Plastic’s devastating effect on the environment is making ever bigger headlines, yet our pledge of plastic free living is often forgotten on holiday when the convenience can be particularly tempting.
Packing a reusable water bottle and carry bag is a step in a more sustainable direction, but there are many more ways to reduce pollution as a traveller. Here’s how.
Opt for sustainable hotels and eco-friendly accommodation
Hotels committed to sustainability make it easier for you to avoid plastic by providing filtered water for your own bottle (some also provide reusable bottles if you forget your own) and offering an alternative to plastic straws at the bar. To combat the waste created by single-use shampoo bottles, an increasing number of hotels are also providing products in reusable dispensers – many hotel brands, for example, have vowed to replace mini toiletries with wall-mounted dispensers.
Pack plastic-free travel kit
With an estimated one billion toothbrushes ending up in landfill in the US alone every year, biodegradable bamboo toothbrushes are a brilliant alternative. Cotton buds with plastic stems are also extremely destructive, with billions ending up in landfill around the world every year, and millions more flushed down toilets, from where they travel to the ocean. If you’re in the habit of storing your hiking boots and dirty clothes in plastic bags when you travel, consider reusable packing cubes instead – many outdoor clothing brands sell them.
The environmental cost of flying is damaging enough, but many airlines also use unnecessary plastic during in-flight services. As well as asking the crew to refill your reusable bottle during the drinks service, refuse individually wrapped refresher towels, and request drinks sans plastic stirrers. Should you forget your own bottle, hang on to the same cup for the duration of your flight. You may also wish to support airlines working to limit their use of plastic, such as Qantas which has pledged to be plastic-free by 2020 while budget European carrier Ryanair has set a similar plastic-free goal with the deadline of 2023.
Choose responsible tour operators
With the right tour operator, you can feel confident your provider is committed to reducing any negative impact a trip might have on the destinations you visit. This includes helping to minimise your use of plastic, from supplying reusable bags and potable water to serving boxed lunches in reusable or compostable packaging.
Invest in a water purification device
A lack of clean drinking water in your destination is no longer an excuse to rely on plastic bottles. There are loads of water purification options on the market, from filtration bottles such as the GRAYL, which can purify 150 litres of water with every cartridge, to the SteriPEN, which uses ultraviolet rays to zap the nasties in one litre of water in 90 seconds. The harsh taste of water purification tablets can be masked by vitamin C effervescent tablets.
Wear good quality, low-impact travel gear
Technical travel clothing often contains harmful microfibres that end up in the ocean after you wash your clothes. Fortunately, many companies now avoid this by making gear from sustainable, eco-friendly fibres, or alternatively create clothes out of reused plastic. Well-made garments also tend to last longer, which also helps to minimise plastic use. Read your favourite brand’s sustainability policy on their website before your next purchase; if it doesn’t have one, chances are the company is not aligned with the principles of sustainability.
Supermarket chains are notorious for packaging food items in unnecessary plastic. You can avoid some of this by shopping at fresh produce markets (don’t forget your own reusable carry bag). Same goes for handicrafts – purchasing plastic-free goods directly from artists saves on the plastic packaging typically used to transport goods. And it benefits the local economy, too.