HOW TO LOW-IMPACT TRAVEL
This month has been ‘plastic free July’, and in combination with it being the height of the UK’s summer season and many of you jetting off on holiday, there couldn't be a better time to talk about staying as low-impact and plastic-free as possible whilst travelling.
From afar, it might seem like doing so might be much harder when away from the comfort of your home and daily routines; where it is easy to identify points and habits that can be switched with more environmentally-friendly choices. But in reality, being mindful of your plastic consumption and production of waste is a lot easier to do than it seems, even when you might want your top priority to be exploring the new place you're in, or taking time off to relax. Trust me, putting a little bit of thought into it before you go, and putting in a little extra effort to be more aware whilst your there is so so worth it - although it might not seem like it, it makes such a big difference to the planet, and I promise you you'll feel 10x better in knowing your actions aren't contributing to causing harm to anyone else! In this post I’m going to share with you a few of my favourite tips which have helped me stay conscious and aligned with my values when I'm away adventuring.
Be sure to check out my profile on WONDR, where I have created some different folders with links to products i've mentioned, and to further information about the zero-waste/low impact lifestyle. WONDR is a new social platform that helps you find and collaborate with like-minded people, forming a community of people interested in topics around sustainability and the environment. It's so refreshing to find a new platform that's shaping social media in a more positive, constructive way; supporting people to pursue their interests, and creating a place for inspiration - definitely check it out!
From my experience, the most waste generated by the public when travelling is whilst at the airport. It's so easy to be swept up in the ease and convenience that airport restaurants and shops sell, when in reality, their consequences have damaging effects on the world around us. Next time you’re at an airport, look around and you will be shocked to suddenly become aware of all of the plastic security bags, takeaway cups, straws, wrapped food and snacks - that's before you even get on the plane (think single-use headphones, packaged blankets, pillows, the millions of packaged flight meals.) It's hard to avoid it all, but there are a few switches you can make to avoid contributing to the further production of these items.
BRING YOUR OWN REUSABLE ITEMS
Probably the most predictable point - but one that makes the biggest impact. Invest in your own reusable items and I promise you, the small price you pay will be so worth the use it gets, and the benefit on the planet.
Initially, it might take a while to get into the swing of remembering to bring them with you, but if you consciously try and make it a habit, it won’t be long till you never leave the house without them.
Here’s a checklist of some zero-waste items I can’t live without, all of which are linked on my project 'zero waste living' on my myWONDR account page
- reusable water bottle - airports have water fountains
- bamboo cutlery set
- reusable glass or steel straw
- food container (I use old tupperware mostly, but for complete plastic-free-ness and if you want to invest in something I would recommend a stainless steel or bamboo container like those in my folder)
- headphones for long flight (normal headphones usually work, but the adapters are available to buy cheaply)
- also consider bringing a blanket/neck pillow etc. if you're flying long haul, or if you're given a blanket ask if you can keep & reuse (many airlines throw them away after one use)
BRING YOUR OWN FOOD
Not only will this help cut down on plastic use, it will also help your pocket! As long as your food choices aren’t liquidy (for example, I know some people have had porridge conviscated, however i’ve always managed to bring it through!) as far as I know and have experienced, you can bring your own food through security. Pack your own sandwiches, curry and rice, salads, sweet potatoes, leftovers into tupperware boxes, bring fruits like apples, oranges and bananas (things that won’t get squished!) and any other snack items you like. If you want to bring salad dressing/tahini/peanut butter etc., decant some into a small container or bottle and put it into your liquids bag!
There are many other options when it comes to toiletries and travelling instead of buying countless small travel-size versions of them.
- TRY SOLID VERSIONS - Switching my shampoo, conditioner and soap to bar versions (at the moment I’m using ones from lush) has been the biggest switch for me - not only saving plastic, but also money as I don’t go through them as quickly, as well saving room in my liquids bag when going through security.
- GO NATURAL WHERE POSSIBLE - Switching over to more natural products not only helps our skin, but also our oceans, and can cut down on waste. My favourite natural beauty product is coconut oil - I use this as a body moisturiser, hair mask and also to take makeup off - simply use it with a muslin face cloth or reusable cotton pads to cleanse and break down make-up. No need for chemical liquids or single-use wipes!
- REUSE OLD CONTAINERS - decant any liquids/gels/pastes you DO need into small pots that you already have - try reusing small jam jars, old pots like ones from Lush, or small tupperware or salad dressing tubs.
- TRY TO FIND SUSTAINABLE OPTIONS - for example, everyone's favourite: the classic bamboo toothbrush. Razors, on the other hand seem to be a bit forgotten - instead of buying disposable razors when you arrive at your destination, consider investing in a reusable one (which bonus, you're also able to take through security, at least in the UK!) Brownie points if you invest in a plastic-free one, check out my WONDR folder for the one on my wish list!
WHEN YOU ARRIVE
(Because low-impact travelling doesn’t end when you hop off the plane!)
Here are a few simple tips that can really help make a difference when you arrive at your destination.
- try to find local produce and food markets! make sure to bring your own bags to carry things in.
- drink tap water to save buying bottles - if you would prefer not to in the country you’re visiting due to contamination issues, consider buying a filter before you go or see if your accommodation has a kettle, so you can boil tap water and cool it before drinking.
- bring cutlery with you, in case of picnic/takeout lunch and dinners
- carry a small tupperware for leftovers or takeout, make simple switches like having an ice cream cone instead of tub! whenever you do use a container, try to make sure it's recycled properly.
- going out for drinks? ask for no straws! if you do by chance get one, keep it to save it going in the bin and see how you can up-cycle it.
- support small companies! cafes, vintage shops, markets - funnily enough, on a lot of my recent travels I've actually come across a lot of plastic-free bulk stores and businesses conscious of their packaging.
All being said, the most important thing is to not stress! No one can be completely perfect - it’s all about trying your best but not beating yourself if you slip up - sometimes you forget, or matters are out of your control. You might ask for no straw but still get one - you still tried! Every little choice you make is helping the bigger picture, but remember, it’s about mindset - you want it to be something that enhances your life and others, knowing that you're making a positive impact - not control it in a negative way due to constant worry. Being consistent, and trying to make your habits and lifestyle sustainable should be your focus - this isn’t a trend or a fad, it’s something we hope more and more people will adopt long term as a normal part of life, something that will become second-nature.
Helping save the planet is meant to be fun, after all!