14 recommendations for eco-friendly travel gear

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Looking to make your next trip a little greener? Start with your suitcase. Traveling with a lighter effect on the planet just got easier, thanks to innovations in recycled and sustainable material. Using recycled plastics and fishing nets, as well as post-industrial cotton that would otherwise end up in landfill, the following companies have prioritized sustainability and adventure.

Paravel Aviator ($350, tourparavel.com)

A carbon-neutral wheeled carry-on, the Aviator showcases the best of modern recycling. The suitcase features a recycled polycarbonate shell, recycled zippers, lining made from recycled plastic bottles and recycled vegan leather – a composite made from plastic – and a durable recycled aluminum telescopic handle. Paravel offsets the carbon emissions generated from manufacturing and shipping the Aviator, as well as the estimated emissions from your first trip.

Cotopaxi Taal Del Día convertible tote ($55 to $60, cotopaxi.com)

A lightweight tote that can be worn as a messenger bag or as a backpack, the colorful Taal is made from fabric scraps as part of Cotopaxi’s (Re)Purpose collection. Workers use scraps of fabric destined for a landfill from other companies to piece together this bag. Customize your colors or let them choose for you. The tote is big enough for a water bottle, guidebook, phone, wallet, and windbreaker, with room for keepsakes.

Cadence capsules and tiles (from $12, keepyourcadence.com)

Leak-proof, reusable capsules for shampoo, lotion and anything else you need in travel containers or smaller tiles, Cadence systems are made from ocean-bound recycled plastic (20%) and waste from manufacturing reused and reground (30%). Capsules and tiles are magnetic, so you can pack. The capsules, which are BPA-free and compliant with Transportation Security Administration rules, eliminate the need for single-use travel bottles, encourage the purchase of everyday products in bulk, and support beach cleanups through the partnership of Cadence with Envision Plastics. Plus, the packaging is recyclable: the shipping labels are compostable and recyclable, and the seed-encrusted paper is plantable and recyclable.

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TKWide Klean Kanteen Insulated Water Bottle ($34.95, kleankanteen.com)

One of the first companies to manufacture reusable stainless steel water bottles, Klean Kanteen has grown into an international company with a dedicated commitment to sustainability. The manufacturing process uses 90% certified post-consumer recycled stainless steel, which reduces greenhouse gas emissions and energy requirements. The company is also B Corp certified (it respects social and environmental transparency standards), 1% for the Planet member (it donates 1% of its sales to environmental causes) and Climate Neutral Certified (it compensates and reduces its footprint carbon). Even better, these bottles maintain the temperature of liquids and come with interchangeable, leak-proof caps.

KINeSYS SPF 30 clear zinc sunscreen ($29.99 for two ounces, kinesysactive.com)

A little goes a long way with this mineral sunscreen with 25 percent zinc oxide. Mineral sunscreen creates a protective barrier between the skin and the sun’s rays, and it is not absorbed by the skin. But unlike the zinc protection of the past, the KINeSYS option fades to white but quickly rubs off entirely. Its only active ingredient is zinc oxide and the product does not contain any chemicals known to harm reefs. Inactive ingredients include aloe leaf extract, beeswax, coconut oil, peppermint oil, and rosemary oil.

Chaco Z/Sandal ($100, chaco.com)

Formerly reserved for river guides, the iconic styles of these comfortable sandals now feature straps made from 100% recycled plastic. Through a partnership with Unifi, which has developed a fiber made from recycled plastic bottles, Chaco aims to divert millions of plastic bottles from landfills. The company also has a robust repair program to encourage customers to repair old sandals instead of buying new ones.

Zeal Optics Calistoga ($179, zealoptics.com)

With frames made from a blend of agricultural grass and recycled plastic (30% grass fiber, 70% recycled plastic) and polarized lenses made from castor instead of traditional plastics, the Calistogas from Zeal are durable and long lasting. They are part of Zeal’s See Grass collection, which is produced in a closed-loop German biorefinery that grows and harvests the herbs, then turns the fibers into material. A methane turbine powers the biorefinery and runs on decaying organic matter, which becomes fertilizer used to grow the herbs.

Discreet swimsuit ($108, shopunderstatement.com)

This classic swimsuit – soft, light and glamorous – is made from 100% recycled materials from items such as old fishing nets and plastic bottles. The Swedish women-owned company produces its clothes in factories that use renewable energy and ships products plastic-free and with minimal packaging (all recyclable).

Free Fly Bamboo Lightweight Hoodie ($74, freeflyapparel.com)

Extraordinarily soft and odorless, bamboo is also breathable, dries quickly and protects against UV rays. But it’s where the fiber comes from that makes this shirt (and all Free Fly garments) durable. The certified organic bamboo in Free Fly Products grows quickly without the use of pesticides or irrigation, and is harvested responsibly to prevent soil erosion. Free Fly also uses natural solvents in the production of bamboo viscose, which means no harsh chemicals are emitted into the factory or the environment.

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Space Grundens Pants ($99.99, grundens.com)

The right travel pants are comfortable and lightweight. They’re soft, have just the right number of pockets, and can be dressed up with a cute shirt or worn casual with rolled up hems. And they’re made with recycled fishing nets. Discover the Grundens Sidereal pants. Originally intended for anglers, these pants check all the boxes for sustainable travel clothing, including their expedition gear: 100% biodegradable packaging made from a polylactide produced from cornstarch.

Ripton & Co. Smoked Jorts (from $69, riptonco.com)

Denim isn’t traditionally lauded for being eco-friendly, but these denim shorts, or “jorts,” represent a new generation of sustainable denim. Made with a blend that includes recycled polyester and post-industrial cotton (manufacturing scraps that are reused and diverted from landfill), Ripton’s jorts are as soft as pajamas and as durable as work pants. Whether hiking, biking, or just traveling, they’re built to last and can go for long periods of time between washes.

Icebreaker Merino Siren Bikini Bottom ($35, icebreaker.com)

Washing clothes less saves water and extends the life of a garment, and it’s part of Icebreaker’s environmental philosophy. Made from natural fibers, these briefs won’t shed, at least not up to their plastic counterparts, the microfibers of which enter the environment and pollute water and air. Wool microfibers, on the other hand, are biodegradable. Icebreaker uses plant-based pigments in some products to reduce the amount of chemicals in the dyeing process, and the company publishes a comprehensive sustainability report on its website.

Rab Downpour eco-friendly jacket ($120, rab.equipment)

Made entirely from recycled fabric, this lightweight, packable jacket is waterproof and windproof. Constructed with recycled Pertex Revolve fabric, the Downpour has a polyester shell and membrane, meaning it can be more easily recycled at the end of its life than other jackets made from multiple layers of polymer. Rab, a UK-based company, has reduced emissions by 17.4% per product since 2019, buys 90% of its electricity from renewable sources and has pledged to buy more recycled than virgin materials. In 2021, according to a company sustainability report, 63% of purchased fabrics were recycled, up from 4% in 2019.

Rumpl NanoLoft Travel Blanket ($99, rumpl.com)

The shell and insulation of this ultra-compressible (it shrinks into a compact cylinder) and lightweight travel blanket are made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic. In 2021, Rumpl became a certified B Corp, which requires the company to meet high standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency and accountability; she is also a partner of 1% for the Planet.

Walker is a writer based in Boulder, Colorado. Find her on Twitter: @racheljowalker.

Prospective travelers should consider local and national public health guidelines regarding the pandemic before planning any travel. Information on travel health advisories can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s interactive map showing travel recommendations by destination and on the CDC’s travel health advisories webpage.

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