climate / Culture / People


Small sustainable steps

5 September 2019

Global climate strikes are happening this month, and British students are taking to the streets to protest on 20 September, led by the UKSCN. Finding ways to reduce our ecological footprint has never been so important.

This week we talk travel as part of our Croydonist series looking at some of the things individuals can do in Croydon to help combat the climate crisis. We caught up with Croydon resident Alex Stewart, who is co-founder of eco-conscious luggage brand, OneNine5 to get his take on travel.

OneNine5 was set up at the beginning of 2018, and their mission is very much to reduce, reuse, recycle, in the luggage industry. The first item in their range is a reinvention of the wash bag, with 100% recycled plastic lining, a detachable clear liquid bag to avoid picking up a single-use plastic bag at airport security, as well as a recycling scheme for when your OneNine5 wash bag reaches the end of its life. Oh and it looks pretty damn cool too.


Croydonist: Tourism accounts for nearly 10% of the world’s carbon emissions – how do you think we should be experiencing the world in the future whilst being mindful of our impact?

Alex: At OneNine5 we love to travel – it’s part of our DNA. We believe that visiting a new country and experiencing a new culture broadens your mind, promotes tolerance and changes your perspective. We do however have three rules that we’ll always try to live by:

  1. Taking the most direct routes and fly economy. Planes release the most carbon emissions during their takeoff and landing phases. Less landings and more direct flights equals less emissions.
  2. Questioning our packing choices. If you pack light, it’s less weight on the plane meaning less fuel required and ultimately, less carbon emissions resulting from that flight.
  3. Promote Slow Travel. A two minute scroll down Instagram and you’ll feel a pang of jealousy at all the amazing locations your friends have visited. So with the rise of low cost airlines, the temptation is to cram as much as possible into our itinerary and ‘tickoff’ several countries in one visit. Spending time exploring one country via more eco-friendly transport methods can actually be far more rewarding and you’ll return feeling energised rather than fatigued.

Croydonist: What steps do you think the travel industry should be taking to reduce their environmental impact? And are there any other industries they should be looking to as a role model?

Alex: We believe that the travel industry needs to be reshaped to prioritise environmental sustainability. The moment you enter the departure gates to pass through airport security, a free-of-charge and single-use plastic bag is provided. When you nestle into your seat on the plane the hot-drink stirrers, cutlery, blankets and earphones are all provided in unnecessary single-use plastic. When you bustle through the door of your hotel and enter the bathroom what do you see? …mini shampoo and shower gel (yes you guessed it) are provided in single-use plastic bottles. The list could go on.

To challenge this status quo, the collective of the consumer’s voice is the most powerful tool to ultimately drive change. Movements like #PlasticFreeJuly & #ZeroWasteWeek on social media are powerful and thought provoking ways to encourage us all to take small but positive steps. In creating this ‘thunderclap’ consumers hold corporations and governments accountable to make the required improvements. If enough people voice their opinions, large corporations and government can’t ignore it and it kickstarts action.

There are examples of great work from brands across many different industries – when it comes to tackling the plastic crisis, it seems the not-for-profit sector leads the way. Whether it’s the hard hitting approach of Surfers Against Sewage that name and shame the brands whose packaging continually washes up on our UK shores. Or another charity like Hubbub that take the opposite approach who prioritise positive and playful campaigns to promote change.

For all the pressure the grocery industry has rightly received to clean up their act, we’re hopeful that Waitrose will roll out their packaging-free aisle to more stores. It’s something airlines must surely aspire to achieve considering every item of food you’re served on a plane comes cradled in single-use plastic.

And then you look at the circular approach that the cosmetic brand, Beauty Kitchen adopt with their reusable packaging. You can imagine how airports could learn so much from this reusable mindset.


Croydonist: Revolution is always harder for us humans than evolution – what three steps do you think we should be taking as travellers to start us on the path to fighting the climate emergency?


  1. As consumers the power is in our hands. The retailers service our needs. If we choose to purchase products such as bananas wrapped in palm leaves vs bananas wrapped in plastic, then the retailer will list more of these products, consequently forcing plastic out of the supply chain and ultimately the waste on Planet Earth. As travellers this should be our first step. Always consider the decision you’re making when purchasing a product either at home or abroad.
  2. Ask the tough questions and raise awareness. Take the time to educate yourself on the mass deforestation and fires in the Amazon rainforest, the glacial melting of Antarctica or even the Great Ocean garbage patch. It’s easy to think that these are issues a long way from Croydon and don’t impact us yet we all love to travel and explore idyllic locations that are impacted by all of the above. World Leaders who don’t prioritise conservation need to be challenged. We all have a part to play to make our opinions known and heard. Reverting back to why we love to travel, it’s the chance to discuss these problems with the new people and friends that we meet and influencing along the way. We can’t sit back and be apathetic to these major issues – our future generations won’t thank us for the state of the planet we leave behind.
  3. And ultimately at a micro level – set your own personal goals and steps that you can consistently achieve to do your bit and contribute. We’ve always advocated that small sustainable steps that can be maintained are more sensible than drastic changes that aren’t manageable or achievable in the long-term.

Croydonist: What are your top packing tips for an environmentally conscious traveller just about to head off on holiday?


  1. Planning is key! Think about the potential scenarios you might find yourself in whilst travelling where you can’t avoid single use plastic. To offer an example, we’re always baffled that drinks in many South-East Asian countries are housed inside a single-use plastic carrier bag. Eating out and trying the local cuisine ranks highly on most people’s itinerary, so think about carrying the reusable cutlery and straw. We’re excited to receive our Outlery set later this year after a successful Kickstarter campaign and recommend The Last Straw for being highly compact.
  2. Use your legs, don’t take a taxi! Get out there and explore the local area. You never know who you might meet, what you might see or what local cuisine you might taste. Be adventurous, reduce your carbon emissions and get those 10,000 daily steps in.
  3. If you stumble across rubbish, pick it up and dispose of it correctly! If all travellers make a small contribution and pick up a fraction of rubbish they see on their travels then we can make a large impact to help the environment. The local wildlife will thank you too!

Croydonist: What three eco products might we find in your travel wash bag?


  1. The Angle Razor by Morrama. Admittedly I don’t need to shave all that often but we know the team at Morrama well. Not only have they created a beautiful and plastic free product but there’s no need for the single-use razor when you own this.
  2. REN Skincare. It wasn’t something I was aware of until recently but REN’s chemical free SPF is coral reef friendly when you fancy taking a dip in the sea.
  3. HANX Condoms because we’re all for safety first! And also because we love the brand and the work they’re doing to tackle the taboo of sex.

Croydonist: What’s next for OneNine5?

Alex: We’re on a mission to become the #1 Eco-conscious luggage brand in the UK. Beyond the wash bag, we intend to have more fun along the way and help the modern traveller to pack smarter with a whole range of other ideas. We’re ready to modernise luggage and set a new standard for the industry (so watch this space).


Big thanks to Alex for chatting to us, and for sharing his expertise on the travel industry and what we can all do, step by step, to lessen our impact on the planet. (If you’re intrigued, as we were, OneNine5 is so named because of the 195 countries on planet Earth.)

First in our Croydonist climate series was fashion, with Croydon Community Clothes Exchange – read it again here.

All images courtesy of OneNine5.

Posted by Julia

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