As Summer approaches, people are pulling out their suitcases and preparing to take off to visit family, or just to get away when the whole family is free!
Often, what stops people from travelling in eco-friendly ways is simply the overwhelming nature of figuring out what will be helpful to bring. We wanted to take a little of that guesswork out for you, so here are some tips and tricks as you pack up for your next trip.
- If you like to read while you travel, consider investing in an e-reader of some kind, or visit the library before your flight. Avoid buying books and magazines in the airport. The prices are, obviously, inflated and more often than not they end up in the landfill, as opposed to coming home with you and finding a place on your shelf.
- Consider buying a solid soap to use on your hair and body as you travel. If you don’t have time to let it dry after use, store it in a bath mitt or face cloth to help it dry out in your bag instead of a container that won’t breathe.
- You can buy TSA approved reusable body care bottles and bags that you can fill with your own favorite products for each trip to cut down on the plastic from hotel provided supplies, or buying travel sized options.
- Pack at least one big scarf. It can be bunched up and used as your pillow, or draped over you as a blanket! Throw it over your eyes to keep out the sun while you catch a few Zzz's. You could also use it to wrap anything small and fragile you’re transporting when it’s not being used in other ways. Having a handkerchief and a napkin can also be great ways to cut back on waste without adding a lot of weight or losing a lot of packing space. Use the napkin in place of a plate or to wrap up dry foods to carry.
- Don’t forget your own headphones, chargers, ear plugs or face mask if necessary! Getting those on the plane will produce more plastic waste, and cost you money.
- If you’re going somewhere to bask in the sun, don’t forget your natural sunscreens. Look for sunscreens that offer a physical block as opposed to a chemical one. They’re better on your skin, and better in the oceans as well!
- When you’re packing, don’t forget your important zero waste tools! Throw a few reusable drawstring or sandwich bags (for a variety of uses), cutlery, and straws into your bag to reduce the amount of plastic you need to consume as you travel.
- Stainless steel containers are lightweight and great for travel if you plan on buying food in bulk while you travel and can be great for leftovers if you’re eating out! They can be stored inside each other when they’re empty to save space. A thermos is another handy idea for taking food with you on the go.
- The newly famous Abeego is also an amazing travel companion! They fold down to almost nothing when you're not using them but they are infinitely helpful for storing food! You can wrap bulk foods into their own little bag; you can cover bowls and cups; you can use it instead of plastic to keep fruits and veggies fresher while travelling! They are also water resistant so they'll help keep your snacks dry on your adventures. A quick rinse or wipe is usually good between most uses, but be sure to keep it away from any raw meats as well as heat to ensure its longest life!
- Don’t forget your empty reusable water bottle. Flight attendants will happily fill it for you if you forget after you pass through security! If you’re going to be traveling to places with less access to potable water, consider a refillable water bottle that can do the filtering for you, like something from LifeStraw.
- When you’re looking to find food, try shopping in local stores and markets. Not only will you be able to find most of your food package-free, but you’ll also get immersed in the culture of the places you’re visiting. You’ll get to test your language skills and maybe try some foods you’ve never seen before!
- A really great resource for sourcing food as you travel is Bea Johnson’s (author of Zero Waste Home) Bulk Finder App. Type in your location and find the closest stores near you that offer bulk foods.
- If you can avoid checking bags, do it! Pack smart, pack light and save the fuel that would be wasted on that extra weight.
- If you need to bring heavier items with you, (hiking boots, etc) consider wearing them on the plane. It might feel a little annoying, but it will save you a lot of weight and space in your bag.
- If you’re concerned about hygiene or illness, throw a couple of targeted essential oils into your bag. Bandits Oil, Tea Tree, and Frankincense are good for a variety of things, like cold prevention, killing bacteria, cleaning cuts or scrapes, etc. Check the properties of each oil to make sure you have all your needs covered.
- Pack snacks in reusable bags, small containers, reusable food wrap, etc. The food on planes is almost always packaged in lots of plastic! It might be necessary for hygiene, but the food you bring yourself will be fresher, much cheaper, create less waste, and probably taste way better than anything you could spend your money on while you’re travelling.
- Staying in a hotel or some other kind of public accommodation? Get in touch in advance and see what amenities or green features your hotel has! Ecotourism is a huge market these days, and many hotels have already started to address these issues, but if they haven't your questions and interest might just be the push they need!
- If you're able, consider purchasing a carbon offset package. It will help recover any carbon impact that your trip will have. Travelling by plane is still a huge footprint and while we all can take as many steps as possible to reduce our footprint, putting some money into offsetting our carbon output can help us see a more immediate and practical result.
This list is mostly addressing travelling by plane, because driving yourself or taking trains/busses allow you to control your footprint more easily, but these tips are great reminders any time you’re going to be traveling in any way. Taking the time to plan what you’re going to need and pack will save you weight, space and definitely money in the long run!