I know it’s very late in January to say this, but since this is my first post of 2018 I’m declaring it appropriate – happy new year to you all!
Before I delve into writing my usual type of travel blog this year, I wanted to share something that I’ve been keen to discuss recently – my attempt to practice the art of plastic reduction, both in my day-to-day life and when I travel.
I’ve been hugely inspired by my sister who has taken a thoroughly conscientious approach to everyday living and introduced me to new and innovative ways to not only reduce plastic, but also general unnecessary wastage. It’s a work in progress and not without its challenges, but I can no longer ignore my personal contribution to our vast consumption of plastic while it threatens not only the health of our planet, but also our personal wellbeing.
Pausing to consider it, I’m dismayed by all the different ways plastic creeps into my consumption patterns, sometimes via habits I didn’t even realise were habits – like having a straw with my gin while out for a drink with friends; using disposable coffee cups and lids; having bottles of hand soap on rotation in my bathroom; and literally everything I buy in my weekly food shop is wrapped in it. I’ve even discovered that we are exposed to plastic in places we wouldn’t even think of it, like the humble teabag.
Now I know I’m guilty of indulging in a few plane journeys every year to feed that travel bug of mine, but I hope that the small changes I make in my daily life will, in the long run, make a difference. Below I’ve written about a few new habits I’m attempting to make permanent, of which some might be old news to you, others not, but I hope you might find something of use and interest.
How about you, have you any tips of your own for better travel practices and reducing plastic waste? I’d love to hear your ideas and experiences!
Until next time…
This is a good place to start – buy a reusable water bottle that you can easily carry around with you. I’ve recently invested in a great quality one from bkr and it’s now a staple in my bag every day. If you are flying somewhere that has safe drinking water, then you can bring it along – I pack it empty in my bag before going through airport security, then I can take it out and about with me while I’m away and top it up as I go, asking for it to be filled in restaurants or cafés.
There are some places though where it is more difficult to avoid the use of plastic water bottles. This is something I really struggled with when visiting India and I’m ashamed of all the plastic bottles I used over those two weeks – if every tourist there does the same thing it is a catastrophically large amount of plastic waste to leave behind. I’m on the lookout for an alternative when I travel to somewhere where the tap water is not an option – tips on how to do this are welcome!
Coffee lovers unite
I’ve only become a coffee lover in the last year and while I don’t drink it every day, I do like to indulge at the weekend and when I travel. I had been under the impression that the takeaway cups given out in cafés were recyclable and so no harm in having the odd one here and there. But disturbingly, in the UK alone, less than 1% of the 2.5 billion cups consumed every year are recycled.
After a little research last month, I ordered a Frank Green reusable cup online and it’s one of the best investments I’ve made. I take it with me whenever I know I’m going to grab a coffee somewhere to take away and it keeps my Americano perfectly hot. The debate rages on about introducing a levy on takeaway cups here in the UK, but investing in your own cup is such an easy option and the incentive to do so is ever more appealing as some bigger coffee chains like Costa, Starbucks and Pret a Manger are leading the way in offering a discount to those who do bring their own.
I must admit staycations are not my forte. I like to get on a plane and fly somewhere for my holiday, but this year I have resolved to have at least one staycation somewhere in the UK. A mere nine years after moving here, I’m going to be mindful of taking at least one less plane journey and explore what’s right on my doorstep. And I’m excited by the prospect.
I’ve never been south to Devon or Cornwall, nor ventured north to the Peak District. I’ve never been to Liverpool or the Lake District. It would seem there is no better time to find out what I’ve been missing out on.
Make it, wrap it and no plastic cutlery
One thing I try to do when I travel is to make and bring my own breakfast to the airport/rail/bus station if I’m travelling early in the morning, or snacks for a later journey. I can easily put it in Tupperware and avoid buying something heavily packaged, probably less nutritious and definitely more expensive.
If you need to wrap up any bits of food at home or when travelling, then consider investing in some reusable, biodegradable beeswax wraps which are the ideal alternative to cling film and tinfoil.
And while we’re at it lets go all out: having your own reusable cutlery set for travelling is a great little trick to avoid the dreaded throwaway versions catering to customers keen on speed not silver forks. I do find the amount of plastic cutlery available in cafés and delis quite disturbing, so bringing your own set can go some way to counteracting this and hopefully, as we are with our throwaway coffee cups, we can tackle this unnecessary waste.
Or better yet, if you can or want to spend a little, slow down, sit down and eat somewhere with actual cutlery and plates and all those amazing non-plastic things.
A reusable tote bag is an absolute must in my bag. Even when you don’t expect to buy something it’s always useful to have just in case. The one I’ve got on the go now has extra travel sentimental value as I bought it in India last year and it’s serving me very well so far.
I’ve used plastic toothbrushes for my entire 32 years on the planet – that’s an embarrassing amount of plastic waste considering I change it every 3 months or so! Recently I’ve discovered there are alternatives and I’m attempting to switch to biodegradable bamboo versions from now on. These are particularly useful for those with an electric toothbrush at home who then buy plastic ones to travel with.
Bristle are the brand to know when it comes to more ethical teeth-cleaning practices and I’m looking forward to trying out their product this month.
Watch Blue Planet
If you haven’t seen this incredible documentary series from David Attenborough and the BBC then do seek it out if you can. Showcasing the sheer scale of life that exists and thrives in our oceans, it is simply astounding viewing and one of the most engrossing programmes I watched last year.
What struck me most though when watching it was how much our lifestyles impact on and invade the natural cycles of the world’s oceans, particularly in relation to the amount of plastic that ends up there. It’s shocking and it’s sad and I hope we can collectively do better not to inflict our waste in such a harmful and sometimes irreversibly damaging way.