How to Reduce Plastics from Your Travels
By Lauren David
Travelling more sustainably sounds great, right? But it’s often easier in theory than in practice. Making sustainable choices can be trickier and require more advance planning. Sometimes it also requires being a bit assertive, especially when we make purchases from shops, supermarkets or even when we order takeout. We may quickly and politely need to say, “I don’t need a plastic bag today” or “I have my own cutlery” before they pack up your goods in plastic.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), “Over 300 million tonnes of plastic are produced every year for use in a wide variety of applications.” That’s an excessive amount of plastic. Plastic doesn’t disappear, instead it disintegrates slowly, often ending up in oceans. The IUCN states, “At least 8 million tonnes of plastic end up in our oceans every year, and make up 80 per cent of all marine debris from surface waters to deep-sea sediments.” There are several ways we can all do our part and although it may feel really small, if each person chips in, it all adds up to make a bigger difference.
Bring your own water bottle - when we’re on the road, staying hydrated is important. Sometimes we may feel thirsty when we least expect it, prompting us to find a shop selling water if we can’t find a water fountain. The problem is a lot of plastic bottles are likely not going to be recycled and are usually tossed when the water bottle is empty. If you don’t already have one, consider purchasing a reusable bottle that you can bring with you wherever you go. Opt for a foldable silicone water bottle that takes up minimal space when folded up, or choose a collapsible bottle that can reduce in size, almost by half, made of BPA silicon and has a carabiner to attach easily to your bag. Or if you prefer drinking from a glass bottle, consider one with a silicon sleeve and bamboo lid to give you easy access to sip water when you want them.
Carry a reusable mug
If you love a cup of java or tea to start your morning but prefer ordering it “to-go” to roam around at your leisure, sit outside in a park, or get back on the road, consider bringing your own mug. Paper cups are often lined with plastic and many cafes also automatically give you a plastic lid – it’s a lot of extra waste for a one-time drink. Instead, bring your own sturdy mug with a handle made of stainless steel with a double wall for insulation or one that mimics a to-go cup made of glass.
Bringing your own knife, fork, and spoon, and even chopsticks may not be an obvious item to pack but if you eat at food stalls, at casual-style restaurants or get take-away, you’re likely to be offered plastic cutlery to eat your meal with. Having a handy reusable cutlery set is a great way to reduce the amount of plastic on your travels. Opt for a basic bamboo cutlery set or a bamboo set with a straw and brush for cleaning. If you prefer silverware, there are plenty of travel-sized options available, from a nine-piece silverware set or a stainless steel option.
Opt for a reusable straw
Although some places are beginning to ditch the plastic straws in favour of paper versions, any disposable straw is still a single-use item that adds to landfills. If you need or want a straw to enjoy your beverage, consider bringing your own. Opt for this bamboo straw that comes with a brush, making for easy cleaning after each use. And if you prefer metal, consider this family size collection of stainless steel straws with different lengths and sizes, plus it comes with a convenient travel pouch.
Reusable shopping bag
You may already have a collection of reusable shopping bags for when you go grocery shopping or purchase from the farmers market. But if you don’t already, you’ll want to pack a few in your suitcase, as they come in handy for many situations. Reusable bags can be used for a variety of things when you’re on the road, whether it’s for sorting dirty laundry, shopping artisan or food markets or going grocery shopping while you’re away from home. There are many styles to choose from. Consider this tidy, fits in its own attached pouch when not in use, lightweight bag with a carabiner to attach to your purse or backpack. Or these mesh cotton totes that are great for carrying produce and groceries.