Pack Light, Travel Far: Sustainable Packing Solutions for Eco-Conscious Travellers

Written by Ainsley Lawrence
Wise Greece Athens, Greece

The thought of arriving at a final destination without your bags sends most travellers into a cold sweat. It’s simply undeniable that the stuff we travel with plays a critical role in shaping trip experiences. 

For this reason, intentionality is key when it comes to packing and storing your travel gear—regardless of whether you’re travelling across the globe or around the block. But what if this natural packing intentionality could go beyond having a smooth trip and serve to promote and preserve the world’s resources as well? 

Many travellers are looking for ways to do just that by supporting sustainable tourism initiatives such as: 

  • Reducing environmental waste and damage 
  • Promoting local economies 
  • Preserving global cultures 

Let’s examine several practical ways eco-conscious travellers can prioritize responsible tourism by adopting sustainable habits while planning and packing for trips. 

Leave Responsibly

Sustainable travel habits start long before you walk out the door on your journey. Consider what resources you use in your daily life and how they will be attended to while you’re away. For most, the focal point of our natural resource consumption revolves around our housing. Everything from water or electricity usage to food waste and transportation is linked to your place of residence, which is why it’s important to establish a plan for these things while you are away. 

For frequent travellers, consider selecting a home or residence tailored to your travel needs that keeps sustainability at the forefront. For instance, if you are choosing a place to live for remote work and travel, you should take into account the local transportation and entertainment options as well as your proximity to family and friends. Selecting a home near the things you prioritize will greatly reduce your environmental impact in fuel and transportation while also saving you time and money. 

If you are planning to travel less frequently, create a plan for repurposing your current home and resources while you are away. Consider having a friend or professional house sit or try renting out your space to a tenant. There are many simple home storage ideas, such as decluttering and utilizing vertical space, that can create more space in your home for a guest or renter. Repurposing your residence and its resources in this way will ensure they won’t be wasted or unused for long periods and can save you on maintenance costs. 

Pack Sustainably

Packing for a trip is a largely personal undertaking. A great deal of personality and security is attached to the things we own and use—especially in a foreign environment—which makes packing for a trip a fairly intentional process. Luckily, this intentionality can be easily linked with several, simple sustainable habits that allow eco-conscious travellers to make a big difference in small ways while packing. 

For example, one practical habit is to resist the urge to purchase lots of new things for a trip. The reality is you will probably feel more comfortable and confident wearing and using items that you are familiar with than purchasing all new things, and reusing and repurposing goods is more sustainable for the environment. If there are items you need for an upcoming trip, consider purchasing durable, fair-trade goods from conscientious business brands. The Planeterra Partner Shop and others like it are great options for using your purchasing power to promote sustainability. 

Another eco-friendly packing habit is to avoid purchasing and using single-use items while travelling. Single-use goods like disposable razors, water bottles, utensils, wipes, and more result in unnecessary waste. Instead, consider packing zero-waste travel essentials such as reusable water bottles, soap bars, and snack bags. Though it may seem insignificant, these small choices can add to a tremendous reduction in global landfill waste.

Consider the Weather

Packing sustainably can be tricky when you’re trying to prepare for a variety of weather conditions. The more types of weather you’re prepping for, the more clothes and other items you’re going to be packing, which obliterates attempts at packing light. Additionally, if you want to support a cause such as Pack for a Purpose, you want to save space in your luggage for supplies that will benefit those in need. Weather worries and the resulting excess of caution don’t exactly leave extra philanthropic space.

Therefore, keep a careful eye on your destination’s forecast. Try to pack items suited to the predictions from sources such as The Weather Channel and Weather Underground. One great option is to pack a light windbreaker and wear your heavier coat with you on the plane. That way, you’ll be prepared for colder temperatures and rain without using a ton of luggage space. Or, you could pack a backpacking rain poncho, which hardly takes up any space. Additionally, wear a pair of waterproof, comfortable boots. Sandals will take up minimal space in your bag. 

For sunny weather, it’s best to buy sunscreen at your destination. Overall, remember that you can buy weather-specific supplies in most cities, and you could donate things like umbrellas and clothing instead of trying to tote them back home.  

Stay Intentionally

Being mindful of your final destination and where you will stay is another valuable habit for sustainable travel. Planning and packing for a trip isn’t a one-size-fits-all process. Having a full picture of what you will be doing and where you will be staying, whether it’s with a host family, at a hotel, or a rental property, will help you prepare to use your travel resources to their fullest potential. 

Start by creating an accurate picture of the residence that best suits your needs and objectives while travelling. For example, if you are choosing a place to live for remote work, consider what you need to do your job, such as the internet or private workspace, and what timezone your working hours will be in. Or if you are choosing a place to stay to recreate and sight-see consider selecting a residence that is centrally located with good transportation to the places and things you wish to see. These types of lodging plans naturally support sustainability by eliminating unnecessary transport or purchases that would otherwise be needed to meet your trip objectives. 

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, be mindful of how where you will stay will impact those around you. Believing that sustainable tourism is only about protecting the environment is one myth of sustainable travel. While the environment should always be prioritized, sustainability in travel goes beyond this and also focuses on celebrating and supporting local cultures. In this way, whether you are working or playing, be intentional to spend your travel dollars and time within a community that is genuinely empowered and enriched by your visit. 

To conclude, the stuff that we pack and travel with matters when it comes to shaping overall trip experiences. For this reason, travellers tend to prioritize intentionality in their packing. This is why eco-conscious travellers who want to support sustainable tourism have a great opportunity to adopt more sustainable habits in their trip planning and packing processes. 

Simple sustainable travel habits like being mindful to repurpose current resources, reduce waste in packing, and accurately plan to meet your trip needs and objectives will help save the world’s resources and better support local communities. So next time, you’re ready to see a new piece of the world, remember to plan and pack with sustainability in mind. 

About the author:

Ainsley Lawrence is a freelance writer who lives in the Northwest region of the United States. She has a particular interest in covering topics related to travel, sustainability, tech, and accessibility. When not writing, her free time is spent reading and researching to learn more about her cultural and environmental surroundings.

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