Many people have concerns about their environmental impact when they travel -that goes beyond carbon emissions. When I travel, I consider the amount of materials I use and what eventually happens to the waste I leave behind. Traveling lightly is a good way to reduce the environmental impacts of your travel and also saves you money.
Traveling lightly allows you to cut down on the resources you consume as you venture out into the world. By purchasing fewer items, you are lowering the demand for said items and the materials used in their creation. This is also means there is less waste left to dispose of.
When I took a 22-pound/10-kilo backpack to Australia for my one-month trip, versus the allowed two pieces of luggage at 50 pounds/23 kilos each, I was contributing to fuel and emissions savings for the plane. It may not seem like much, but the accumulation of small gains adds up.
A smaller backpack or suitcase also saves on your travel costs. Many airlines have adopted a policy to charge for the weight you bring aboard. While I did pay for checking in a backpack in Australia, I paid less than I could have with more stuff. It may be a savings of $5 or $20 here and there, but that saved $20 towards travel could mean having an experience I otherwise wouldn’t of had.
Here are some good ways to travel lighter, I learnt throughout my travels:
Determine what you need vs what you want
Do you need to have a blow-dryer, three brushes, hair spray and gel, or can you get by – and perhaps thrive – with simply a brush? Are two pairs of walking shoes essential, rather than one good durable pair? Do you have an expedition class first-aid kit, or one stocked with the necessities to treat the most likely conditions you will encounter? This list will be different for everyone, but it is a great place to start.
Pack multiple-use items
Taking a minimal approach, I personally use Dr Bronner’s soap and baking soda as toiletries, packed in reusable containers. Bronner’s can be used to wash my hands, as body wash, shampoo, laundry soap, and dish soap. Baking soda was my deodorant, toothpaste, cleaning/scouring solution, and is much cheaper than buying all the items separately. Being natural solutions, these items don’t add further chemicals to the drainage system of where you are traveling.
Remember your trip with photos and video
Using a camera or smartphone to capture the magical moments of your trip further reduces the amount of items you are carrying. Sharing your memories via social media and upon your return, rather than purchasing, carrying, and transporting souvenirs, limits the amount of resources you are using. Your luggage ends up lighter that it would be with a physical souvenir from each destination.
Plan clothing in layers, adding and subtracting as the weather changes. This reduces the amount of clothing you pack, and relates both to multiple-use items, and wants versus needs. Pack one athletic outfit that can be used to hike, run, do yoga, or relax at night rather than one hiking outfit, one running outfit, yoga pants, and lounging attire. A water- and windproof jacket plus a fleece shirt provide layering options for clothing, while pulling double-duty as a pillow.
Traveling lightly can mean something different to each person. What are some of the ways that you choose to travel lightly?