Traveling is one of life’s greatest joys, with billions of people a year choosing to explore the world. But letting your hair down and relaxing during your trip shouldn’t come with wasteful behavior. Packing a sustainable suitcase can make things healthier and more convenient for you while also contributing to environmental conservation.
Start with the Suitcase
Packing in an eco-friendly manner begins with the suitcase itself. A bag you can recycle when its usefulness ends will set the stage for the rest of your sustainable packing. Furthermore, a quality suitcase that will last well into the future means you won’t be adding to the mountains of waste in landfills.
The pandemic saw the suitcase market shrink from $22 billion in 2019 to $16 billion in 2020, a drop that amounts to a 27% reduction in suitcase purchases worldwide. This decrease in demand is a perfect opportunity to bring about a shift in consumer mentality. As we begin traveling again, let’s keep the environmental impacts of our suitcase in mind.
Some sustainable suitcase brands make their luggage from plastic recovered from the ocean. This is a great way to promote a circular economy in which materials re-enter the manufacturing process rather than taking the one-way route to the landfill.
Also, be aware that most shrink-wrapping film offered at many airports to protect your items in travel is recyclable. However, if you’re not sure if the film at the airport can be recycled, choose alternative plastic pallet wrap like sugar cane biofilm.
Pack Sustainable Items
After your suitcase, the first line of business when packing sustainably should be examining the clothes you’re packing. The fashion industry accounts for around 10% of global carbon emissions and 20% of wastewater. Building a sustainable wardrobe is something consumers should do regardless of how often they travel. Estimates show that every American throws out approximately 81 pounds of clothing every year. Choosing sustainable fabrics, upcycled garments, and durable clothes that will hold up to the wear and tear of travel results in fewer greenhouse gas emissions, less wastewater, and lowered landfill mass. Packing sustainable clothing is a crucial aspect of eco-friendly travel.
Fill your suitcase with organic or recycled cotton, hemp, and organic linen clothing. This will guarantee you are contributing to a more sustainable fashion industry. Hemp fabric requires far less water than regular cotton and is more durable, while also preventing bacterial growth. Buying garments from manufacturers that exercise strict textile quality control testing also helps you ensure that you’re buying sustainable clothes made to last.
After your clothes, assessing each item that goes into your luggage will reveal environmental culprits that fly below most people’s radar. For example, over 300 million toothpaste tubesend up in landfills in the United Kingdom alone each year. Substances in toothpaste such as Brilliant Blue FCF, which is in many popular toothpaste brands, can harm marine life. This just goes to show that even the smallest items can have a bigger impact than you may think.
Eco-Friendly Travel Tips
Bring your own water bottle with you on your trip. Fill it up with clean water and avoid wasteful PET plastic. Consider a copper water bottle instead of plastic to steer clear of the potential health risks associated with plastic containers.
If you’re lucky enough to be going on a tropical vacation, reef-safe sunscreen will help you enjoy the sun without damaging sea life.
Finally, it’s important to follow a “leave no waste behind” policy while you travel. Educating yourself on environmental pollutionwill help you recognize the effects of any item you drop in the trash. Packing reusable straws, utensils, and even a reusable shopping bag for your trips to the store will help you create your own travel system where no waste is left behind.
Start With Your Next Trip
Choosing a durable suitcase made from recycled and organic materials, buying sustainable, durable clothing, and making thoughtful choices about even the smallest items in your bag cango a long way in making your packing more sustainable. Use your next trip as an opportunity to gauge how much more eco-friendly you can be.
Lena Milton is a freelance writer covering sustainability, health and environmental science. She writes to help consumers understand the environmental and ethical challenges in everyday life so we can find viable solutions for both.