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Pack green: Eco-friendly travel essentials for a sustainable suitcase

Travelling
5 minute guide

It’s that time of year again, when everyone’s minds are on their next holiday. This year why not see how green you can make your going away bag with these eco-friendly travel essentials.

Georgina Wilson-Powell 29 May 2019

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Ah summer, how I’ve missed you. I can’t be the only one longing to rescue the suitcase from under the bed, and start flinging in long floaty dresses, suncream and sunglasses before heading for a week of sun, sea and slow living?

However it can be easy to abandon sustainable principles when we go on holiday if you're not prepared, but it’s never been easier to replace the usual suitcase favourites and travel essentials with greener, more ethical options - from the wafty kimono to reef-friendly suncream.

Read on for some of my favourite eco-friendly travel essentials for a more sustainable suitcase. Not only will you be helping the planet, you’ll have the most stylish packing going.

Suncream

Normal, high street suncream might stop you burning but it isn’t good for the ocean as it damages coral reefs. Chemicals found in it, like oxybenzone and octinoxate are toxic to coral eco-systems and all those snorkellers and swimmers who coat their bodies in suncream are inadvertently killing off the coral.   

Last year, Hawaii and the Pacific island of Palau banned regular suncream, that contains these chemicals.

Instead, try REN Skincare’s Clean Screen Mineral SPF. Not only is it vegan, and plant-based instead of chemical based, but it also uses 50% recycled plastic packaging that can be recycled again and again. The matt cream is absorbed quickly into skin and contains a broad spectrum of UVA/UVB and blue light protection.


Click here for our 7 best natural, organic and non-toxic suncreams

Zero waste chemical free suncream from REN Skincare

Ditch the chemicals in your suncream and help the coral reefs

Sunglasses

Did you know your sunglasses can do more than just make you look good? PALA eyewear give back to programmes that help restore people's sight, for every pair bought. They also work with a Ghanaian-based NGO to support weaving communities to make our protective sunglasses cases and use recycled acetate and bio-based materials to create their ethical sunnies.

Click here for more sustainable sunglasses options.

Pala make ethical sunglasses that give back

Go for sunnies that support other people this summer

Washbag

The humble washbag. If you’re anything like me, then you might hang onto one of these for years.

New eco travel brand,OneNine5, have re-designed this holiday essential to be something that works for a more circular economy. Their eco-friendly washbags are made from 100% recycled plastic. It can be recycled after use and includes a detachable clear bag so you don’t need to pick up any single use, see through bags for security.

And each bag is full of pockets - for everything from your bamboo toothbrush to a hidden pocket for valuables and it can be hung up. Perfect for camping, festivals or checking into a five star hotel.

Eco-friendly travel swaps - OneNine5

Pack an eco-friendly washbag you can be proud of

Travel outfit

Hands up who has embraced the slouchy, comfy airplane outfit? Asquith make incredibly soft loose fit harem pants and batwing style tops that will keep you warm on the way out and cool on the way back (especially if you’ve got sunburn). Their clothing is designed to last and made ethically in Turkey from organic cotton and bamboo so it’s super soft on skin and will let it breathe even when you’re squashed in row 56.

Eco-friendly travel swaps - Asquith organic cotton clothes

Cosy up in organic cotton with Asquith no matter where you're travelling to

Wear everywhere holiday dress

Thankfully ethical fashion seems to have embraced the maxi-dress and waft around beautifully number. Gung Ho make a fabulous one size fits all, flattering every size dress that champions food waste through its bright patterns of veg and is made of super soft tencel (you won’t want to take it off).

For something more boho, check out Hansine’s dreamy kite dresses. Ethically made, sustainably sourced, they can be styled up and down from beach to bar - forget a million outfits and keep it simple.

Click here to discover more stunning summer dresses that are also sustainable.

Ethical summer dresses from gung ho and Hansine

One dress does everything. L: Gung Ho's protein power dress. R: Hansine's wear anywhere kite dress.

Useful bags

Every holiday needs a range of bags - who’s with me? I love the Greta-loving organic cotton tote bag from illustrator Ellie Good, plus La Pochette does a range of waterproof see through plastic (biodegradable solvent-free TPU)  and vegan leather bags that can be used at security to get your skincare essentials through or just to keep your travel stuff together. Their motive is to get rid of single use bags from your suitcase.

Need something more stylish for a posh meal out under the stars? BEEN London create their divine clutch bags out of recycled leather and plastic, using offcuts and surplus materials that others don’t want. Plus everything is made in London (I’m in love with the Rainforest Green one).

Useful plastic free bags for travel

How many different bags do you take on holiday?

Water bottle

Why is it that when we go on holiday we forget to say no to single use plastic bottles? Pack a vacuum bottle like Dopper and your cold water will stay cold even when you’ve been on a three hour hike up a hot hill and the unique cup-lid means its perfect for picnics when you want to pack something stronger as well.

Dopper reusable water bottle - travel essentials

Dopper's matt black stainless steel bottle comes with a screw cap cup that's great for picnics

Kaftan

No beach holiday is complete without a good ol’ kaftan for protecting skin that’s been thrust too suddenly into the Med-sun or hiding a few days of pizza belly. A Perfect Nomad has a stunning orange, 100% organic silk kimono that will have you feeling like running off an opening a yoga retreat in Ibiza. 

Ethically made kaftan from A Perfect Nomad

Indulge your inner Grecian goddess in A Perfect Nomad

Shoes

It’s hard to beat TOMS for holiday shoes. Comfy, stylish, vegan-friendly and affordable, packing the TOMS has become a ritual of going away each summer. We are loving these new vegan espadrilles that come with tassels.

Vegan shoes from TOMS for your holiday

Rock the tassels on the beach this summer with TOMS

Straws and cutlery

New brand Sucka offer stainless steel straws with a case and are one of the best plastic free, reusable straw options we've found for the UK. Sucka Straws come in a range of metallic colours and come with both a bent shape or a straight slurper option. From £1.99 each or get three for £9.99 with a reusable linen bag.

Bamboo cutlery sets weigh next to nothing and are brilliant for slinging in your carry on so you can avoid single use plastic at the airport and for all the picnics you will be having on your beach break. Pick up a set from your nearest zero waste shop or find one online. We love this bamboo cutlery set from No Plastic Shop.

Reusable plastic free straws

Pack reusable straws and cutlery especially if you're planning on hiking or picnicing while you're away

T-shirt

What’s the most useful item in your suitcase? The humble T-shirt.

If you want to move away from fast fashion chain numbers, there are no end of ethical Tshirts out there, and they don’t all cost a bomb. 

Organic Basics do what they say on the tin and create long lasting organic cotton white and black plain T-shirts for men and women; People Tree and Birdsong also have reasonably priced organic cotton women’s T-shirts. CD:UK do the same for men, as do Brothers We Stand.

Love a good slogan? BBC Earth has created a zero waste T-shirt, Sustainable Me, with ethical fashion factory, Teemills. It's partly made of recycled fibres, mixed with GOTS certified, organic cotton and you can send it back to be recycled when you're done - and get yourself money off your next one.

Zero waste Tshirt from BBC Earth

Don't forget to pack the ultimate essential - an organic cotton T-shirt

Solar charger

Techadvisor reckon that the Syncwire 16W Solar Charger is one of the best portable solar chargers out there. Not only will it charge two devices at once it also can be hung off anything with carabiners and nylon loops so you can charge as you go, whether you’re out hiking, cycling or driving. It’s weather resistant but not seriously waterproof.

Join the community for sustainable living, ethical fashion and eco travel

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