Your Sustainable Travel Packing List

Sustainable Guides makes planning remarkable yet responsible itineraries easy. Having said that, embarking on a responsible and environmentally-conscious trip isn’t all about choosing where to eat, sleep and visit. There are a number of things sustainable travellers should do, which don’t fall into the trusty hands of ethical businesses. Read on to find out what to pack. Here is your sustainable travel packing list!

What is a sustainable travel packing list?

Whilst choosing to shop at an environmentally-focused apparel company allows for you to relax and browse with supply chains and strict regulations taken care of behind the scenes, there are times when you will be left to choose your own path. In other words, some decision making you simply must take responsibility for yourself. Opting for public transport, over hiring a car is one good example of how this works during a holiday.

So, when you’re not lounging at your hotel, taking an organised walking tour or eating lunch in one of our recommended restaurants, how can you make sure you’re making the right choices and keeping your plastic waste and carbon footprint at bay? Some sustainability tips and tricks, you simply must learn. One excellent way to ensure that you’re prepared for your trip, is by packing well.

By this, we don’t mean deciding whether to opt for the clothes rolling method over the clothes folding method. Less about how to pack a bag, we’re concerned with what you choose to buy and then pack into a bag, in order to make your trip more sustainable.

In the remainder of this article, we share some sustainable travel packing list essentials to help you on your way to low waste and responsible holidaying!

lush store with sustainable hygiene products
LUSH store in Singapore

Which hygiene and beauty items should you pack for a sustainable trip?

Aside from harbouring some harmful chemicals, hygiene and beauty products also conjure up a whole lot of plastic waste. Think about your shampoo and conditioner bottles alone and how many you’ve used in your lifetime. Think about all the toothbrushes you’ve ever used, and consider that they all still exist somewhere in the world today. Mind-blowing, but also very alarming. Let this sustainable travel packing list guide you to a less plastic-intensive hygiene and beauty kit.

Shampoos, soaps and other bars

As a result, a number of people are turning towards bars for their shampoo, conditioner, soap and deodorant needs. Bars are ideal for travellers, since when they’re kept in a reusable container they pose no risk of leaking. Plus, you can take as many as you like with you, with no liquid limits to worry about for your flight.

LUSH, with stores in all corners of the world, is a great place to go for these kinds of products. LUSH is vegan, cruelty-free, low-waste, uses no harsh chemicals and is palm free, making their product labels appealing to the conscious and ticking all the boxes for the environmentally-minded. What’s more, consumers can head back into store with their old pots and can refill containers to avoid plastic waste.

Of course there are a great deal of other stores and brands which offer eco-friendly hygiene and beauty products. Throwing ‘soap bars’, ‘shampoo bars’, ‘sustainable beauty products’ and so on, into google will reveal endless choices. If possible, shop local and support a business around the corner!

sustainable packaging free soap

Razors and toothbrushes

On top of the products you buy which smell amazing, you’ll also want to invest in some other reusable ‘bathroom’ items such as toothbrushes and razors. Something like this reusable razor will not only last you a lifetime, but it actually feels exciting to just own one considering how pretty it is. A reusable razor can last you a lifetime, and all you’ll need to do is occasionally change the blade.

When you consider the following statistic, you’ll probably want to grab one right away.

“The Environmental Protection Agency once estimated that 2 billion razors and refill blades get tossed out in the U.S. each year.”

Toothbrushes are much are the same. According to National Geographic:

“The American Dental Association suggests that everyone replace their toothbrushes every three or four months. At that rate, brushers in the U.S. alone would go through over one billion toothbrushes each year.”

Getting your hands on a bamboo toothbrush – one which is compostable and which will not remain in landfill for a thousand years – is a pretty easy task. Even big brands like Colgate now offer bamboo toothbrushes whilst a myriad of smaller companies also provide similar products.

Pack a bamboo toothbrush and a life-long razor into your bag and you’ll be travelling zero-waste with no danger of contributing to your destination’s plastic problem. Your sustainable travel packing list is incomplete without these!

sustainable travel snorkelling

Reef-safe suncream

It should be considered that not all sustainable behaviours during a holiday come in the form of saving waste from landfill. Helping to protect oceans can also mean using reef-safe suncream and protecting coral reefs from degradation. Regular sunscreens contain chemicals which can be directly linked to the destruction of marine life and in particular, coral. For your own information, these destructive chemicals are the following: oxybenzone, octyl methoxycinnamate, butylparaben and enzacamene.

To avoid using suncreams with these substances, opt for reef-safe creams. Two excellent examples include Sukin’s sunscreen and ThinkSport.

Other hygiene and beauty products for your travels:

reusable sustainable coffee cup

Which containers, bottles and cups should be on a sustainable travel packing list?

Coffee cups

The answer to the above question is easy really. A container, bottle or cup that is sustainable is one that you reuse for years. Commonplace in many countries across the world right now are keep cups, reusable coffee cups, BYO cups, or whatever you like to call them. Before work, or during a lunch break we witness workers heading to cafes with their reusable vessels, which often see them eligible for BYO discounts. On weekends, people head out with friends equipped with cup in hand, and collect their favourite drinks in their BYO cups before taking a stroll. You get the picture; BYO cups are becoming somewhat normal everyday items, which is great news for the planet.

