. How great would it be to only purchase feminine hygiene products every five or ten years instead of every month? An added bonus is the ability to help other women around the world. Many of the zero-waste period companies donate products to underprivileged women around the world with limited access to feminine hygiene products. Imagine the waste that is saved and plastic that doesn’t make it to the ocean. With this change you can not only help women in need, you can help change the world.
We all love to travel and the goal is to do it for many years to come, but we need our globe to stick around so we can see all of its beauty. Therefore, it is now our responsibility to make sure our travels are as responsible and friendly to Mother Earth as possible.
Have you get any other ways you travel or items you pack to keep your footprint minimal?
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