The Attenborough effect is something of a phenomenon at the moment. After Blue Planet 2, where Sir David Attenborough showed us so explicitly just how much harm plastic does to our environment, people seem to be picking up that it really is time to break away from ease and normality, instead opting for more sustainable alternatives.
Plastic is everywhere. Look around you right now, whether you’re at home, at work, or outdoors. I bet you can spot at least one plastic product in front of you right now.
And when you travel, it’s so difficult to escape plastic. I mean, plastic bags are given to you when you buy souvenirs, you can’t drink the tap water abroad so you have to buy bottled water, Hotels provide mini shampoo and shower gels, ask for a cocktail in a bar and you’ll be given a plastic straw to go with it, and there are even seemingly unavoidable items like suncream (and its plastic container), which we can’t travel without.
It’s overwhelming. There’s simply so much plastic involved in travel, it’s hard to imagine how you can travel without it.
Whilst there are some things we can’t steer clear of, like the stickers they put on your luggage at the airport, doing SOMETHING is better than doing nothing.
Every single small action we take to avoid plastic will contribute to the bigger picture. It is basic “supply meets demand”: if enough of us refuse a plastic straw, eventually places will stop bothering with them.
In the meantime, here are some plastic free travel tips: five easy ways you can reduce single-use plastic when you travel – save these ideas for your next trip!
1. Swap shampoo bottles for a shampoo bar
This is one of the easiest switches you can make; I first made the switch about four years ago. Next time you run out of shampoo or conditioner, invest in a bar instead of another bottle of chemical-filled crap. Shampoo and conditioner bars last longer, take up less space, have natural ingredients in, and are technically a ‘solid’ not a ‘liquid’, so won’t take up your valuable 100ml liquid allowance when flying hand luggage only.
My personal favourites are from LUSH UK and Amazon – this one’s amazing! At LUSH, my favourite bar is the Jason and the Argan Oil bar which lasts around 2 months for me and it’s vegan and not tested on animals. You can also get conditioner and shower gel bars!
Top tip: Buy a metal tin to store your shampoo and conditioner bars in; this will help for transporting them when they are still moist. It’s good to keep them a little moist regularly so they don’t dry up.
*There have been recent claims that LUSH isn’t quite as eco-friendly as it makes out – I’ll leave that for you to decide; personally I love their products and the fact they don’t test on animals.
2. Take a reusable filter water bottle with you
I wish I had done this in New Zealand. I had a reusable bottle when I was there, but if I had taken one with a filter, I could have drunk the water from the streams along the walking tracks! I did buy a metal reusable canteen bottle which is by Laken and I love it, but it’s not as advanced as the one below…
The best one on the market is the Lifestraw bottle. It’s a little pricey at £38, but considering a plastic bottle of water usually costs around £1 to £2, this will make your money back in a month – and think of how many plastic bottles you’ll avoid!
A note on the airport issue: There is usually always a water fountain in airports where you can refill your bottle; if not, ask a restaurant. The only place I’ve had a problem is in Muscat airport in Oman where you go through security as you get on the plane, meaning there’s nowhere to fill up.
3. Swap takeaway containers for metal or bamboo reusables
Another easy swap but rarely done, but this can cancel out co much unnecessary plastic.
Take a metal food container with you – or even an old Tupperware box will do (try to get into the mentality of reusing what you already own rather than buying new if you can).
Alongside your container, you’ll need your reusable cutlery. Bamboo works well because it’s so light; it won’t add much weight to your luggage. I love this set, which comes in a handy pouch to make sure they don’t get lost.
Top Tip: Remember you can’t take your knife and fork in your hand luggage; it’ll be confiscated at airport security, so pack it in your hold luggage instead (or, take bamboo chopsticks!)
4. Refuse the straw
Straws are pure evil. They end up in the oceans in whales’ bellies or in turtles’ noses. And they are just SO unnecessary – why do restaurants and bars automatically ‘style’ your drink with a straw, a wooden umbrella and other crappy wasteful decorations?
Say no to straws when you order your drinks. This might mean using your Google Translate app to find this phrase in the local language. Or, take your metal straw with you and show it to the waiter so they can see you don’t need a plastic one!
5. Swap single-use plastic bags for a reusable bag
Animals like sea turtles and whales can choke or swallow plastic bags that end up in the ocean. They get into their stomachs and they can’t process actual food. They’re also a huge threat to coral. In short: plastic kills sea life.
But I don’t think you should go out and buy a new cotton/ tote bag straightaway. Sure, tote bags eliminate plastic, but they have to be reused thousands of times to have the same environmental footprint as a lightweight plastic bag – a bit worrying, no?
I bet you’ve already got a tote bag at home somewhere. If not, ask your mum or your friends if they’ve got an extra one. I realised I didn’t have one when I was in Bangkok in 2015 and it’s now my staple – even for my grocery shop.
How do you reduce your single-use plastics when you travel?
Thanks for reading and enjoy your plastic-free travels!
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