Researching what to pack is time-consuming. What do you even look for?
With so many labels, the responsibility of shopping sustainably can be overwhelming even for experienced eco-friendly travellers.
According to a 2019 National Geographic survey, despite 42% of US travellers saying they would be willing to make sustainable travel a priority in the future, only 15% of them understood what sustainable travel involved.
It is true - sustainable travel is much more than what we pack in our bag and there is so much to learn. I am always reading, researching, watching and educating myself on how I can travel better and I want to share my understanding with you with nothing but support and encouragement.
So, discover my top tips for sustainable packing, shopping and travel. Read on to learn more.
The first thing you might find yourself doing before you go on a new adventure is shopping! It is tempting to go a little over and buy everything you think you will need for your travels. First, do a little research and find out what is and is not available in the area you are travelling. Most of the major tourist cities will sell the same products, at the mall, grocery store, pharmacy or market.
Buying local eco-friendly products shortens the supply chain, the products have less packaging, they don’t require long-distance transportation energy, and it supports small business.
Check if your local area has a weekend market selling organic products or if the local stores offer plastic-free alternatives. Natural Food Stores and Organic Groceries Stores usually have an aisle dedicated to toiletries and personal care items.
If you wish to purchase a product online, see if there is an option to reduce your carbon footprint by offsetting emissions or if there brand packages your purchase in a compostable mailer. You can also check for a socially good internet browser extension such as GiveWater, Ekoru, Ecosia or Lilo.
Look For Certified Products
Ask questions about the products that you purchase. Even if the powerful marketing words state that the products are eco-friendly, organic, green or sustainable, it is not necessarily authentic. Product certification is a step in the right direction.
Certified B Corporations are innovative businesses that balance their purpose and profit. Such corporations are legally obliged to respect and consider the impact their decisions have on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment.
Be mindful of greenwashing. This is when a company tries to make people believe it is doing more to protect the environment than it really is. Yes, this does really happen.
It occurs through fancy marketing and PR campaigns, often by large corporations trying to appear 'eco-friendly' and keep up with the consumer trends. Think biodegradable plastic bags or natural plastic that does not degrade or popular fashion brands that offer recycled or conscious clothing items whilst still mass-producing garments and expanding their company.
Be sure to check for Organic Certification, Vegan Certification and Cruelty-Free Certification to support sustainable brands.
Try Zero-Packaging Toiletries
The zero-packaging toiletries, also known as 'naked' toiletries, are among the most affordable and ideal solutions for reducing single-use plastic when you travel.
Shop around for a solid shampoo bar, conditioner bar, facial soap bar and solid deodorants. Purchase a few reusable tins to store your new soap bars for travelling, and you won't have to worry about throwing the plastic bottles in the landfill.
How about dental hygiene?
An eco-friendly toothbrush handle is made ideally from bamboo, and the bristles are plant-based. Once you are ready for a new toothbrush, you can compost the eco toothbrush and degrade it back into the environment. You can also find great toothpaste tablets which are plastic-free and plastic-free dental floss.
Did you know that many of the exfoliating facial washes/scrubs contain microplastic? The tiny beads are incredibly toxic for the waterways once they wash down the drain. Make the switch to an all-natural body scrub or face scrub made from plant-based ingredients; your skin will thank you for it.
Support Brands That Give Back
Certain brands will plant a tree, make a donation, offset carbon emissions, or do various other sustainable initiatives for each purchase a consumer makes. Start by supporting brands who are being mindful of the environment and who are aiming to contribute positively. For example:
TOMS are well known for their community projects funded through the purchasing of their globally recognised footwear. The company donates a pair of shoes for every pair they sell. This is called a one-to-one business model, and it has been highly successful, allowing TOMS to branch out into other areas, including Eyewear.
Modibodi is one of the leading underwear brands for women specialising in eco-friendly period-proof underwear. Its Give a Pair Program means that a pair of Modibodi underwear is given to women in need for every contribution. To date, the brand has donated over 20,000 pairs of underwear and has committed to contributing over 1000 pairs each month to the community.
Orangutan Alliance created a limited edition soap that is palm-oil-free, cruelty-free, vegan and is planet-friendly. Every purchase is a plastic-free alternative, and at least one tree will be planted in the world's most diverse rainforest in Sumatra. This is the last remaining place on earth where critically endangered Sumatran elephants, rhinoceros, tigers, and orangutans co-exist with hundreds of mammals and bird species. The #mysteptoprotect soap was made in production with Viva La Body.
Books are not convenient for travelling. Many airlines have also gone 100% paper and print free, meaning all magazines and entertainment are displayed on a digital device.
Paper books have a more significant impact on the environment, so why not take the digital route and use a Kindle. Not only can you store hundreds of books on one device, but there are also many special offers available, meaning you can save money at the same time.
E-Books and podcasts are incredible for passing the time on long travel days, and you can download and update new books and series as often as you like!
According to new research, E-readers are far surpassing paperback books on the environmentally friendly scale for a few reasons:
Water: It takes roughly 7 gallons to produce the average printed book versus 79 gallons of water needed to make an e-reader. So long as you read more than 12 books on your kindle, your digital device will save on water consumption.
Emissions: A single book generates about 7.5 kg of carbon dioxide equivalents versus roughly 130 - 160 kilograms of a digital reader like a kindle or iPad. Again, if you read at least 20 books on your device, you are essentially reducing emissions by switching from paper to digital.
Toxic Ink: This one is still debatable. No toxic ink required for printing; however, the materials needed to make an electronic reading device are not precisely sustainable (the mining of resources).
Do you need to buy something new? The best way to not spend your money is to avoid excessive consumer purchases, especially when preparing for travel.
However, I believe that we should be purchasing quality items once rather than buying something less expensive - over and over adding to landfill. If you are in the position to buy something that will last longer and stay with you on your travels, go ahead. The idea is not to go without, but to consider what it is, we need to be happy to think what it is.
As travellers, we value experiences over consumer goods, and we know that feeling of freedom that we get from travelling light. How is this more sustainable? Less baggage means less weight, and less weight means fewer emissions on flights.
Airlines that are committed to reducing weight and fuel consumption agree that travelling with more minor is better for the environment.
Wear Organic & Sustainable Clothing
By 2050, the fashion industry is projected to account for 25% of the global carbon budget, polluting the planet more than any other sector except oil. The garment production industry causes more damage than the aviation industry.
Our desire for fast fashion is well known for creating a clothing cycle that lands in the trash once worn for a short time. The system is broken, and sadly, local communities near these facilities suffer the most.
So, what can you do? Consider organic cotton and linens, sustainably sourced wood, bamboo, mushroom and coconut fibres instead—purchase from slow-fashion, small businesses who are mindful of their production process.
Avoid items made from animal by-products like leather and silk to reduce the negative environmental impact that is caused by animal agriculture.
Give Green Gifts
Choose to give green goodies to your friends and family. Be mindful when giving a gift and ask yourself how it has, or how it impacts the planet. Here are a few key questions to ask yourself when gift shopping:
Who made it?
Is it made from recycled materials?
Is it locally made, or has it travelled thousands of miles to reach the recipient?
Is it made from ethical materials?
Green gifts are becoming more accessible and easier to find. The same concept can be applied when you are buying souvenirs on your travels.
Shopping for sustainable travel items is becoming easier now that consumer demand for ethical products is on the rise.
Remember, it is not about being perfect but about being a mindful consumer who aims to make the best choice available.
Travel light, spend money on experiences, search out new socially good brands and use your consumer purchasing power for the better.