You’ve booked your flight. You’ve found the perfect green accommodation. You’ve got work off, or you’re taking it with you. Now all that’s left before you set off on your vacation is what to pack. Figuring out the ultimate packing list often fills travelers with dread. Suddenly the smallest item feels larger than life when it comes to taking up your valuable real estate.
As a sustainable traveler you may feel even more overwhelmed, avoiding plastic “travel size” goodies and trying to find sustainable replacements.
Well, consider this article the answer to all your questions. Below you’ll find the ultimate packing list for any sustainable traveler so that you can have both a fun and sustainable trip.
Why Pack Eco-friendly Items?
If you’re interested in sustainable travel, your suitcase should definitely reflect that. Being a sustainable traveler isn’t just choosing sustainable activities and supporting ecotourism – it also means living sustainably. When you’re on the road, your lifestyle becomes your luggage.
If we’re truly going to lessen our impact on the places we visit, then what we pack needs to lessen that impact as well.
All that aside, packing sustainable items will often directly benefit us as travelers. Sustainable products can weigh less, serve more than one purpose so they take up less space, and save us money on our travels. What traveler wouldn’t want all that?
Below you’ll find the ultimate packing list filled with the best eco-friendly, must have items for travel. We’ve included our favorite sustainable brand recommendations but we encourage you to do your own research if none of these products fit what you’re looking for.
The Ultimate Packing List for the Sustainable Traveler:
Sustainable or Zero Waste Toiletries:
Shampoo and Conditioner Bars
As a traveler, this eco-friendly travel item is a serious game changer. When I swapped from bottles to bars, I saved money, since bars last longer, and freed up a considerable amount of weight. Full size hair care items are heavy but bars weigh almost nothing- plus they can be packed in a carry-on since they aren’t liquid.
For these reasons alone, the switch was worthwhile. When it comes to sustainability however, bars are a zero-waste alternative and depending on the brand you choose, they are usually made from paraben and toxin free ingredients.
A wonderful company we recommend is Ethique, a cruelty free, vegan and climate positive company that ships worldwide.
Choosing soap over bodywash is a great way to reduce plastic, but choosing biodegradable, ethically sourced soap is the ultimate eco-friendly swap. Plus, just like above, swapping from body wash to soap will definitely lighten your luggage and allow you to pack your soap on your carry-on.
Ethique also happens to make fantastic biodegradable soap in various, natural scents.
Razors are a staple item for most of us but guess what, they end up in landfills in huge quantities and take a long time to break down. When traveling, disposable razors often seem like the easiest option which is why we need to make them an eco-friendly option.
There are a few sustainable options when it comes to razors- you can choose plastic free disposable razors, or steel safety razors, both of which are recyclable.
Over 50 million pounds of waste is made from toothbrushes in the United States each year. That’s a lot! As a sustainable traveler let’s not contribute to that waste worldwide. While it’s pretty much impossible for a toothbrush to be zero waste, as we eventually have to replace it, you can choose options that break down easily and are sustainably made.
Bamboo toothbrushes are a fan favorite and Sustainable Travel & Living makes some great bamboo travel kits.
No one likes to smell bad so many of us may be hesitant when switching to natural deodorant. There’s really nothing to worry about however, with so many fantastic brands on the market making smell proof, non-toxic, aluminum and plastic free deodorant.
My personal favorite is Raw Sugar, which makes completely plastic free and biodegradable vegan deodorant in lovely scents. Ethique also produces bar deodorant, which is another great option that’s completely packaging free.
Plastic Free Toothpaste
Not only are toothpaste tubes not carry-on approved, they also negatively affect the environment. Over a billion toothpaste tubes find their way to landfills each year, taking years to break down.
A great, eco-friendly alternative is to choose sustainable toothpaste. This includes toothpaste sold in recycled and recyclable tubes, toothpaste tablets or solid toothpaste.
One of my favorite solid toothpastes, sold in glass jars, is from Uncle Harry’s. A great toothpaste tablet brand is Etee, which has subscription options. They send refills in fully compostable bags and ship worldwide.
Reef Safe Sunscreen
Chances are your vacation may involve a trip to the beach or long hours in the sun sightseeing. If so, eco-friendly sunscreen should be a priority. Not only is traditional sunscreen filled with toxic ingredients that you shouldn’t be putting on your skin, but it’s definitely not good for the environment.
4,000 to 6,000 tons of sunscreen end up in the ocean every year due to beach goers and this greatly damages coral reefs and marine life. We can easily fix this by choosing reef safe, plastic free sunscreen.
While there is a plethora of options available these days, some particularly fantastic, zero-waste sunscreens to bring on your travels are surfer approved Raw Elements, vegan By Robin Creations and Dirty Hippie with an added natural bug repellent.
Eco-Friendly Bug Repellent
When putting together your ultimate packing list, you definitely don't want to forget the bug spray. Not many people like mosquito repellent – the strong, chemical smell is not exactly appealing and it usually leaves skin sticky. Plus, conventional brands like DEET are sold in plastic bottles and are highly toxic.
Swapping out your bug spray for a sustainable one not only benefits your skin, but also the environment.
Check out Kinfield– a sustainable brand that’s paraben and cruelty free, and vegan. Kinfield even has their own recycling program for the parts of the bottle that aren’t easily recycled at home.
