8 ways to make packing for a trip more eco-friendly
These days there are a myriad of ways we can reduce our impact on the environment — from choosing how we travel and where we stay, to putting the right things in our suitcase. So, whether you’re getting ready for a holiday or for studying abroad, here’s our sustainable travel packing guide to help you be kinder to the planet as you explore it.
1. Bamboo toothbrush
Did you know that every plastic toothbrush you’ve ever used will still exist in 500 years? Ew! Billions of toothbrushes are discarded every year, which adds up to a lot of plastic pollution. Some plastic toothbrushes are recyclable, but that doesn’t mean that they actually are recycled. Toothbrushes made from bamboo, however, can biodegrade in just a few months or years. Making everything out of bamboo isn’t a perfect solution — growing bamboo still requires a lot of land — but bamboo toothbrushes won’t outlive you by centuries.
2. Green sunscreen
Not literally green. To keep you safe in the sun, choose an SPF 30 sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection, that isn’t also going to harm wildlife. Look for brands that advertise as ‘reef-friendly’ or ‘dolphin-friendly’, and don’t contain octinoxate or oxybenzone. These ingredients can seriously damage animals and plants when they get in water.
3. Avoid fast fashion
Everything has a carbon footprint — even your clothes. The fashion industry creates eye-watering carbon emissions as new clothes are shipped all across the globe. Items made from polyester and nylon are really made of plastic, and although cotton clothing biodegrades it is often grown using environmentally-polluting chemicals.
Green up your suitcase by buying only what you need, choosing clothes made from organic cotton or linen, swapping items with friends, or finding second-hand gems in your local thrift store. Websites like Depop, Vinted and eBay are gold mines for pre-loved clothes.
4. Reusable water bottle
A reusable metal or plastic water bottle is a must-pack. Drinking water regularly is an essential part of keeping healthy — especially if you’re visiting a hotter climate than you’re used to. Single-use plastic bottles take over 400 years to break down and have a huge carbon footprint from being transported all around the world — just to be used once!
A quick and easy way to reduce your daily environmental impact is to switch to a reusable bottle. Instead of buying bottled drinks every day, you’ll also save money by bringing water or filling up for free in a café, or at a refill point. Many public spaces like stations and universities have free water refill stations.
5. Coffee cup
Ditto pretty much everything about single-use water bottles, but for single-use coffee cups. Many are made of cardboard but have a plastic lining to keep them water-tight, which doesn’t break down easily. So, grab a reusable coffee cup to reduce your waste as you sip your hot drinks on the go. Plus, lots of places will offer a discount if you bring a reusable cup. Top tip: Get one with a good lid, you don’t want spillages in your bag.
6. Food containers
A simple set of plastic tubs is also super useful. Packing a lunch before you leave the house means you’ll spend less on eating out, and you’ll buy far less plastic-wrapped food from supermarkets.
7. Period products
Yes, you can even menstruate more environmentally. Classic period products like applicator tampons and pads are made partly of plastic, and come wrapped in plastic. However, many modern items like reusable period pants, washable fabric pads, organic tampons and silicone period cups work well and are much kinder to the planet.
8. Upgrade your toiletries
Packing for a trip is a great time to look at what you use daily, and see which items you can make better for the planet. For example, you can replace single-use makeup wipes (spoiler alert — they’re made of plastic and often end up in the ocean) with fabric wipes that you can wash and reuse. Packing shampoo and soap bars rather than bottles saves heaps of plastic and space in your suitcase. Some cosmetics brands use wooden containers and handles, deodorant can be made from natural ingredients, and even toothpaste can come in glass jars these days.