But where does this mentality go when we travel? During a conversation with Katie Shammas (Sustainability Engagement Manager at the City of Sydney), our conversation turned to BYO products and personal responsibility on holiday:

“I think it’s fairly easy in your day-to-day life to take your keep cup to your local cafe and to carry a water bottle. But when we travel somewhere, that whole mentality of being on holiday comes in and we’re not as organised. I would love for visitors to come to Sydney with their own BYO kit that includes a water bottle, a keep cup and a reusable bag as a minimum.Read the full article here.

Naturally, we couldn’t agree more with this. Organisation and responsibility don’t have to be thrown out the window upon takeoff. Pack a keep cup in your bag and you might find yourself saving ten coffee cups and lids from landfill across the duration of your two week holiday.

Might we add, the added beauty of BYO cups is that they come in all different shapes and sizes too. Some are collapsable and perfect for travel, others are totally sealable, some are made of glass, some of plastic or metal, and others are absolutely beautifully designed or decorated. Do your research, find one that makes you feel proud to carry around and pack it in your bag next time you take a trip.

Our keep cup of choice comes from Frank Green.

frank green sustainable reusable bottle
Pic credit: Frank Green

Water bottles

If you thought 2 billion reusable razor blades was a lot of waste, wait until you hear about plastic bottles. According to the organisation Habits of Waste:

“Americans used about 50 billion plastic water bottles last year.”

Let’s not forget that this statistic refers only to America, too. Similar to coffee cups, water bottles fill the oceans and are packed into landfill at alarming rates. However at Sustainable Guides, we see choosing your water bottle an exciting task! With so many brands to choose from, so many styles, colours and patterns, picking a bottle is actually a pretty exciting activity. Your sustainable travel packing list is incomplete without a Frank Green bottle. This company that makes reusable water bottles endlessly cool, whilst also spreading admirable eco-friendly messages.

Once you’ve got your bottle in hand, add it to your sustainable packing list. Depending on where you’re headed, hotels and hostels are likely to offer either safe tap water or cool water tanks where you can fill up before setting out each day to explore.

Other containers and utensils for your travels:

On top of bringing a bottle and keep cup, our top tips for a sustainable trip include:

  • Reusable cutlery such as this from Ekoroo
  • An empty container or Tupperware box (you never know when you might want to buy a piece of cake or sticky pastry)
  • Metal straws (consider whether this is actually necessary before purchase)
  • Anything else useful and nifty that you can find in stores such as: Biome (Australia), Natural Collection (UK) or  Earth Hero (USA).
travel tote bag for packing

Which clothes and bags are sustainable travel friendly?


The answer to the above question isn’t so easy, but we’ll shed some light on it.

Carrying an extra bag with you throughout a day of exploration in a new city is highly recommended. Upon walking past clothing stores, you might just buy yourself a souvenir. Whilst browsing bakery windows, you might grab a treat for later, and before heading back to your accommodation you might need to head to a supermarket for dinner ingredients. For all of this, you’ll need a bag and it’s best that this isn’t made of single-use plastic. Whilst this might seem obvious, we don’t always bring an extra bag with us, and especially not on holiday.

Tote bags are a wonderful alternative to plastic bags. Lightweight, foldable, durable and often very personalised to your taste, they not only work well, but they can be used to complement an outfit or reveal aspects of your personality. Charities, restaurants, cafes, artists, clothing brands, NGOs, local cultural organisations and all sorts of other spots sell tote bags in order to promote their brands or spread a message. Resultantly, as someone looking for a tote bag, you have a great deal of choice. Find the perfect tote bag for you and make it count. Be proud to carry it around, and pop it into the bottom of your bag before you go away. You’ll never be stuck with too much to carry again.

clothes for your packing list


Whilst the topic of sustainable holiday clothing deserves a whole article in itself, we’d like to offer a few tips and encouraging words which might help you make better decisions regarding what to buy before a holiday, as well as what to pack.

Firstly, it goes without saying that most of us have enough clothes to take on a trip and we likely don’t need to buy anymore. Various sources suggest that 20% to 50% of our wardrobes harbour clothes we never wear. Often, we don’t wear these garments not because they’re unwearable, but simply because we forget about some and get bored of others.

So in this sustainable travel packing list we advise rediscovering old clothes for your holiday. Dive into the dingy depths of your wardrobe and plan to show off old clothes as if they’re new. If you find that you’re truly missing something vital (such as a warm jacket for a mountain hike, comfortable shoes for exploring the city, or a dress for dinner by the sea) try to make the most responsible decision possible. Here are our top tips and ideas:

  • Start looking for secondhand items in charity or vintage shops
  • Visit a friend’s house and borrow their clothes for the trip
  • Buy something from a small business locally when you arrive
  • Start researching sustainable brands*

*Some well-known brands such as Patagonia are great for outdoor gear and have pretty impeccable standards. On the other hand, whilst low-cost fashion brands should be avoided as much as possible, those such as Monki are making changes that actually make a difference. Spend some time doing your research, and not only will you be left with higher quality, long lasting items, but you’ll feel all the more excited to show off your new garments knowing that they were chosen in a conscious manner.

For more information about sustainable clothing take a look at this article about sustainable t-shirts.

Other sustainable fabrics for your travels:

Packing a Sustainable Guide

Sustainable Guides will soon release its first ebook travel guide, which will help travellers achieve a more environmentally and socially responsible trip to its first destination: Sydney.

Offering the best information available regarding where to eat, drink, sleep and explore, Sustainable Guides creates its travel guides with the environment and ethics in mind. We help to make your low-impact trip totally effortless. 

Follow us on Instagram or Facebook and stay tuned for the release of our travel guide ebooks.

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Your Pre-Trip Sustainability Checklist