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How can you reduce your plastic footprint whilst travelling?

· zerowaste,Travel,lessplastic

Travelling is glorious - whether a luxurious honeymoon or backpacking on trains and buses, it’s a way to broaden your horizons, enrich yourself, get away from it all, learn how others live and, help in those tiny but crucial ways to increase understanding and tolerance in a world that so desperately needs more of those two values.

However, there is no getting away from the fact that it can often have a heavy impact on the environment - from the heavy environmental cost of flying to the amount of water used by hotel laundries and the numerous plastic water bottles used by travellers wary of the infamous ‘Delhi Belly’. And yes, in this first edition of ‘Plastic Ramblings’, it’s those plastic bottles (and other plastic accoutrements) that we are going to tackle, highlighting bad habits and suggesting ways to beat them on the road.

You can start even before you’ve walked out of your front door. It’s tempting, particularly if you’re taking hand luggage only and have to abide by the 100ml rule, to buy your shampoo, conditioner, face wash and moisturiser minis at Boots when you’ve gone past security - but this just adds four or five extra and totally unnecessary plastic bottles to the world’s rubbish tips each time each person does it. A simple solution is to buy reusable minis - like these ones - and decant from your regular bottles at home; it also means you’re not limited to the normally rather poor selection at the airport.

While you’re away, there are inevitably things that you need to use and throw away. It would be somewhat undelectable to reuse earbuds for example, but each one you chuck adds just a little bit more to landfill in your destination (or indeed at home): these organic cotton ones from the brilliant Ethical Superstore are 100% biodegradable as they have paper, not plastic stalks. Similarly, there’s no getting around changing your toothbrush every few months, but you can do it with an easy conscience if you buy this rather attractive wooden one with bamboo fibres - they’re also cheaper so your bank balance, as well as the planet, wins.

Plastic bottles are one of the scourges of the modern age - they take vast quantities of fossil fuels and water to make, use more fuel to be transported and are often filled with filtered tap water anyway, charged at 10,000 times the cost of regular tap water. If that’s not enough to put you off, often even recycled bottles end up in landfill, with toxins leaking from them as they decay (which takes millennia anyway) into our water systems. Whether at home or abroad, avoid buying bottled water whenever possible - bring a reusable bottle and refill it whenever you get the opportunity; many of them, such as S’well, have the added bonus of keeping liquid cool for an extended amount of time, so you don’t have to quench your thirst with warm water. In some countries, tap water isn’t drinkable but there are often water stations with clean water with which to fill your receptacle - ask around rather than resorting to plastic.

Hotels have a lot to answer for in the fight against climate change and pollution - they use a huge amount of water for laundry and facilities, excessive energy for e.g. air conditioning and they often provide each guest with a range of disposable toiletries such a shower gel, shampoo and conditioner and moisturiser in plastic bottles - which would cancel out all your efforts to decant your shampoo into your reusable bottles at home. An easy way to combat this is if hotels follow the lead of the Ibis Styles chain who have dispensers on the walls of the shower - not quite as luxurious perhaps but at least you can sleep easy. Call your hotel out on their disposable toiletries and ask them if they’ve considered other, more ethical options - it does their public profile no harm either in our more conscientious age.


These are just a few ideas of ways to reduce your plastic footprint when on your travels - you can do more by looking out for opportunities to swap plastic for alternative, more sustainable materials and reusing items where possible. Do let us know your tips so we can share them!


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