There are so many reasons why packing light can save the planet. It's not just about the bag and its contents - it's about your movements, your change in mindset over what you really need, and how you think about what you carry.
A lighter bag uses less fuel.
I actually don't know the science behind this, but I do know that airlines have gone to great lengths to lighten things up - lighter utensils, lighter packaging, lighter seats. So it makes sense that lighter bags will help the fuel consumption too.
I live in New Zealand, so flying is our only option to get off this island nation.
A light bag makes it easy to use cheaper local transport.
Having a small bag means it is super easy to jump on a bus, grab a train, or get aboard a ferry to your next destination. Or even if you're out and about town doing touristy stuff, catching the local tram or the bus around town is incredibly easy to negotiate with your carry on bag.
I think my favourite travel moment is when I can check-out of my accommodation early with my bag on my back. I can then do some touristy stuff before I'm due at the train or bus station.
When you have the option of train or plane - let me point out the positives of train travel...
- Train stations are often located centrally, so you don't need to get a taxi out to the airport.
- You don't have really long check-in times.
- You get to enjoy the scenery out the window.
- There's more space on trains, making it easier to move around.
Catching a scooter to my Tai Chi school near Yangshou, China.
Save fuel by walking!
This is probably the best thing about travelling with just a carry on bag - you can walk!
- I walked to the train station in Naples rather than catch a cab.
- I hiked between accommodation for five hours on the Cinque Terre in Italy with my bag attached.
- I avoided the bus and funicular queues on the island of Capri when I walked up the track to Anacapri.
I love walking, mainly because I can see things at a much slower pace. But it's also very satisfying having that sense of independence.
Hiking between accommodation in Italy.
Travelling light gets you thinking about what you really need.
What do you really need to travel with? How many tops do you need? Do you absolutely need to take EVERYTHING in your bathroom cabinet????
Travelling light has got me thinking about what I really need - and not just on the road, but at home too. I cleared out my wardrobe and now have clothing that's long-lasting, mixes and matches with other items, and I've reduced cosmetics and toiletries to just what I need.
It's been mind-blowing. It really has made me think BEFORE I BUY!
- Do I really need this?
- Do I already have something like it?
- Could I borrow off a friend or family member?
Those things that we only use once in a blue moon can be lent to others. My silk sleep sheet has had several trips with my colleagues and family borrowing it. This is really something to think about for those items that you really only may use once or twice, and then it sits in your closet gathering dust and never moving.
Most of your travel wardrobe exists in your wardrobe already. Don't buy stuff just for travel. Buy things you'll use lots of times.
I spend hours contemplating a purchase before I actually buy. And more often than not, I don't end up buying as I think of another solution or option.
If reducing your travel toiletries is a struggle for you - check out this blog to help you.
All packed for China back in 2019.
Carrying reusable utensils and containers.
On my first trip I carried one of my kids plastic cereal bowls and a spork.
It's a spoon, fork and knife all in one. Perfectly capable of cutting a tomato, cheese and bread. But also great for eating pasta or cereal.
It's so slim-fitting that it often lives in my handbag.
I do carry plastic bags - but they have been used over and over again. My shoe bag is made from a newspaper cover that I got off my Mum FOUR years ago! It's still going strong.
I also wash the plastic bags and reuse them to hold food like nuts and dried fruit for travel snacks.
And I did have a really shabby plastic bottle but it finally gave up the ghost after three years.
My last tip on food, is to sit down and drink or eat. Coffee and food tastes a hell of a lot nicer on proper plates.
Although back in 2019 I was pretty shocked seeing the amount of disposable utensils used in New York eateries, and the presentation and wrapping of food in so much plastic . When I asked them why, the answer was because "then we don't need to wash dishes." I pulled out my spork in defiance - after I'd pulled off the plastic wrap from the plastic cup in this 'organic, healthy cafe'.
Sit down for your cup of coffee - reducing takeaway cup usage.
Handwashing saves the earth.
No machines are required for handwashing, just your bare hands.
On the road, I wash two or three items every second night, in a small tub of water. I would probably use five litres of water washing and rinsing each load.
Back home, my clothing is aired between wears so it doesn't need washing after every wear. I can easily wear my merino/smartwool clothing - socks, tees, tops - for a week before they need a wash.
I'm not perfect at saving the planet...
No, I'm definitely not perfect at saving the planet, but I do believe that every little action counts towards something.
Yes, I know I fly, but I work extra hard to try and reduce my impact on the earth through other ways.
I do believe travelling light has the benefits of reducing our impact. Even if it's just shopping for less travel gear. It all counts.
Want to know more about my back story and how I started this whole light travel thing. Read my story on how solo and light travel saved my midlife!