5 Eco-friendly Packing Tips

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How green is your suitcase?

According to the International Trade Administration, roughly 60.3 million Americans traveled abroad last year—and if their packing strategies are anything like mine, almost an entire box of Ziploc bags went into the making of each of their carry-on items.

“Green” packing might sound like an oxymoron, but it can be, at least partially, achieved through subtle adjustments to packaging materials and supplies for the road. Here are five tips on what to bring and how to pack for your next eco-friendly trip:

1. Invest in reusable snack bags.

Air travel is hard. Air travel without snacks is cruel and unusual punishment. Sites like ReUseIt.com have environmentally friendly snack containers that can be reused to prevent Ziploc overload. Their sandwich bags are lightweight, moisture resistant and easy to clean. If your destination hotel has a nearby grocer, you might save on eating-out costs by packing sandwiches for a picnic at a local park. The Flip & Tumble bags provide an alternative to plastic produce bags for bulkier items, and they’re perfect for stashing odds and ends in the hotel room.

2. Use a clear Tupperware container for toiletries. (Reader Tip)

Travelers often pack toiletries in disposable bags to protect the clothes from accidents, but a clear Tupperware container works even better in preventing spills. Keep in mind that this tip might not work if your toiletries are in a carry-on bag, especially if the container isn’t entirely clear, because TSA agents must be able to easily identify the contents. However, the container can also prove useful for knickknack storage at the hotel. If you’ve emptied out your toiletry containers by the end of the trip, you can then pad the Tupperware with a washcloth and turn it into a safeguard for breakable souvenirs on the long trek back home.

3. Opt for re-chargeable batteries.

Travel alarm clocks, cameras, flashlights, and toys all need batteries. Re-chargeable batteries may require a charger—but that takes up about the same amount of space as a pack of extra disposable batteries. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends checking Call2Recycle for information on how to recycle rechargeable batteries as well as tips on maximizing battery life.

4. Reduce plastic waste by treating your own water.

Depending on your destination, tap water may or may not result in a hospital run, so it’s unadvisable to write off bottled water altogether. The SteriPEN, Micropur tablets, the Outback Water-Bottle Filter, and other purifiers offer alternatives that at least reduce (if not eliminate) the need for plastic bottles. An extensive list including the pros and cons of each method can be found on Matador.

5. Wrap the gifts after landing. It’ll save trees.

It wouldn’t feel like Christmas if airport security checkpoints weren’t covered in shredded candy striped paper. Remember that TSA may unwrap and search any package before you board the plane (yes, even Christmas gifts), so this year, save the boxes and bows for after your arrival.

This list is hardly complete, but it’s a starting point. Tell us your best eco-packing trips in the comments!

—Chabli Bravo


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