Travel tends to mess up a lot of our routines – from sleep schedules to regular workouts. It also can make it challenging to keep up zero-waste intentions, especially on travel days when everything sold in the airport is created for convenience and one-time use. But, being a conscious traveler means looking for small ways to reduce your impact even when you are en route to your destination and sitting at 30,000 feet in the sky. Small choices such as eating your in-flight meal with reusable utensils instead of plastic ones, carrying a reusable water bottle, charging your devices with a solar power bank, and keeping your feet warm with sustainably-made socks can make a significant difference and reduce your impact on our planet.
To help you pack with purpose and stay comfortable – even on the longest travel days – here are ten conscious carry-on travel essentials:
1. Eco-Friendly Backpack
First things first, you are going to need the right piece of luggage to hold all your belongings. Finding the ideal carry-on bag can feel like a never-ending challenge because we all have unique needs, but there are some fantastic eco-friendly options available. Last year, I purchased the Lo & Sons Hanover Deluxe and have been obsessed with it ever since (they have since come out with version 2). Made from 600D recycled poly, this carry-on friendly backpack has plenty of features to keep you organized during your flight and throughout your trip. Every little detail is perfect! Alternatively, The Prospect backpack converts to a briefcase, while The Rowledge converts to a tote making it perfect for those who travel a lot for business.
2. Reusable water bottle or coffee tumbler
Globally, 1 million plastic bottles are bought each minute, and approximately less than half are recycled. This is mind-blowing, considering there are so many reusable alternatives, such as the Welly Insulated Bamboo Bottle. These bottles are made from premium food-grade stainless steel and sustainably-harvested bamboo, with BPA-free plastic and silicone under the cap. The company also donates thousands of dollars annually to building clean-water wells in undeveloped countries. Hydro Flasks are another popular option as they are responsibly manufactured and designed to keep your drinks cold for 24 hours or hot for 12. They come in a range of different sizes, colors, and styles – so you are guaranteed to find one that fits your vibe. However, for frequent travelers, the Anti-Bottle from Vapur Inc. is ideal as it is designed to roll, flatten, and fold in your carry-on. And, don’t forget your reusable coffee straw!
3. Reusable utensil set
Having a reusable utensil set in your backpack is a great way to reduce waste while traveling. Even if you aren’t camping, reusable cutlery into your bags are essential eco-friendly travel accessories because you can whip them out on your flight to eliminate the use of plastic cutlery. You can also use them while traveling when you order takeaway or are dining in an eatery that only offers plastic forks and spoons. You will be amazed at how often they come in handy! This bamboo cutlery travel set includes a knife, spoon, fork, straw, cleaning brush, and chopsticks, ensuring you are prepared for any meal. Easy to use with comfortable handle design, the utensils can be kept in the army green bag to make them extra portable. Another option is the Bambu Spork & Cork, which is only 4” by 2” and comes in a washable cork fabric sleeve. Designed in Portland and produced with local materials in China, the Bambu spork is the ultimate all-in-one eating utensil.
4. Reusable snack bags & stainless steel containers
LunchSkins bags allow you to pack your midflight snacks sustainably. Made from natural wood pulp, these are 100 percent recyclable, as well as plastic- and BPA-free and devoid of toxic chemicals and waxes. Available with velcro or zipper closures, these sandwich and snack bags make it easy to skip the zip lock bags and opt for something a little more eco-friendly. Plus, by planning your snacks ahead of time, you can avoid paying exorbitant prices for unhealthy options inside the terminal. Stainless steel containers are useful for storing food items you may want to travel with, such as snacks or teas. This 2-Tier Stainless Steel Tiffin Set is lightweight, works great for both cold or hot food, and has a lid that doubles as a plate. Life Without Plastic offers a variety of food storage containers (for home and travel), Bentos and lunch boxes, and food wraps.
