In 2017 there were over 38 million flights worldwide, with over four billion people travelling by plane, with passengers generating around millions of tonnes of waste a year, from non-reusable plastics down to food and toilet waste.
Whatever mode of transport you choose, however, plastic will be everywhere around you. From the food at the airport or at the petrol station to the souvenirs you will bring back home, plastic is hard to avoid. Here are a few tips to reduce your plastic consumption during your trip.
Take your reusable water bottle and coffee cup with you
Many of us already have a reusable water bottle or coffee cup, but we often forget to actually use it! If you are travelling by plane, you can carry your empty bottle through the security gates and simply fill it afterwards, as you can find drinking water stations in most airports. Some airports even have hot water stations, so if you don’t want to spend all your holiday money on tea, carry a tea bag with you and enjoy the free drink.
Once you’ve arrived at your destination, it’s very easy to find a tap to refill your water bottle. Apps like Tap are great to help you find your nearest water point wherever in the world you are. You’ll save money by not buying bottled water and the planet will thank you!
Use your own cutlery
Carrying your own cutlery won’t take much space in your bag and will prove to be very useful. You might have to leave you knife at home: it won’t go through security at the airports; and if you are planning to visit museums, some have security checks at the entrance. Ideally, your cutlery will be made from bamboo rather than metal to avoid it beeping at the security gates (bamboo it’s also a lot lighter, so it is more convenient, too).
If you are travelling by car, you’ll have more space, so you can even carry a plate, glass and cutlery set for each traveller. This will make the improvised picnics a lot easier!
Add fabric bags to your packing list
Reusable bags are a must-have item on your packing list. Whether you go grocery shopping at your destination or like buying souvenirs on your holidays, they will always prove useful in a variety of situations. In most countries, shop and market sellers are used to people shopping with their own bags, so with your best “hand language” you should be able to avoid the unnecessary plastic bags. As for duty free, some items have to be bagged and sealed (alcohol, cigarettes, perfume, etc.), but you can use your own bag for everything else. And if you are traveling within the European Union, there should be not restrictions.
Bring your plastic-free toiletry
Solid shampoo, soaps, and toothpaste are practical to carry and go easily through security checks at the airport. Other essentials for your toiletry bag are: a bamboo toothbrush, charcoal floss, solid deodorant, and solid body butter or a metal packaged cream. These are many ways for you to reduce your plastic consumption in the bathroom both at home and while traveling.
Eat and drink like a local
The best way to discover a new place is to taste the local food. Enjoy local cuisine in a pub or a restaurant. Locally grown food will have a lower carbon footprint and there is a higher chance that it was not packaged in plastic along the processing chain. Apps like the Zero Waste App will help you find plastic-free food and drinks in a variety of cities of around the world, from places selling groceries in bulk to farmers markets, cafés, and restaurants.
Bring your own snacks
Buying plastic-free snacks at the airport, the train station, or the petrol station can be very difficult and expensive. The best way to avoid plastic (and to save money) is to come well prepared. Bring your own homemade snacks or buy them before travelling at your local bakery or shop. For extra eco points, you can store these in cotton grocery bags or come prepared with a container or glass jar, which you can then reuse during your trip for leftovers, doggy bags, or buying more local snacks. Fruits are the easiest snacks to carry around, as they are usually already “naturally-packaged” in their own skins.
Just ask and enjoy
The best way to avoid plastic is usually to ask. Once you have your water bottle, your reusable coffee cup and your fabric bags with you, are well prepared to tackle waste and all you’re really now missing is your eco-warrior cape.
When on the plane, ask the flight attendant if they would agree to serve the coffee or tea in your reusable cup or the water in your bottle. At the train station, ask the food counter to put your sandwich in a paper bag instead of over packaging it in plastic-lined carton. At the market, ask the shop seller to put the fruits and vegetables directly in your bags. It could be the start of a very interesting discussion. If you are traveling to another country, you may need to use your best “hand language”, but it will be fun and should make people around you smile! After all, there is no better way to discover another culture than to mix with the locals.