Many of us environmentally friendly travelers spend a lot of time planning before we head out for a trip. We’re aware of our carbon footprint, and we do our best to be as conscious of the places we go and the communities we impact along the way. A big part of the process? Packing for eco-friendly travel. Join Dharma Trails co-founder, Aron, as he shares his eco-friendly travel tips. Let’s get (eco-friendly) packing!
Planning for eco-friendly travel
When we go somewhere, we’re usually focused on staying in the most sustainable accommodations that we can find. But that doesn’t have to mean “basic.” In fact, some of the most beautiful and unique destinations that we’ve ever traveled to have been an off-grid eco resort. Sustainable travel might conjure up images of camping in open fields or staying in a bare-bones room, but that’s not the real picture.
At its core, eco-friendly travel is all about reducing your negative impact and increasing your positive impact. Leaving places better whenever possible and never leaving them worse from your visit. For example:
Reducing negative impact might be taking a train instead of a plane (if possible). If not, taking the most direct route to reduce the number of flights. If you can, it means carbon offsetting your trips environmental impact, or choosing a hybrid or fuel-efficient rental car. Wherever you’re going, look for the most sustainable ways to travel.
Increasing positive impact could be staying at an eco-accommodation that has a direct financial benefit. Many offer support to local wildlife conservation programs or promote education in the local community. Other options include supporting local economies by choosing to shop at small, locally-owned stores and eat at local restaurants. Ecotourism is a great way to positively impact the places you visit.
There are so many different ways to travel nowadays. We’re into the slow kind of eco-friendly travel. That means going to fewer places and staying longer in one spot. Really getting to know the place, the people and develop a lasting connection with the area. This will naturally make your trip more conscious, as the decisions you make on a daily basis do have an impact on the area. Rushing through trips often leads to hasty decisions that might not support the eco-friendly travel goals you had in mind. Slow travel allows you to think through every decision you make.
Packing for eco-friendly travel
Planning is only half the work of eco-friendly travel. When it comes to packing for eco-friendly travel, we’ve got some tried and true eco-friendly travel tips that help us get the most out of every trip. And leave the least amount of impact behind.
We Travel Light
If possible, we only travel with a carry-on. Last year we did a 6-week trip to Guatemala with just one carry-on bag each. That might seem crazy, but it made our trip so much better. On that trip we got to see most of the country, stay in incredible places and meet amazing people. And we weren’t held up waiting for luggage after flights. Or lugging around extra bags and worrying about where to store them
As travel bloggers we’re always documenting things, so we had to pack our photography gear too. This included our DSLR camera, Mavic Drone, and Gopro. The bag we use is very important, and it’s essential to use that we don’t compromise on our eco-friendly values either. We need an eco-friendly travel bag that can not only handle our gear, but be durable, user-friendly, and practical. We’ve been using Pakt Bags for many trips, and they’ve always stood the test of time and miles.
What is in our Pakt bag?
Here’s an example of what our Pakt Bag usually looks like. This is typically what we’d pack for a trip (assuming the weather is relatively warm). As you can see, we keep it simple. But it is amazing how all our essentials can easily fit in a carry-on. A big focus of packing for eco-friendly travel is choosing a smaller amount of quality, sustainable items. Plus, packing simply makes everything easier- from eating on the go to getting dressed.
- Insulated Mugs
- Water Bottle
- Mesh Bags
- Bamboo Cutlery & Reusable straws
- Reusable Lunch Box
- Reef safe sunscreen
- Essential Oils
- Bamboo Toothbrush and plastic free Makeup
- Pack sustainable fashion brands (or items from second hand stores)
- Book for reading
- Travel Documents
- Electronics (chargers, USB adapters, etc)
You’d be surprised how little you really need when traveling
As seasoned travelers, we’ve become pretty good at packing our bags. And I don’t mean throwing things into your bag and closing the zips. I mean packing for eco-friendly travel with purpose. One big mistake that we find so many travelers make is overpacking.
How many people have clothes stuffed into their bags that never get used on a trip? I bet you’ve done it before? The same goes for shoes, scarves, etc, etc. We tend to try and pack for every possible situation or experience. But over time, you’ll notice that there are a few tried and true items that you use the most. Everything else is just added baggage.
Here’s a quick eco-friendly packing tip that’s saved us space, and money. And allowed us to cut down to just a carry-on bag for almost every trip.
It’s a simple three-step process of elimination:
- Place the items that you want to take on your travels on your bed next to your bag
- Start eliminating items until you’ve got only what you need
- Walk out of the room, do something else, come back and look at the items again and get rid of more until you’re left with what you “really need”
You’ll be surprised how little it is.
Once you’ve eliminated everything down to what you really need, put it into your Pakt Bag and carry it on. And enjoy not waiting in lines to find your checked baggage. Then enjoy not having to lug a suitcase up flights of stairs or lift it into the back of a taxi.
In general, less stuff means less waste
Living on the road has taught us a few things. One of the major lessons is that “stuff” is something you can do without. Travel is about making connections, absorbing experiences, and really getting to feel alive. And the best way to start packing for eco-friendly travel? Get rid of the “stuff” you think you need. Take these eco-friendly travel tips and hit the road (with less).
Aaron is one of The Dharma Trails co-founders. His background in marine eco-tourism and design has resulted in the online platform dedicated to eco-travel and sustainable lifestyle inspiration. He and his partner live in the Caribbean and strive to promote ocean protection through social media.