A look at some easy ways you can use less plastic when you travel. Reduce the amount of single use plastics you use with these insightful travel tips.
Rethinking how we travel
Let's look at things positively.
2019 and 2020 have given us a timeout to rethink how we live, work, and travel. We've become a little more conscious of what's going on around us, and maybe it's given us a chance to readjust how we do things.
That's how I feel when it comes to plastic. Man, it's everywhere!
Our oceans are awash in it. Landfills groan under the weight of it. Our animals are choking on it and our trees have incorporated enough of it into their DNA to keep them from decomposing. Seriously, what's up with that?
Think for a moment about all the plastic you use in a day. I'm not even talking about packaging, just the little pieces of plastic that get tossed out with the trash. Toothbrush? Check. Deodorant stick? Chalk up a checker on our board. Phone case? A check to you too!
What if we made an effort to reduce how much plastic we use day in and day out, especially when we're traveling?
Ways to consciously reduce your plastic usage when traveling
I've put together a few ideas of how we can use less plastic as we travel. Maybe you do some of these already, maybe you don't. Either way, it's worth taking a look at how much plastic we use and how we might minimize that while traveling (and beyond)!
Carry a refillable water bottle
There's no need to buy a plastic bottle of water every time you are thirsty! That is plastic you are throwing away, and unless it's recycled, that plastic will eventually find its way into our soil or water. Instead, carry a refillable water bottle. Take any opportunity to refill it during the day, and not only will you have stopped using plastic, but you'll have also saved some money.
Concerned that the water quality might not be good where you're traveling? Read the next tip…
Take a Water Filter Bottle with you
The water filter bottle is one of my favorite things to travel with. I always take one on my bike tours, and also we took when when traveling around South East Asia for six months.
There's different types of water filter you can get. I have one that is basically a water bottle but with a filter in it which is very easy to use. I also have a big Katadyn filter I take on my RTW bicycle tours. Using that for my multi-year bike tours has saved me using an incredible amount of plastic as I travel – and also saved me cash at the same time. Win – Win!
Take your own travel mug instead of using disposable cups
If you're someone who likes hot coffee or tea in the morning, take your own travel mug. There are not only reusable mugs, but travel insulated containers as well. Be sure you bring a bag to carry your mug in so it's not rattling around with your other gadgets.
Say no to plastic straws
It seems no matter where you buy a drink, you end up with a plastic straw! Fortunately, there's now alternatives. In some countries (Greece for example) single use plastic straws are now banned along with many other single use plastics. Instead, straws and other things like plastic plates and cutlery should be either paper or biodegradable plastics.
If you're not traveling in a country like Greece though, think about an alternative such as reusable stainless steel straws or bamboo straws.
Take your own cutlery
There's no need to take the plastic forks on offer at Thai street food stands if you carry along your own travel cutlery. I tend to take my stainless steel cutlery I use for bike touring along with me when I travel, but you can also get hold of bamboo cutlery sets.
And while we're talking of bamboo, why not use a bamboo toothbrush? They last just as long as plastic ones, or at least until you want a new one.
Give back or reuse the hotel mini bathroom products
When I travel, I usually collect all the little bottles of hotel shampoo and soap at the end of my stay. Then when I'm back home, I wash them out and refill them with my own solutions to take them with me the next time I travel. This way, I'm reusing what might have been single use plastics.
At some point though, I had enough of them. So, after that, I just gave back the hotel mini bathroom products for the hotel to give to another customer.
Take a reusable bag for shopping
In some countries, they seem to almost force a plastic bag on you every time you buy something! What I tend to do, is put items either in my day pack if I have it with me, or carry around a reusable bag for shopping. Not only will you reduce the amount of plastic waste, but you'll also have a bag to use when shopping instead of relying on plastic bags.
A Bar of Soap vs Shower Gel and Shaving Foam
Now, having no hair may make me slightly more environmentally friendly than most other travelers. Let me explain…
I have no need for shampoos or hair conditioner (no plastic needed there!), and additionally, I don't even use shaving foam or shower gel when I travel by bicycle. Instead, I tend to take along a bar of soap which does everything I need it to. It's cheaper, weighs less, and of course uses far less plastic!
Avoid single use plastics when traveling FAQ
Here are some other things to consider when it comes to minimizing your plastic use when you travel:
How do you use less plastic when traveling?
Avoid single-use plastics by doing any of the following – use a water filter to drink clean water, buy drinks bottled in glass or metal over plastic and paper, say ‘No' to straws, take your cutlery from home rather than buying it abroad, carry a reusable bag for shopping.
Is the momentum growing to stop the use of single use plastics?
The growing wave of pressure from consumers as well as a series of bans in some countries have forced some food and beverage companies to pledge to reduce their use of plastics. There is a growing realization that things need to change in regards to how we use plastic.
Why single use plastic should be banned?
Single-use plastics often end up as litter or polluting our waterways, but even if they do make it into the recycling garbage bin many still wind-up in our landfill. A recent study found that one third of the world's seabirds ingest enough plastic to give them health problems with starvation and physical injuries being major symptoms.
How do you limit single use plastic?
There are many ways to limit your consumption of single use plastic. Drinking water from a filtered container, leaving straws at home, refusing the mini bathroom products in hotels, and taking a reusable bag with you while shopping are all good options that will help to reduce the amount of plastic waste you produce.
Does single use plastic go away?
Currently, single-use plastics are not biodegradable. Some of them take up to 1000 years to breakdown – and even then they only break down into tiny pieces known as micro-plastics that can be ingested by animals and humans.
How to use less plastic when traveling
To recap what's been discussed in this article about how to use less plastic when traveling: water filter bottles are one way that travelers can reduce their plastic consumption, while still being able to enjoy clean drinking water; hot coffee or tea drinkers may want to take their own travel mug so they're not using disposable cups; straws have become ubiquitous in many countries as well – consider reusable stainless steel straws when traveling instead; travelers can save money by taking cutlery from home rather than buying it abroad, and bamboo is another good option for utensils.
Have any tips to add? Please leave a comment below!
Dave is a travel writer who's been running Dave's Travel Pages since 2005. During that time, he's visited many countries all around the world, and seen for himself just how important it is we all use less plastic and travel in a more environmentally friendly way – hence all the bicycle tours! Follow Dave on social media for travel inspiration from Greece and beyond: