People often say that the process of living more sustainably is a journey. There is never an end goal since you’re constantly learning and improving — whether you’re cutting out single-use plastics or learning about the joys of buying bulk produce. The same can be said about your travel habits. Therefore, if you wish to learn more about how to avoid plastics while traveling and creating less waste, read on.
Why Cut Down on Plastic?
Plastic has both negative long-term and short-term effects on this planet we call home. For starters, when plastic doesn’t end up in the landfills here on the earth, it can end up in our oceans, harming and killing marine life. Secondly, plastic doesn’t decompose into the ground as organic plant matter can. Though you might’ve thrown out and forgotten your single-use coffee cup from your favorite cafe this morning, that doesn’t mean it’s still not there in that same trash can right now. That cup will remain on this planet for ages, most likely for the next 100 years.
While this is alarming, you may wonder how we can do better when our world relies so heavily on single-use plastics. Many critics will argue that it’s difficult to cut it from your life. While this is true — plastic is convenient and nearly ubiquitous — implementing simple changes will add up. Of course, you may not be able to avoid the use of all plastics in your everyday life, as is the case with the 5 million people who use Invisalign to straighten their teeth or those who rely on mobility aids, plastic straws, and other inventions. But there are many suggestions on how to avoid plastics while traveling.
Here are some tried and true tips globe trotters everywhere can implement — no matter where you are in your sustainability journey.
Pack Your Toiletries Wisely
One of the first ways to avoid plastic while traveling is to skip those little travel-sized bottles of lotion and shampoo? Forget about packing those for your trip. Though they might be small, this doesn’t diminish the negative impact these wasteful items can have on the planet. Plastic is plastic, regardless of its size. When packing your suitcase, opt for plastic-less hygienic products instead. Use hair shampoo and conditioner bars or mouthwash tablets in the place of toothpaste. You can also load up your usual products in reusable silicone bottles. If you’re looking to replace your toothbrush, try to select one made from biodegradable materials, like bamboo.
Choose Biodegradable Options When You Can
Another way to avoid plastics while traveling is to choose non-plastic options when possible. Choosing a bamboo toothbrush isn’t the only way you can travel the eco-friendly way. If you’re traveling with a baby or toddler, select biodegradable diapers. Similarly, if you typically use wet wipes while on the plane or staying at your hotel room, select a brand that can easily break down into the soil. Make sure to do your research and not flush those wipes down the toilet, as they can clog drains and won’t break down as you might think.
Check Whether Your Hotel Conducts Sustainable Practices
Checking whether or not your hotel practices sustainability is another way to avoid plastics while traveling. If you’re thinking of booking a hotel room, you can also use online resources to ensure that your choice is sustainable. After all, 44% of home buyers look online for properties — so you can use those same methods to find a place to stay that emphasizes sustainability. Many hotels have banned the use of single-use plastics, so check to make sure that where you’re staying will support your efforts.
Buy Ethically Produced and Sustainable Luggage
Another way you can practice more sustainable habits and avoid plastics while traveling is by purchasing sustainably made luggage for all of your trips. There are certain brands out there that create durable luggage made from recycled materials that will align with your new eco-friendly lifestyle. However, don’t feel as if you have to buy a new set today to make a statement. Getting rid of your current suitcase to buy a new one, even if it sourced from sustainable materials, is the opposite of what the message implies. Instead, purchase a new set when your current one is worn-out.
Cook For Yourself or Support Local Businesses
No matter where you’re staying, whether you’re visiting a new city, country, or continent, try eating at local restaurants and cafes. You’d be surprised at how much this can help you to avoid plastics while traveling! While stopping by Starbucks for your daily cup of coffee is tempting, chain restaurants are infamously known for using plastic. If you’re staying at an area for the long term, go grocery shopping and cook your own food to cut down on plastic cutlery and wrappers. Furthermore, avoid food unnecessarily cased in plastic. For example, fruits and vegetables don’t need any kind of wrapper since they already come in their own convenient carrying case — it also happens to be biodegradable too!
Use Reusable Goods
Lastly, make room in your luggage for reusable goods to eliminate your need for single-use plastics. First, purchase a reusable metal straw. These are excellent for traveling, whether you’re headed to a work conference or going on a dream beach vacation. They are easy to store and can collapse down to the size of your pinkie finger. Additionally, you can keep the case on your keychain for easy access. Straws are particularly troublesome since we can go through so many in a day. But many businesses and localities are already doing their part to switch over to more sustainable options.
Also, remember to pack reusable canvas bags, too, when looking for ways to avoid plastics when traveling. These can serve as shopping bags for mall runs or trips to the grocery store. Finally, don’t forget to pack a reusable water bottle and coffee mug to store your drinks.
Final Thoughts on How to Avoid Plastics When Traveling
In the U.S., our use of plastics has risen dramatically during the past century. In fact, the development of synthetic polymers exploded in the decades following 1940. But many of us are trying to undo that damage and opt for more eco-friendly alternatives, especially when traveling. Yes, it is possible to abide by your ethics and see all of the beauty the world has to offer. If you’re new to the sustainability movement, consider implementing a few of these tips into your travel routine. Not only will you significantly shrink down your carbon footprint, but you’ll also learn to become more mindful of the waste you produce in your everyday life.
What tips do you use to help avoid plastics when traveling? Share with us in the comments below