It’s no secret that we’re currently dealing with a plastic crisis. The qualities which once made plastic so desirable (namely, the fact it’s not biodegradable) are now the very elements we’ve come to abhor – especially in single-use plastic products.
As photos of plastic-ridden beaches circulate on social media and newspaper headlines warn us there could even be plastic in the food we’re eating, individuals, NGOs and governments across the globe have decided enough is enough. After all, we only have one planet.
We all have a responsibility to limit how much single-use plastic we’re purchasing and disposing of, however, the convenience of plastic-wrapped items makes it difficult to cut them out of our lives and daily habits altogether.
This is especially true for those on the go, as our eco-friendly habits can often fall by the wayside when we’re on holiday. However, reducing your plastic waste while travelling doesn’t have to be difficult.
Here are my top tips for doing so.
Buy a filter bottle
In the UK, we take it for granted that we can simply drink from the tap. However, this isn’t the case in a lot of countries, and you’ll be advised to drink bottled water to avoid stomach bugs.
Unfortunately, plastic bottles are one of the main pollutants of rivers, oceans and landfill sites, especially if they aren’t recycled properly.
To stay hydrated while cutting down on the number of plastic bottles you buy, I’d recommend investing in a filter bottle. I bought an Aquapure Traveller filter bottle for about £40 before I left for Vietnam and it allowed me to drink clean, filtered water from the tap for 7 months – without making me ill once.
The water doesn’t taste quite the same as bottled but if you want to be a sustainable traveller, it’s a sacrifice you’ll need to make.
Buy a cutlery kit
My sister recently bought me a bamboo cutlery kit from Bright Zine and I’m not exaggerating when I say I use it almost every day. Since carrying it around, I’ve realised just how often I used to rely on single-use plastic forks and spoons – especially as an office worker who often relies on supermarket lunches.
When you’re on the go, it can be easy to grab lunch to take on the train or plane without thinking about the packaging. While buying convenience food is sometimes difficult to avoid (especially when you’re in the middle of nowhere!), making sure you have your own knife, fork, spoon, straw and pair of chopsticks can help you cut your waste in half.
Use a menstrual cup
Ladies, did you know that the average packet of sanitary towels contains the same amount of plastic as roughly five carrier bags? Or that, according to the Huffington Post, there are nine plastic tampon applicators found for every kilometre on UK beaches?
So, not only are periods a bloody nightmare, but single-use sanitary products are also a huge contributor to the world’s plastic problem – as if we didn’t hate that time of the month enough already.
If you have the means to do so, I’d recommend purchasing a menstrual cup, such as a Mooncup. Menstrual cups are a comfortable, safe, hygienic and environmentally-friendly alternative to sanitary towels and tampons, and can be bought for £25 or less.
While this may seem like a lot up front, the chances are you spend between £5-10 on sanitary items per month anyway, and a good menstrual cup can last for up to three years.
When they’re planet-friendly and pocket-friendly, what’s not to love?
Opt for bars of soap and solid shampoo
While it’s easy to carry around a reusable bottle or a bamboo coffee cup, we often forget about the plastic bottles sitting right there in our toiletry bags.
Although bottles of shampoo, conditioner and body wash aren’t technically single-use items, they’re still unnecessary additions to our beauty routine. These can all be swapped for solid bars of soap or hair product and transported around in tins to keep the inside of your suitcase dry.
I’m slowly transitioning to shampoo and conditioner bars and I absolutely love them; they keep my hair nice and fluffy, and once they’re gone, there’s no waste to dispose of.
Avoid using hotel toiletries
Raiding a hotel’s bathroom for freebies was once seen as a great way to make some of your money back, especially in fancier establishments. However, now that I think about it, using hotel toiletries is surely a big no if you’re looking to reduce your plastic waste.
Think about it – if hundreds of guests are using those little bottles of body wash and shampoo every day, how many bottles are being disposed of weekly? Hotel toiletries may seem like a nice perk, especially for the budget-conscious traveller, but mother nature will thank you for purchasing your own shampoo and conditioner.
Carry reusable bags everywhere
This is something that many people have gotten used to over the years, especially since the 5p carrier bag tax came into play in England.
However, carrying reusable bags is a habit that often goes out the window when you go on holiday. When we’re abroad, we tend to forget that we’ll likely need to pop to the shop at some point, even if we’re staying in an all-inclusive resort for a week or two.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll also feel too awkward to say no to the bag once your items have been put inside, especially if you can’t speak the country’s language. To avoid this, make sure you take a couple of reusable bags in your suitcase and carry them around with you, just in case.
Say no to seafood
As a vegan, I’m inclined to advise that you say no to all meat and dairy products for both ethical and environmental reasons. However, when it comes to cutting down on plastic, saying no to seafood is a must.
That’s a huge statistic, and one that leaves no doubt that the world’s demand for fish is a massive contributor to the pollution of our oceans. If you really want to reduce your plastic footprint, saying no to fish is a good place to start.
Reduce packaging by buying all travel equipment in local shops
If this is your first big trip away, it’s likely you’ll have a long list of items you need to buy. From a good rucksack to a sturdy pair of sandals, there’s no denying that there’s lot to prepare – and purchase – before any trip.
Unfortunately, very few items come without packaging – especially plastic packaging. While this can be a significant problem in brick and mortar shops, it’s an issue that’s even more pressing when you buy from online retailers.
Yes, adding items to your online basket and waiting for them to show up your door is quick, easy and convenient. However, in addition to the air miles you’re racking up, each of these items is sure to come wrapped in a non-recyclable film of plastic.
Avoid this and cut down on your plastic waste by saying no to online retailers. It’s much more fun to go out and have a browse anyway, so this is a great way to get excited for your upcoming holiday.
For further tips on how to become a more sustainable traveller, check out my blog ‘How to be a more eco-friendly traveller‘.