On average, a traveler produces 1 kg of waste per day, which means at the end of three months a traveler’s waste is equivalent to the weight of a giant panda. Waste while traveling can feel inevitable at times since when we travel from one place to the next we often pick up new items and discard old ones, keeping our luggage light. But this cycle of consumption isn’t sustainable for travelers or the world.
With over 1.4 billion tourists traveling the world, famous tourist destinations are being trampled and damaged, resulting in a lower quality of life for the country’s native residents. Tallying the impact up, 1.4 billion tourists create a waste footprint equivalent to the weight of 280,000 elephants per day. That’s a lot of elephants. If we want to travel more without destroying our planet, we need to make a real concerted effort.
In recent years, the words sustainability and zero waste have seeped into many aspects of our lives, combatting the noticeable changes our planet is encountering with climate change. Before, we may have ignored carrying the responsibility of sustainability on our backs while traveling, but now there are options to take on that responsibility with sustainable products and travel methods. Sustainable travel is all about being mindful of the impact we have on the world while we move from country to country. It’s a means to use less and travel more and take responsibility for the impact we have on the world around us. It is also a means for creating a more ease-filled travel experience by having what you need every step of the way—on the bus, on the airplane, on the Tuk Tuk.
The foundation of traveling sustainably is having the right gear. When we have reusable gear in our packs, we don’t create more waste because we don’t have to dispose of them. It doesn’t just take any gear to travel sustainably though. We need to be mindful that the gear we are acquiring and using is responsibly made, locally sourced, low waste, long lasting, and can be recycled at the end of its lifecycle. These are just a few of the high standards we have when it comes to choosing gear to travel smartly and sustainably. There are many brands that tout themselves as sustainable alternatives, but when you look into how the gear gets made or disposed of at the end of its life, you can see they create just as much waste as single-use plastics. Being discerning is a key part of traveling sustainably.
8 No-Brainer Items to Become a More Sustainable Traveler
Here’s a look at some sustainable travel gear that will help decrease your impact on the earth while making traveling easier.
Bringing reusable bags of all shapes and sizes can help store and sort all of your things. Have wet clothes? There’s a bag for that. About 500 single-use plastic bags are eliminated by having one, just one, reusable bag. Whether you’re using a bag to sort all of your items or are in need of a daypack, you can find your sustainable bag solution here. The longer the life of a bag the more sustainable it is.
There are also many bags made of Repreve, which is an innovative fabric made from 100% recycled plastic. It not only has a long life but it also reuses plastics that have no other use at the end of their life.
Half a million plastic straws are used every day in the world. That’s a lot of straws. While many restaurants and bars are starting to serve drinks with paper and metal straws, if you prefer drinking from a straw, get your own reusable metal straw to reduce plastic waste.
Time to stop reaching for that plastic knife and fork with your to-go meals. To-go materials are typically made of plastics, even if they look paper-based they generally aren’t recyclable. Bringing your own cutlery with you as well as small reusable to-go containers (like Tupperware) will not only provide you with a snack while you’re on the road but will also help decrease one of the largest sources of waste: single-use plastics.
Refillable Travel Containers
Are you traveling the world buying travel sized, plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles for every trip? The gig is up. There is a much more sustainable way to travel. Stop buying travel size bottles of shampoo and conditioner for every trip and simply fill your reusable travel-sized containers from the shampoo and conditioner bottles you’ve already purchased. Not only will you save money, but you will also decrease your impact on the planet by having travel-sized bottles you can reuse for every trip.
Did you guess that simply charging your phone has an impact on the world? To the eye, it seems clean to plug our phones into the closest outlet, but what we don’t see is the greenhouse gas emissions indirectly created by charging our phones. The emissions are generated from not only using electricity to charge but also from pinging the wireless networks to communicate with each other when we make calls or do a google search. The best way to lower your device's footprint is to use a solar powered power bank. With this power bank, you can charge your phone on the go. All you need is the sun. By using the sun to power all of your tech, you will be avoiding some of those nasty emissions associated with your phone.
Seemingly simple, one of the largest generators of waste is the plastic water bottle. Americans purchase about 50 billion water bottles per year. We reach for them at the airport as an easy solution to quench our thirst, but while we are choosing this easy option, we are creating waste. Each person would save an average of 156 bottles per year by going without the plastic bottle and purchasing a reusable one.
A water filter is a clutch piece of gear that, when paired with your reusable water bottle, will save you a lot of money, time, and plastic when traveling abroad. Have you ever been to a country where the tap water wasn’t okay to drink? This is common when traveling abroad as not all countries have potable water. With a water filter, you can collect tap water and filter it into your reusable bottle, saving yourself a trip to the local store to buy plastic water bottles. Say goodbye to those extra plastic, single use water bottles.
Though traveling on a plane feels unavoidable, especially when there are so many countries to explore and experience, there are many ways to offset your air travel. Planes produce greenhouse gases through its engine, which are released into the atmosphere creating pollution in our air. Offsetting doesn’t stop the pollution at the source, rather it aims to neutralize the carbon impact through certain practices, like planting trees. Though not perfect, offsets allow you to give back to the planet at the same rate you are impacting it.
Traveling sustainably may seem like a mouthful at first, or maybe the thought of traveling sustainably feels hard, inconvenient, or burdensome. However, acquiring and preparing for your trip with the right gear will impact your experience as much as it will impact the planet. Traveling sustainably is not a complex science. It starts when we make mindful choices, and we can start by buying the right sustainable travel gear.