Reusable Cotton Rounds
It can be difficult when traveling to get regular access to wash cloths or extra towels to wash your face or remove makeup. Without them, we’re bound to waste water trying to wash our faces or use disposable, wasteful cotton rounds. There is an easier, sustainable alternative- reusable cotton rounds!
Cocokind makes cute, sustainable, quick dry rounds from bamboo. They come in a pack of 14 and when you’ve used them all, you can just throw them in the wash with your clothes. Plus, they are super lightweight making them travel friendly.
This wouldn't be an ultimate packing list if we didn't include period care. If you’re a woman and you’re making a sustainable products list, you can’t forget sustainable period care! Menstrual cups are such a game changer. Not only is it often difficult to find tampons worldwide, but both tampons and pads are incredibly wasteful and not exactly cheap.
Menstrual cups lessen your environmental impact and save you a lot of money and effort.
Saalt is a fantastic brand that makes great quality, BPA and toxin free cups as well as period underwear. Plus, they donate menstrual care to women all over the world.
Reusable Cotton Swabs
When putting together your ultimate packing list, you probably wouldn’t think about cotton swabs. These items can be found everywhere and at a cheap price, but they are certainly not sustainable.
1.5 million disposable swabs are produced every single day, only to be thrown in the trash or flushed down the toilet, making their way to our oceans and further contributing to plastic pollution.
Fear not- there is an easy solution. Reusable cotton swabs are having a moment, and they are a game changer, like LastObject.
These handy swabs are zero waste, super easy to clean and each swab lasts up to 1000 uses. You’ll cut costs and lessen your environmental impact without adding any weight to your luggage.
Shop here and use our discount code (hiddenlemur) to get 10% off.
Travel Laundry Soap Bars
Speaking from experience, finding natural, eco-friendly laundry detergent while traveling is incredibly hard. This is a sustainable travel item I would recommend packing if you’re going away long enough to do laundry, especially when brands now offer lightweight, easy to carry options.
For laundry bars to use when hand washing clothes, I have to give another shout out to Ethique for their awesome bars. You should also check out these easy to pack, biodegradable laundry strips from Ten Tree.
Sustainable Travel Gear:
Ethically Made Backpacks
Backpacks are required for any traveler, and may just be the most essential travel product to date. Ensure you choose an option that’s sustainable and ethically made if you’re looking for a new one for your travels.
For a full breakdown on sustainable backpacks, especially tech and traveler focused ones, click here.
Eco-Friendly Toiletry Bag
To ensure peak sustainability it only makes sense that your eco-friendly toiletries are packed in a sustainable toiletry bag. There are many different options to choose from, be it fully recycled bags or plastic free tubes and pouches.
An awesome platform to shop from is Sustainable Travel and Living, which features numerous sustainable options for any traveler.
Environmentally Friendly Luggage
There’s no ultimate packing list without something to pack your sustainable goodies in. Finding high quality travelers gear is essential, and that can now include sustainable luggage. From duffel bags, to rollers, to hard case or soft case luggage, you have so many options to choose from.
Microfiber Washing Bag
If you own any synthetic clothes or clothes made from recycled plastics, each wash contributes to microplastic pollution in our oceans- 7,000 synthetic fibers are released in one load of laundry.
By packing a microfiber washing bag in your luggage, you can prevent this. These bags block microfibers from releasing into the water.
For this reason alone, we've included it on the ultimate packing list as a sustainable essential. One source of a great bag: Guppyfriend.
If you’re about to go shopping for new clothes for your trip, make sure you’re choosing sustainable options. There are so many wonderful sustainable clothing brands to choose from.
Last but not least, don’t forget sustainable footwear! Allbirds make amazing runners and slip ons to power you through any tour.
Your ultimate packing list isn’t complete without sustainable packing cubes. Packing cubes are essential for keeping your luggage organized and utilizing space. Thankfully, you can even find eco-friendly packing cubes these days.
Ten Tree makes a wonderful lightweight set made from recycled polyester.
This was one thing I personally forgot to pack when I started traveling and instantly regretted it. Tote bags have become a staple travel item for me and definitely belong on this ultimate packing list. Many countries have eliminated plastic bags, which is incredible, but it also means they don’t provide bags at the grocery store.
Bringing your own eco-friendly tote bag will prevent you from having to purchase multiple abroad. Plus you can use it when you’re shopping at the wonderful local markets or as an easy day bag.
Kotn makes high quality sustainable totes from organic cotton.
Reusable Water Bottle
No eco-friendly travel checklist is complete without a reusable water bottle. If you’re only going to make one sustainable packing swap, then this should be it.
Reusable water bottles drastically cut down your single use plastic waste while traveling and help you stay hydrated throughout the day.
While you can find high quality reusable water bottles just about anywhere these days, some brands we recommend are Give me Tap, which provides clean water to communities in Ghana, and LARQ which has a built-in purification system.
If you’re bouncing around from hostel to hotel, on trains and planes, you might be going through a lot of disposable coffee cups throughout the day. That waste adds up which isn’t exactly sustainable.
Packing a lightweight, reusable mug or cup is a fantastic item for any beverage loving sustainable traveler.
While many countries have banned plastic straws and provide awesome alternatives, just as many still do not. Why not travel with your own reusable straw? It’s lightweight and takes up virtually no space.
Disclaimer: Hey reader! Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase using any of these links, we'll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Hidden Lemur is committed to promoting sustainable travel, and we only partner with brands that we believe contribute positively to that cause.