How to travel single-use plastic free
Why we should travel low waste
In most of the beloved travel destinations like Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Latin America, they often don’t have a real waste management. The plastic trash could easily get dumped illegal into the ocean or djungle because it’s too expensive to get it on a legal landfill. (Even in the U.S. in some Cities they don’t have recycling bins yet and a lot of trash goes on landfill…)
Landfills close to the ocean
On Islands most landfills are often close to the beach or another water stream, that when it’s windy or raining (and in rainy season/monsoon it rains heavy) it’s just a question of time when your coffee cup, plastic bottle, chocolate wrapper and straw will end up in the ocean.
-> 10 ways to be more Zero Waste on an Island
And also in other countries, like the U.S. and Australia the recycling system is not really done yet. They don’t have, or in OZ just get started with deposit machines for plastic bottles. So if you don’t have access to a recycling bin they end up in landfills. China is not taking trash from other countries anymore, so landfills will get bigger and bigger if they don’t build incinerator (burning trash for Energy facilities. Not the solution for the future, but one solutions against choking in trash.).
Carbon off set
If you go traveling by plane, you can’t really travel sustainable. The carbon emission is just too high. (You can always outweigh your carbon footprint by using different kinds of options. Just a few Airlines offer the opportunity to pay carbon off set. But you can do so voluntarily from platforms like atmosfair, climate-friendly, myclimate, and more.
So even if you can’t travel without a carbon footprint, you can always make better and sustainable choices along the way.
You will get in contact with a lot of plastic, it`s mostly not possible to go completely plastic free.
The tag on your bag by check in, maybe even the Ticket or the plastic bag for the Backpack which some Airlines use, the food on the plane, etc.
Focus on what you can control!
It’s not always easy, but it’s possible. And “hey ho” we live in an online world, and there are solutions for everything. Apps, Websites, Blogs about all Topics you want to know about. Also about the topic Plastic Free/Zero Waste.
There are websites providing searching tools for bulk stores/Zero Waste Stores worldwide, Blogger are sharing their neighborhood shops and markets where you can bring your own container, and bags.
And if you go to countries where you might eat out every day or often (like in South East Asia, South America, Northern America) make sure to have your Zero Waste Kit with you.
I know many people who want to travel with hand luggage only, but even then you can find some utensils not too heavy and big to take with you. And if you already want to save money, take your own snacks and water bottle to save the horrendous airport prices!!
So lets go, my favorite “must have” for a plastic reduced or plastic free travel:
Your own reusable bottle. If its not a glass bottle (I have heard people where lucky with glass bottles too, but I wouldn’t take the risk) you can take it through security check, the bottle just needs to be empty. And on every Airport i’ve been to so far, you can always refill somewhere. If you are somewhere where there is no drinkable tap water, always buy the biggest water bottle you can find. 5L is available everywhere, saving 4x 1L Bottles. Or in a lot of countries your hotel has a refill station, in Thailand you will find refill stations for a few baht, or if you stay longer you can also take the 20L container for refill stations. There are more and more refill apps coming. Search “water refill”in your App store, check out an App and please let me know if you find them helpful. (Read more about how to avoid plastic bottles while traveling here.)
Also you can buy bottles with filter: “Water-to-Go filters reduce the volume of contaminants in water by over 99.9%. ” Perfect for holidays in countries where you normally can´t drink from tap. Now you can!!! Check them out on WaterToGo and get 15% of all products with the Code HAPPY15 (only on the EU website)(filter bundle excluded).
You can find a lot of stainless steel container or also foldable silicone container for some snacks. Take some nuts or dried fruits, a self made sandwich, etc with you. This is also the healthier option. We all know the snacks provided at Airports and Train stations are mostly fatty and full of sugar and calories. At your destination use the container if you buy street food, or fresh cut fruit on the street. We even bought pizza slices in Mexico with our container. No questions been asked..
If these are made of wood or bamboo, there should be no problem to get even the knife and fork through security because they are not sharp at all. In countries where you even get offered plastic single use cutlery in restaurants its really handy to have your reusables with you.
Jute bag/mesh produce bag.
If you travel like I do, and you are going shopping to make your own food while traveling, always have your reusable shopping bag and some mesh produce bags for fresh produce with you. They come very handy on markets, you can fold them to make it fit into every bag pack or hand bag or even a jacket pocket. And you will save soooo many plastic bags!!! (Plastic Free Shopping in supermarkets)
If you love to drink coffee, iced coffee, smoothies, etc. make sure to have your reusable cup with you. Also these you can find as foldable nowadays. In a lot of countries you don´t get a glass for smoothies and frappes even if you drink in house. They mostly serve in plastic straight away.
Say no straw please when ordering cold drinks.
They come straight away with a plastic straw. Sometimes they are so much quicker in putting a straw in your drink than you can say: no straw please. So make sure to order this straight away! If you need to drink out of a straw, make sure to take a reusable straw with you. You can chose between stainless steel straws, glass straws, bamboo straws.
Buy fruits and veggies on farmers markets.
They mostly won’t argue if you want to pack your stuff into your own bag, they might look confused though or laugh at you (experienced in South East Asia), but just smile back and keep going 🙂 they just don’t know better (many people in Europe look grumpy or argue instead;).
I had my first and only awkward situation in Vienna, Austria so far, actually when I bought some bulk cashews with my own cloth bag and tomatoes in my reusable net (in a cheaper supermarket).
The guy at the check out looked confused, took a deep breath and took the tomatoes out of the net to weigh them and then put them back into the net…. He looked at the cashews in my own bag, took a even deeper breath, looked at them like they were poisoned….
I said: “just weigh them please, I don’t want any plastic bags I don’t care if I pay for a few tiny grams more.” He didn’t even say anything, but did weigh them shaking his head a little 😀 I traveled through SEA and five European countries to come to Austria to have my first awkward moment. I didn’t expect that 😉
If you need some input on how to keep a positive Attitude while facing all the massive plastic pollution while traveling -> read this post.