A couple of months ago, I bought a couple of Wafu handkerchieves from Topdrawer in Chicago (vlog here). Similar to other sustainable switches I have made, I can’t believe how easy it was to transition from using throw-away tissues to a handkerchief. While they are still seen as old-fashioned in the West, they are widespread in Asia, and you can find tons of new stylish ones online. Or, if you like the old-school vibe, you can find some in vintage stores or even ask your grandparents if they have some! Producing paper tissues consumes a LOT of resources – 1 sheet of paper alone uses up 10 liters (2.6 gallons) of water, which makes having a handkerchief a great sustainable switch. Keep a stack of clean handkerchieves in your bag in a small makeup bag with a zipper and then have another small bag to put the used ones. Then, next time you are doing a laundry load, throw the used ones in, and you will have clean handkerchieves in no time!
6. Reusable Paper Towels & Cloth Napkins
Paper towels are such an unnecessary waste, especially when you can purchase a 10-pack of reusable unpaper towels for under $20. Produced with carbon-neutral manufacturing and 100% GOTS certified (Global Organic Textile Standard), these are made from the highest quality organic cotton and can be washed over and over again. While they can replace paper towels in your home, they also can be throw in your backpack and taken with you while you are on the go. Use them after you wash your hands and to clean up inevitable spills. While they can also be used as napkins, you may also want to pack a couple of cloth napkins that you use solely while dining. Etsy has a beautiful collection of eco-friendly cloth napkins designed and made by creatives and entrepreneurs from around the world.
7. Bamboo Toothbrush & Travel Case
There is no better feeling than being able to clean your teeth after (or during) a flight. Every part of Brush With Bamboo’s toothbrush and travel case is plant-based. The soft bristles are made from a base of castor bean oil, and the handle and travel case are made from organic bamboo – making these products entirely natural and biodegradable. They also sell stainless steel tongue cleaners, bamboo hairbrushes and combs, bamboo drinking straws, and wood toothpicks.
8. Recycled Cotton Yarn Socks
Is there anything worse than having cold feet on a plane? If you are anything like me, there is no way you are getting comfortable while the cool air blows on your ankles. To help you out in this regard, try a pair from Solmate Socks, which are made from recycled cotton yarn. The company collects remnants from t-shirt factories that would typically go straight into a landfill and then re-spins them into their own thread! So cool. They have a range of different colors in crew, quarter, and knee styles, so you can ensure you have a pair that coordinates with the rest of your #ootd. And, by supporting Solmate, you are helping others as the company donates socks to various charity groups across the US, such as family services organizations, refugee centers, and homeless shelters.
9. Solar Power Banks
Never stress about your battery life again when traveling with a high-quality power bank. You can find plenty on the market in all shapes and sizes; but, your best option is to go for a solar-powered option that requires only a few hours of daylight. The Hiluckey Solar Charger is compatible with almost every electronic device and can fully charge your phone 8-10 times or tablet 3-4 times per charge. With two USB ports, you can charge two devices simultaneously, making it a must for any sustainable travel kit. For a more compact and lightweight option, the Amp Solar Charger from Voltaic is a fantastic option as it folds for compact storage and features a convenient mesh pocket to store charging cables and adapters. Plus, the fabric is made from recycled PET (soda bottles) and is waterproof and UV resistant.
10. Sustainably made headphones
Whether you are catching up on podcasts, taking advantage of the movie selection, or zoning out above the clouds with your downloaded playlists, headphones are essential for any flight – no matter where you are going. For conscious travelers, the best options come from Michigan-based House of Marley, who make all their products with earth-friendly materials – including bamboo, wood composite, recyclable aluminum, and organic cork. There is a range of options, including the Liberate Air wireless earbuds and the Postive Vibration 2 noise-canceling headphones with soft ear cushions. Every purchase gives back as the company supports One Tree Planted, a non-profit organization dedicated to global reforestation. To date, House of Marley has contributed to the planting of 191,000 trees.
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