Sustainable Swaps Your Suitcase (and the Planet) Will Love When You Next Travel

With travel restrictions lifting, people are eager to get back out and experience the world again – but with exploring comes the inevitable impact on the environment. Keen to pack more mindfully for your next adventure and embrace sustainable travel? Read on!

While sun-drenched beach escapes with the family and romantic weekend getaways are firmly back on the calendar, many travellers are also thinking more responsibly about the impact of their trips. In fact, recent sustainable travel research reveals that traveling more sustainability is important to 72% of Kiwi travellers*, according to the findings (conducted by Additionally, almost half (42%) of Kiwi travellers say that recent news about climate change has been the impetus to make more sustainable travel choices. So, as new holiday plans come into place, what other actions can be taken to safeguard the planet more while setting out to explore it? 

Traveling more sustainably isn’t just about the places visited or the methods of transport taken to get there. It can start before ever leaving home by taking a more mindful approach to packing your bags. By carefully considering the contents, as well as packing a little lighter, travellers can keep their personal travel footprint to a minimum. Less weight means planes burn fuel more slowly and, with 19% of Kiwi travellers in the past year choosing to travel lighter as a result, it’s a positive step towards reducing the carbon emissions associated with their trips. Travellers escaping to their chosen destinations by train, car, bike, boat or foot, can also pack a few mindful essentials that will help them further minimise their impact. So if you’re keen to pack a sustainable suitcase for your next big adventure, here’s some little things you can do to really make a difference:

Trusty eco-friendly toiletries

Bathroom cabinet contents have benefited from an eco-makeover in recent years, with more sustainable options now available in place of toiletries that use non-recyclable plastic. For those who are keen to pack lighter and more sustainably, there are game-changing shampoo and conditioner bars which don’t use plastic packaging and won’t weigh a case down.

For travellers planning to take to the water on their getaway, consider the sustainable credentials of your SPF too – particularly travellers who will be visiting and swimming in areas with sensitive ecosystems such as coral reefs. The chemicals in sunscreen can be harmful to the ocean and aquatic life, so ensure its labelled ‘reef-safe’ or ‘ocean-friendly’ before it makes its way into the suitcase. Likewise with mosquito repellent – some chemicals can be damaging to the planet, so consider switching to a natural option that uses citronella or peppermint instead to keep the bugs away. These simple switches are a great option for the more than half (60%) of Kiwi travellers who consider preserving the wildlife and natural habitats of their chosen destinations a key part of sustainable travel.

Embrace zero waste

It’s no secret that limiting single-use plastic is one of the greatest environmental challenges faced, with an estimated 91% of plastic currently not recycled and ending up in the ocean or landfill. Travellers can make some simple swaps when packing, thinking about what reusable items they could pack for their travels rather than relying on single use options.

Many Kiwi travellers are already considering dinner time sustainable swaps, with 61% planning to be more conscious about their food consumption while traveling, such as choosing more vegan or vegetarian options, or eating organic/locally sourced foods. But it can also be more than what’s on the plate. If eating at a food market or dining on street food, then drop in some bamboo cutlery to avoid the single-use ones on offer. Sampling the local cocktail selection? Pack a metal straw and BYO to the bar. For those planning to do some shopping? Pack a tote bag to carry purchases.

Travellers can also make sustainable swaps while staying hydrated. Instead of purchasing single-use plastic bottles of water during trips, consider a stainless-steel alternative, which can be used for years and keep it topped up with drinking water wherever possible. For those venturing to destinations where the water might not be safe to drink, or those relying on natural water sources on camping and hiking trips, there’s eco-friendly options too. Consider water purification tablets or a UV-light purifier – a small, lightweight wand-like item that emits UV light to destroy bacteria, viruses and protozoa (parasites) in water.

Thinking ahead about the reusable switches when travelling means travellers will naturally pack more mindfully.

Sustainable style

For some people, having a holiday ‘outfit of the day’ (OOTD) is even more important to them than picking what to wear at home. But that’s not to say that the OOTD can’t be a sustainable choice. Avoid over-packing by thinking about those versatile wardrobe staples that can be worn a few times over – a Capsule wardrobe, if you will (see what we did there?) Or take a colour-coordinated approach, so more of the clothes mix and match and work well together. If travelling for a longer trip, consider packing lighter and doing laundry on the move. Many places to stay have a laundry service available or are often close to a laundry facility. There’s a plethora of eco-friendly laundry options available these days, from detergent sheets and strips to refillable options to switch to at home and decant a small amount for travels. These options mean a lightweight option to pack, but also completely reduce plastic packaging.

Whether a consciously sustainable traveller like the two in five (40%) Kiwi travellers now bringing their own products to minimise their impact or just looking for a few smart swaps to be more mindful during their next trip, thinking about what goes into the suitcase is a great way to have a more positive impact on the environment even before the actual travelling begins. Sustainable travel, kids – it’s here to stay!


*Research commissioned by and independently conducted among a sample of 30,314 respondents across 32 countries and territories (including 486 from New Zealand). In order to participate in this survey, respondents had to be 18 years of age or older, had to have travelled at least once in the past 12 months and must be planning to travel in 2022, and be either the primary decision maker or involved in the decision making of their travel. The survey was taken online and took place in February 2022.

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