Ethical Travel Accessories for All Budgets

Stacked vintage suitcases with travel stickers, by Erwan Hesry

Ethical travel is a huge trend for 2017: in a nutshell, it means travelling in a way that consciously benefits the community or the environment as a whole (but not the thorny issue of voluntourism).

Eco hotels, local and seasonal food, independent local shops, charity initiatives, slow fashion, public transport and responsible dark tourism can all be factored into travelling more ethically.

I won’t claim to be 100% ethical when I travel, because that would be a lie. My suitcase usually contains as many pieces of fast fashion as it does charity shop finds, and I don’t turn down a meal that hasn’t been locally sourced, because life’s too short to be that fussy. Just give me a hot dog or a pastry and I’m a happy camper. That aside, I want to show that you can add some ethical accessories to your suitcase with very little effort, and on any budget.

Ethical travel solidarity balm in pink tin by L'Occitane
A multi-tasking charity product for less than a fiver gets my vote. Credit:

The Ethical Travel Balm

L’Occitane Solidarity Balm (£4) is a multi-tasking product that supports women in Burkina Faso, where the company sources its shea butter. The packaging of the Solidarity Balm reflects West African wax print fabrics, and the contents is 98% Fairtrade shea butter.

100% of the profits from its sale will fund women’s leadership projects in Burkina Faso, through the company’s ethical foundation, established in 2006; what’s more, L’Occitane has donated to the UN Fund for Gender Equality.

Besides this, the product smells great – it’s a bit sickly at first, due to the violet scent, but slowly becomes addictive, and is useful on dry skin, cuticles and lips. L’Occitane can be very expensive, but the £4 price point makes this accessible to everyone. Find it in-store now.

Business of Fashion's #TiedTogether white bandana on wrist with leather jacket
#TiedTogether for London Fashion Week. My not-so-fashionable weird hand is not included.

The Ethical Travel Scarf

This simple-looking white bandana has a powerful message behind it: the #TiedTogether movement encourages fashion fans to wear the bandana as a sign of global humanity, regardless of race, religion, gender or sexuality. I picked mine up for free at London Fashion Week, but it’s easy to find one on the high street or online (£10 from Selfridges, around £5 from a vintage shop, or £3 from Claire’s).

#TiedTogether was developed by Imran Ahmed, founder trailblazing website The Business of Fashion (known as BOF), which reports on industry developments and really scrutinises the processes and machinations of the style world. Fashion is a truly international business that relies on diverse employees, and many of them are worried about the impact of Trump and Brexit on their livelihoods, but this is a small gesture to show your support. #TiedTogether also stands with the values of the UNHCR and encourages people to donate to it.

There are loads of ways you can use a bandana when travelling – as a headscarf, tied around a bag strap, as a pocket square or as an alternative to a bracelet. BOF has created a trend-led political statement for Fashion Month, and one that even featured on the invitations to Calvin Klein’s latest catwalk show, but it will outlast the season.

Engraved second-hand key sold by Los Angeles project for ethical travellers and shoppers
Something to pass on as you travel: The Giving Keys has a lasting message in its products. Credit:

The Ethical Travel Necklace

The Giving Keys is a Los Angeles-based project, where second-hand keys are transformed into jewellery with inspirational phrases, or your own message of up to nine characters. I’ve got my eye on the ‘Courage’ Never Ending Necklace in oxidised brass ($49).

The idea is that you give the key to someone who fits the word or phrase, whether you have someone in mind at the time or you meet them later. This would be a great present for a friend or relative who needs some words of encouragement – or for someone you meet on your travels.

Sometimes inspirational quotes can sound trite, but I figure if they mean something to you, there’s no need to feel ashamed. The Giving Keys’ principle to ‘pay it [kindness] forward’, and the practices behind the company, are two extra incentives.

Leather satchel from British charitable accessory brand Vida Vida on wooden crate
A satchel that only gets better with age. Credit:

The Ethical Travel Bag

Vida Vida makes gorgeous leather satchels for travelling – my dad spotted one in Not on the High Street’s Christmas catalogue last December and has used it proudly it ever since (called the ‘classic men’s satchel’, £75, but it’s unisex really). The satchels are well-made and can be customised with your initials.

Much like the ‘one for one’ initiative by Toms shoes, every time you buy a satchel, Vida Vida donates a schoolbag to a child in Cambodia, Myanmar (Burma) or Nepal. Aside from this, the company monitors its suppliers, uses leather that’s a by-product of the food industry, and doesn’t treat the leather with harsh chemicals.

The longer you own this kind of leather, the more beautifully it ages, even when it’s been on several adventures. Vida Vida also offers weekenders, washbags, passport covers and more.

Are you tempted by these ethical travel buys? Tweet me your views (I’m @misspallen).