How to reduce your plastic use when you travel

By now, we all know how bad our obsession with plastic is and the harm it’s doing to our planet. But sometimes it’s not that easy to find ways around consuming single-use plastics – especially when we’re travelling. So, here are some simple tips and tricks to reduce how much you use on the go, whether you’re travelling to far-flung lands or closer to home.

Plastic pollution
We can all help reduce plastic pollution.

Take a reusable bottle in your carry-on

Although you can’t take liquids through security at the airport, you can take an empty bottle. Many airports have water fountains, where you can fill up pre-flight, so you don’t need to buy a bottle or accept any plastic cartons handed out on board. If your nearest airport doesn’t have any drinking water facilities, find out why and ask if they can hurry the introduction along.

Reusable bottle
Pack a reusable bottle when you travel.

Say no to straws – always!

So many hotels, lodges and camps are getting better at finding alternatives for plastic straws (bamboo, glass, paper, cassava starch, etc.), but it’s good to get into the habit of pre-empting your drink arriving with a plastic straw already in it. Start building a habit of requesting ‘no straw, please’ when you order a drink. This is a great practise anywhere in the world, home or abroad.

Paper straws are a popular plastic alternative.

Buy a water bottle with a built-in filter

There are some great water bottles available now with built-in filters that strip water of 99.9% of bacteria. These are perfect if you’re worried about how clean the water will be at your destination, but particularly when you’re on a more adventurous, remote trip on which you may heavily rely on bottled water. These kinds of investments can make a huge impact on the amount of plastic bottles we use when out in wilderness areas.

Don’t needlessly open hotel toiletries

Hotels are often guilty of wrapping everything in plastic, from ear buds to slippers. If you don’t actually need to use something – is there liquid soap you can use instead of that cling-wrapped bar? – then don’t. Of course, it’s up to hotels to update their packaging, but until that happens, we can take some responsibility for what we use.

Avoid using plastic-wrapped amenities.

Pack small amounts of sustainable plastic replacements

On the road, it’s very difficult to find plastic alternatives, so make sure you stock up on some products before you leave. For instance, plastic-free ear buds are increasingly available in Western countries, so chuck a bunch into your toiletry bag. That way, and by hardly taking up any extra space in your luggage, you’re avoiding opening plastic wrapping (see above), further contributing to another country’s plastic pollution. Remember: the small things add up!

Today is #EarthDay. This year the theme is ending plastic pollution. Justin Hofman’s photo of this seahorse is a powerful one that symbolises the state of our oceans, but we can all make small changes to improve this. For instance, check your local supermarket for plastic-free alternatives to plastic cotton buds, such as paper-stemmed varieties. Repost @justinhofman ・・・ ‘It’s a photo that I wish didn’t exist but now that it does I want everyone to see it. What started as an opportunity to photograph a cute little sea horse turned into one of frustration and sadness as the incoming tide brought with it countless pieces of trash and sewage. This sea horse drifts long with the trash day in and day out as it rides the currents that flow along the Indonesian archipelago. This photo serves as an allegory for the current and future state of our oceans. What sort of future are we creating? How can your actions shape our planet?’

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Bring a reusable bag

Carry a reusable bag with you when you’re shopping so you don’t need to use single-use plastic bags. Many durable bags can be crushed into a tiny pouch that easily fits in a handbag or backpack. If you’re using a plastic bag in your luggage – for muddy boots or bottles that might leak – take it home with you and aim to return it to a facility that can reuse or recycle them.

Canvas bag
A canvas bag folds up small and means you don’t need to use plastic bags.

Carry a collapsible cup

Carting around a reusable coffee cup is not always the most practical thing, but collapsible ones are excellent if you regularly buy take-out coffees. These silicon cups squash up to a couple of inches high, so they’re easy to slot into even small bags. As an alternative, see if you can forego the plastic lid when you order take-out.

A post shared by Stojo (@stojoco) on

Do your research

Stay in sustainable hotels and lodges, where most of the work is done for you and the amenities are mostly plastic-free. Many safari camps provide metal bottles for guests to use, which they refill with filtered water throughout the day. Lodges such as Singita even provide wooden toothbrushes in their rooms. See if the hotel has any information online or get in touch with your travel advisor to find out more.

Metal bottles
Metal bottles at Singita.

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