Look around you. How much plastic do you see? As I write this, I can see: a pack of plastic water bottles, plastic shopping bags in a plastic bin liner lining a plastic bin, empty plastic takeaway boxes, cleaning products bottled in plastic, fresh fruit in tiny plastic sandwich bags... plastic inside of plastic, wrapped in... plastic!
It's nearly impossible to avoid it. But it's not impossible to start making some small changes for the better. Since the release of Blue Planet II, people are becoming increasingly aware of the implications single use plastic has on the environment, especially when travelling. So, what can we do to protect the planet we love? Here are some of our top tips on how to travel without single use plastic.
1. Invest in a reusable water bottle
It's no secret; plastic water bottles are downright awful for the environment. They aren't biodegradable, and although many of them claim to be recyclable, most plastic bottles end up in landfill which is where they stay for hundreds, if not thousands of years. We suggest investing in a reusable water bottle that comes with a filter, like Water-To-Go. Their filters can eliminate over 99.9% of harmful contaminants in water, and the filters can last for up to two months, making them perfect for a backpacking trip.
2. Ditch soap bottles for bars
Those travel sized toiletries are handy, we know. But using them also means incurring waste on holiday, and it's too often that they don't get recycled. We suggest using soap, shampoo and conditioner in bar form. Our favourites are from Lush cosmetics as they are vegan, last forever and smell amazing too! We know what you're thinking, how on earth are you able to transport these things without getting soap everywhere?! Which leads us on to our next point...
3. Upcycle old containers
How many times have you got a takeaway or finished a pot of jam and thought "hey, these containers could come in handy one day"? Well, we have good news... hanging onto containers like these can assist in your quest to be more eco-friendly on holiday! That old hair mask pot is perfect for your new shampoo bar. That old foundation bottle could be used to decant moisturiser into. You could use an old tic tac box to transport your hair slides. You could even use old jars for breakfast on-the-go! Get creative - the possibilities are endless.
4. Carry a reusable shopping bag with you
According to Earth Policy Institute, humans use over 2 million plastic bags every minute, every day. Avoid adding more to your collection by taking a reusable shopping bag with you wherever you go. We like Bidbi's as they're fairtrade, sturdy, 100% cotton and can be personalised.
5. Carry reusable cutlery and straws
It's good to avoid disposable cutlery wherever possible, but no one wants to eat street food noodles with their hands. If you're keen to be more sustainable on holiday, why not invest in a reusable set of cutlery, like Surfers Against Sewage's bamboo set? They're lightweight, well priced and come in their own little pouch to make transportation easy. Fancy trying reusable straws? We suggest checking out Ecostrawz to check out their selection made from stainless steel, bamboo or glass.
6. Use an Ecoegg
If you're going on a long trip, you're inevitably going to want to wash your clothes at some point. Washing detergent bottles often end up in landfill and due to their size and bulkiness, they aren't the easiest things to upcycle. You could try taking an Ecoegg with you. Inside the "egg" are mineral pellets that produce a natural cleaning foam, cleaning your clothes of dirt and grime just as well as normal detergent. You don't even need any fabric softener and the egg will last you up to 720 washes - that's three years worth of washing for the average family!
7. Make your own products
It's not easy for consumers to avoid plastic. Nearly every product we buy comes packaged in it somehow, which can feel pretty disheartening if you're trying to avoid it. If you're feeling creative, try taking matters into your own hands by making your own products! You can make your own deodorant by mixing coconut oil, baking soda and cornstarch. Create your own insect repellent by mixing essential oils with vinegar and vodka. Not only will you be avoiding plastic, you'll also be saving money and having fun!
8. Wear clothing made out of natural materials
Polyester = plastic. When we wash our clothes, tiny microplastics end up going into the water, which then get digested by fish, turtles and other ocean creatures. So next time you're tempted to buy a piece of synthetic clothing, think of the turtles and opt for 100% cotton instead. We know that polyester tends to be cheaper than cotton, so you could try heading to a charity shop to get good quality clothes at a bargain price.
9. Ask for fresh food and drink
A lot of beverages come in plastic bottles. Avoid these by asking the waiter or waitress if they have any freshly squeezed juice or tap water that is safe for drinking. Fancy an ice cream? Opt for a cone instead of a pre-packaged option. Visiting a farmer's market? Ask for paper bags instead of plastic, or bring your reusable fabric tote bag. You'll be avoiding plastic and the fresh fruit and veg will keep for longer instead of going slimey!
10. Invest in some eco-friendly versions of necessary products
If you're interested in trying out some eco-friendly products, a bamboo toothbrush is a great place to start. We like this one from Holland and Barrett. Biodegradable Beeswax food wraps are a fantastic alternative to cling film and foil and can be reused for picnics, shopping trips and packed lunches. They look super cool, too.
Unfortunately, female health products come packaged in a lot of plastic. The average woman uses more than 11,000 tampons and sanitary pads in her lifetime, so switching to a menstrual cup could save a lot of your plastic waste.
11. Think twice about airline food
The food you get on the plane is often wrapped in plastic to help with transportation. If your flight is a short one, try filling up on food and drink in an airport lounge before you fly to avoid all of those pesky wrappers! Head to this article for everything else you need to know about airline food.
12. Raise Awareness
Remember the five Rs: refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, raise awareness. Speaking to your friends and colleagues about avoiding single use plastic is one of the best and easiest things you can do for the planet.
A lot of the time, people aren't aware of what changes they can make to live more sustainably, or how difficult it is to avoid single use plastic! Why not challenge your friend to see if they can go without single use plastic for just one week? How about speaking to your manager about making the office more environmentally friendly? Even using your presence on social media to highlight important causes can go a long way. Doing this will not only encourage people to be more conscious about what they're purchasing, it may help big corporations to make changes too.
Written by Caroline Adams, a social media marketer from Kent with a passion for sustainability. For more tips like these, read our article on travelling sustainably. While you're at it, why not like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Instagram for daily content to help you travel better.