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Above: the Lefrik Eco Flap backpack is lightweight, spacious and sturdy

Travelling light is better for the planet – and better for your back! Here are seven easy ways to reduce your luggage weight

Seven tips to reduce luggage weight

Air travel is one of the world's major sources of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2) – so for green-minded travellers, flying is a big dilemma.

According to Friends of the Earth, for a typical flight under 500km – such as London to Amsterdam – the amount of CO2 produced per passenger is 0.17 kg/km for air travel. This compares with 0.14 kg/km for travel by car, 0.052 kg/km for rail and 0.047 kg/km by boat.

A passenger taking a long-haul return flight – from the UK to the USA, say – can produce as much CO2 as someone driving for a whole year.

Clearly the obvious solution to this is to avoid flying – and if possible, take the train. But sometimes that flight is unavoidable, as the overland alternatives are just too impractical.

But there are a few ways we can reduce our personal environmental impact if flying. And here we look at one easy step you can take – packing light.

Every pound of weight carried by a plane increases the quantity of fuel it uses. The lighter the plane, the less fuel it burns – reducing pollution. So you can help by packing efficiently and lightly. And you'll benefit by only taking what you really need, with luggage that's easier to carry – and if you're travelling with just hand luggage, you'll spending less time waiting around at the airport.

Here are seven tips for reducing luggage weight.

Buy a light bag. If you weigh your empty suitcase, you may be surprised at how much luggage allowance you're losing. Many airlines allow a hand luggage allowance of 10kg – but with some bags weighing as much as 4kg, you could find a high percentage of your allowance gone before you've even started packing.

But there are some great, lightweight travel bags and backpacks. For an eco-friendly option, the 30litre Lefrik Eco Flap backpack is extremely lightweight. Or if you prefer a wheeled case, try IT World's Lightest cabin-friendly case, which is just over 1.5kg.

Pack dual-purpose clothing and accessories. A skirt that's also a dress, a beach towel that's also a sarong – there are lots of versatile items that can cut your holiday packing by half. We love Patagonia's Kamala skirts: during the day a knee-length beach dress, at night a stylish maxi skirt. And Cotton and Olive's Peshtemal Hammam towels are light and soft enough to be used as a sarong.

Keep shoes to a minimum. Shoes could well be one of the heaviest items you pack – but you don't need 10 pairs to have a good holiday. Packing lightweight hiking shoes, walking sandals and flip flops is a great way to cut your luggage weight. Our favourite suggestions? Gumbies are super-light flip flops that are superbly comfortable – and come in loads of different designs so you can chose a pair that co-ordinates with your travel wardrobe. Keen Clearwater walking sandals will cope with moderate dry-weather hikes – and are waterproof, so great for water sports too.

Take tiny toiletries. The best way to keep luggage weight right down is to buy all your toiletries at your destination – you will be able to find shampoo, soap and toothpaste overseas, honest! But if you're arriving late or want to take a particular brand, taking small travel-sized versions of your favourite toiletries will keep your weight down – and, as long as each bottle of liquid contains 100ml or less, you'll be able to take it through security in appropriately sealed bags in your hand luggage.

Finding eco-friendly travel minis can be hard – but Weleda has some fantastic moisturizers and deodorants that can be taken in your hand luggage – including their best-selling product, Skin Food. Multi-purpose bars of soap that can also be used as shampoo, shaving cream and clothes wash are also a good idea. See our seven favourite shampoo bars.

Choose souvenirs carefully. Many mementos that can be bought abroad are heavy and bulky – and if you were near your luggage weight limit when you left home, buying these items can push it over the edge. Choosing lightweight gifts and souvenirs can avoid this. Look for postcards, small pieces of artwork, Christmas tree decorations or handmade jewelry. Souvenir tea towels are a good idea too – and they can cheer up the washing-up all winter!

Make a packing list. Organisation is key if you want to travel light. Having a master packing list for your travels is a good idea (we keep a copy on our computer, and adapt it as needed for each trip), as it not only means you won't take anything you don't need, but it should also ensure you don't forget essentials such as tickets, passports and insurance.

Do things by halves. Many experienced backpackers will recommend that you lay out everything you think you need – and then pack just half of it. This may or may not work for you, but if you also remember the advice 'one on, one off and one in the wash' you can avoid taking more than you need. Take or buy washing powder (or a multi-purpose shampoo bar) and wash as you go.

LeFric Eco Flap backpack
Cotton and Olive Pasha Hammam Towel
Gumbies flip flops
Patagonia Kamala skirts
KEEN Clearwater sandals
Weleda Skin Food

Lefrik Eco Flap Backpack   €39,90

At just 680g, this environmentally friendly backpack is extremely lightweight – yet it's easily big enough to pack in all you need for a few days away. We particularly liked the padded section at the back of the main compartment of the pack – designed to store a laptop, it also keeps tablets and travel documents safely protected. Made from 100 per cent RPET recycled polyester – created from recycled plastic bottles – this material has a very low carbon footprint. It also helps to reduce the staggering number (51 billion) of plastic bottles that go into landfill sites across the world each year. The backpack is durable and waterproof, and comes in six attractive colour choices – and the bag's dimensions allow it to be used as carry-on luggage for most airlines.

Cotton and Olive Pasha Hammam Towel   £27

Pasha Hammam towels by Cotton and Olive are ideal for long, lazy beach days. They're huge, with plenty of space to spread out on the sand, yet they fold up into the smallest of spaces and weigh only 280g. Made by artisan craftsmen in Turkey from pure, soft cotton, with hand-twisted tassels and a distinct herringbone pattern, the Pasha towel is also extremely stylish. It's cool and comfortable enough to double up as a beach wrap, shawl, or modesty cover when visiting temples. These natural cotton towels are sand-resistant and absorbent – and, unlike terry towels, the absorbency increases the more you wash it. They're also easy to wash and very quick to dry. Available in three natural-looking shades: grey, black or red.

Patagonia Kamala skirt   £68

We love dual-purpose items, and this beautiful organic cotton/Tencel skirt converts to a bandeau-style dress that's perfect for the beach. When worn as a skirt, the skirt modestly covers most of the legs – so is great for visiting city museums and cathedrals. The skirt's wide, stretchy waistband is very comfortable in hot climates, and it folds up into a small space without creasing. Patagonia has top-notch ethical production policies, with responsibly sourced, recycled and reclaimed materials as well as fair labour practices. Available in plain black or two different patterns.

Gumbies flip-flops   £25

These are the most comfortable flip-flops we've ever worn. So comfy, in fact, that – unless you're planning to do some hiking – they may be the only holiday shoes you need. With a supportive, protective sole that follows the contours of the feet, and wide canvas straps, they'll take you from city streets to sandy beach with ease – with no rubbing between the toes. Made from recycled rubber and very lightweight at 240g. Gumbies are available in such a huge range of different designs and colours – for both men and women – that it will be hard to choose just one pair!

KEEN Clearwater CNX sandals   £79.99

Extremely comfortable, waterproof, cool and lightweight – the Clearwater CNX sandals are ideal for active summer travel. They weigh less than 220g, and can be used for a multitude of activities, from kayaking and stand up paddle-boarding to hiking and sightseeing.

Weleda Skin Food   £7.95

Skin Food is a rich, thick moisturizer that brings instant relief to dry, rough skin on face, hands, elbows or feet. It's great for soothing areas that are exposed to the elements, and comes in a small neat tube that can be stashed in a pocket. With extracts of viola tricolor, calendula and chamomile, it also smells gorgeous – and is natural, organic and cruelty-free. Available in a 30ml size that should last ages – a little goes a long way.

Green Adventures July 2018