Pack for the planet: our eco-friendly packing guide
In the last few years, we've all become more aware of how we can tread more consciously when we travel. From not riding elephants and saying 'no' to plastic bags, to avoiding big hotels and swapping short flights for public transport there are plenty of choices we can make to lessen our impact on the world as we're exploring it.
Unfortunately though, while it's easy enough to make the 'big impact' decisions, everyday travel can still be a huge accumulator of waste. There are the plastic water bottles you have to buy because the tap water is undrinkable, the takeaway containers from the street food stall down the road, the throwaway coffee cups that keep you fuelled for your adventures.
The good news is, just by adding a few sustainable travel essentials to your regular packing list, it is possible to reduce your footprint and cut back on plastic quickly and easily.
Here's our guide to the eco-friendly packing essentials to help make it easier for you travel more sustainably, no matter where in the world you're wandering.
our eco-friendly packing guide: the sustainable travel essentials
Finding a reliable way of charging your gear can often be a major hassle for travellers on the road. Enter the trusty Anker solar charger which harnesses the energy of the sun to keep your gear charged - no matter whether you're off the grid hiking mountains in Nepal, in an eco-lodge in Costa Rica, or simply can’t get near a powerpoint in your hostel in Europe!
The humble tote is a versatile little lifesaver when on the road. We’ve used ours to keep our electronics and valuables together when travelling through airports, to carry our lunch and jackets on a day of exploring, separate our washing, and fill up with goodies and souvenirs from the local market. They're small, easily foldable, and can pack a surprising amount in! Check out Etsy’s range of beautifully designed, personalisable totes bags here.
A day without coffee is like, well… a day that Mim never wants to face!
KeepCups are the perfect way to have your coffee and drink it on the road too, without having to use takeaway coffee cups. They don’t just have to be limited to just tea and coffee either - you can use them for water, soft drink and juice, and probably even for a sneaky wine at a pinch! Buy yours here
Ever noticed just how many plastic straws you go through when on holiday? They seem to end up in your Pina Coladas by the pool or beach, your refreshing can of soft drink from a roadside stall, in your glass of water with dinner. Heck, we’ve even been served a straw with our beer when travelling before. And when you’re finished, those sneaky plastic tubes end up straight in the trash (or worse, dumped on the ground or in our waterways).
REUSABLE FOOD CONTAINERS
In countries where there’s a strong street food culture, it can be almost impossible to avoid having to use one-time use takeaway containers and plastic bags. These reusable silicone food containers from Reuseit are the perfect alternative, and also useful for storing lunch or snacks when you’re on the go too - ours came in SUPER handy for storing meals on a 42-hour bus ride in Africa.
Short on space? These collapsible plastic containers are a fab alternative too!
It's one thing to replace takeaway plastic containers, but what about the plastic cutlery that comes with them? Not only are they pretty flimsy and useless, they often don't get recycled properly either. Carry a bamboo cutlery set (or at least a spork) in your daypack and you're already prepared for that next pad thai from a Bangkok street stall!
SCRUBBA WASH BAG
The days of not being able to wash your travel clothes for weeks on end are over! The Scrubba wash bag is the world's first pocket-sized washing machine-quality wash bag, and can be used when camping, or travelling in areas where washing might be an issue. Plus it uses far less water than a regular washing machine, and packs up super small - perfect for an eco-minded backpacker.
REUSABLE WATER BOTTLE & WATER FILTRATION SYSTEM
Carrying a reusable water bottle is a great way to avoid contributing to the 200 billion plastic bottles used each year, but in many places the tap water simply isn’t clean or safe enough to drink. Purification tablets are one solution, but they make water taste pretty gross, SteriPens require batteries, and boiling your water doesn’t always guarantee all the nasties are gone.
Enter two brilliant water purification systems, the Water-To-Go bottle, and the Lifestraw.
Water-To-Go is an all-in-one device: a reusable water bottle meets incredibly powerful filter device (designed by NASA!), which removes 99.9% of all nasties from any water source you fill it up at. Muddy river or contaminated tap water? No problems!
The only major drawback of the Water-To-Go bottle is that they’re quite small. If you’re keen to filter larger quantities of water (say, if you’re hiking in remote areas), check out the Lifestraw instead, which you can either purchase separately (it comes on a handy chain you can wear around your neck), or with a 1l bottle as well.
Lightweight, compact, and super fast-drying, microfibre towels are the perfect alternative to having to haul bulky, heavy towels around in your luggage, and they also help cut down on unnecessary towel-washing at guesthouses or hotels too.
This compostable toothbrush is the perfect way to combat unnecessary plastic use in the bathroom: 100% recyclable, vegan, and the company is committed to sustainable resource usage and education about oral hygiene. So basically, all the good things.
Travelling long-term? Grab this 4-pack vegan-friendly bamboo brush for your toiletries bag instead!
TEA TREE OIL
A natural antiseptic, Tea Tree Oil is basically a wonder-remedy for soothing sunburn, fungal and bacterial skin infections, treating blemishes, itchy insect bites, and itchy or flaky scalps. It also doubles as a powerful natural deodorant, insect repellent, and mould cleaner!
ODE TO CLEAN WIPES
These face and body wipes are seriously a game changer. They’re fragrance, allergen, and toxin-free (which means they’re great for you), and they’re entirely plant-based, biodegradable, and wind-power manufactured (which means they’re also great for the planet too!). Finally, convenience meets eco-friendly.
Shampoo bars are way more practical than lugging around big plastic bottles of shampoo and conditioner; they're lighter and also take up way less space too!
We bought ours from Lush Cosmetics and we're in LOVE with the cinnamon smell (and brilliant washing) of their 'new' shampoo bar, while the 'Jungle' smells like the tropics. Mmm.
Just pop them into a tin and they're totally mess-free too.
DEET-FREE INSECT REPELLENT
Harsh chemicals be-gone. This natural insect repellent will help to keep you bug-free, without covering you, or the environment you're travelling through, in harsh toxins too.
MOONCUP / DIVACUP
Alright boys, you're allowed to tune out for this one!
Using a menstrual cup like the MoonCup is a really easy way to cut down on the amount of sanitary waste produced from one-time use tampons and pads.
They also reduce the risk of TSS (toxic shock syndrome), which means they're a healthier alternative for our bodies too. There are plenty of different types to choose from, so take some time to work out which is best for you personally - but try to avoid cheap knock-offs as they tend to be more prone to breakage or leaking. Personally, I'm a big fan of the mooncup.
Sadly, recent studies have shown that the active ingredients in sunscreen are contributing to rapid bleaching of our coral reefs, and harming the overall aquatic life. Switching to an ocean-friendly alternative like these ones from Stream2Sea is better for you, and better for our oceans - which means you'll be able to snorkel over colourful reefs on holiday for years to come!
more tips for responsible travel
If travelling on a group tour, choose a travel operator committed to travelling sustainably (we
Take public transport, or walk, wherever possible
Stay in locally-owned guesthouses, airbnbs, and homestays instead of big hotel chains
Buy and source local: shop in local markets and eat at locally-owned restaurants rather than big chains
Say no to elephant rides, lion and tiger selfies, and any other animal tourism that negatively impacts wildlife
Dress respectfully and be aware of cultural differences in what's seen as appropriate clothing
learn more about how to be a responsible traveller here
Disclaimer: some of the above links are affiliate links. If you choose to purchase using the above buttons we receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Please know that by using these affiliate links, you’re directly supporting The Common Wanderer to stay wandering.
If you use our affiliate codes, you’re officially a legend.