First thing’s first: Unfortunately, air travel is not environmentally friendly. It is, however, unavoidable for those who wish (or need) to take trips overseas and across continents. What’s more, the boom of package holidays and low-cost airlines means that the number of us travelling is increasing too. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) estimated that there were 3.7 billion global air passengers in 2016, but this number is steadily rising and is forecast to reach 7.2 billion by 2035.
While there is some irony to be found in a round-up of eco-friendly suitcases, much like many positive habits one may adopt, small, incremental changes on a regular basis eventually lead to a positive impact. Avoiding single use plastic and aerosol sprays are great places to start, but have you thought beyond what you pack, to what you pack your things into?
The process of packing a suitcase, for many of us, can be one of the most exciting aspects of travelling – brand new bikinis, toiletries and the like. Much like fast-fashion, though, most luggage is made from unsustainable materials which are non-biodegradable, harmful to the environment and manufactured in unsafe or unethical working conditions. Even the most appealing, stylist, hard-shelled cases are often made from plastics which will eventually end up in landfill sites.
It can certainly be tempting to go for a cheap and cheerful suitcase, but the longevity alone of a good-quality one will promote sustainability. Think of this considered purchase as an investment which will last you for a good couple of years (and trips!).
It’s proved tricky to find a suitcase that ticks all the green boxes, but while we wait for the luggage industry to catch up with fashion, here are some brands which have eco-friendly ranges that are making those all-important, positive steps towards more sustainable products…
Heys Eco Orbis
This hard-shelled case is made entirely from recycled post-industrial ABS plastic. Wondering how this differs from any other plastic? It’s basically like using the offcuts of fabric in fashion.
With any manufacturing process there is some discarded material that isn’t part of the finished product and that’s what this suitcase is made from. Design-wise, it comes in three different sizes and five colourways. Over-packers rejoice, the design is also expandable and has 360 swivel wheels for an easy roll.
Timbuk2 Copilot Luggage Roller bag
This San Francisco-based luggage company designs with sustainability, waste and pollution in mind. The majority of fabrics used are bluesign® approved, meaning they are produced in a safe and sustainable way, contain no harmful substances and are environmentally friendly. The company also recycles fabric scraps on a monthly basis. The Copilot is sleek, stylish and also highly durable.
Samsonite Spark SNG ECO collection
Luggage originals Samsonite have launched a new collection which looks similar to one of their bestsellers, the Spark SNG, but is eco-friendly. Both the interior and exterior are made from textiles that have been created from 100% post-consumer recycled PET plastic bottles and they’ve also swapped polyurethane trimmings for cork material, which is used on the handles, logo, ID tag and for back protection. The range includes everything from roller suitcases to backpacks, weekend bags, laptop and beauty cases.
Patagonia Black Hole® MLC®
Patagonia has always been a front-runner in the environmentally-friendly category for clothes and accessories. The company is conscious of their impact on the planet and their workers, promoting fair labour practices, safe working conditions and global responsibility. This versatile carry-on is made from recycled polyester, worn-out garment fabrics and second-quality fabrics that are unused. For those who like lots of compartments, the case has several zip pockets and even a fleece-lined one which is perfect for sunglasses. You can hear more about Patagonia’s ethics and ethos straight from founder Yvon Chouinard as he chats to Guy Raz in the How I Built This podcast.
Tumi Latitude International Slim Carry-On
Tumi is a well-loved and respected brand in the travel industry, known for premium craftsmanship and high-quality design that undergoes rigorous testing. Their repair department will mend broken or worn-out bags rather than encourage you to replace them with new models and if a product can’t be repaired, it’s recycled where possible. They have eliminated 95% of their PVC Materials (and are striving towards 100%) and are dedicated to enforcing workers rights and ethical manufacturing. The company also partnered with the Pratt Institute Centre for Sustainable Design Studies and Design Incubator for Sustainable Innovation to develop more environmentally-friendly material compositions for the future.