Travel doesn’t only increase your carbon footprint but it leads to a lot of (plastic) waste as well. Think about all the plastic water bottles you buy. Think about the plastic straws in your cocktail, the plastic bags you receive at the supermarkets, the disposable food containers, and the plastic wrappers from your snacks. That's a lot of plastic!
We love our planet, so we want to do everything we can - at home and on the road - to help combat the massive production of waste. So, here are 8 ways to minimise our waste.
1. Refill your water bottle
It's shocking to know how many plastic bottles we use globally. Per minute people buy a million plastic bottles, of which 91% isn't even recycled.
Can you remember your last trip? How many water bottles do you think you used? They almost all end up in the huge pile of waste or in the street and in the ocean. Many countries - especially developing countries - don’t have a proper waste management system.
Fortunately, you can make a difference by not buying any more water bottles. There are so many places now where you can refill your own bottle with drinking water. Even when you can’t drink the tap water, they will have a water container in most hotels, airports, and restaurants. Are you travelling to Asia? Check out these initiatives: Refill not Landfill, Refill My Bottle en Trash Hero.
Put your water bottle in your daypack so you won’t forget it. You carry around a plastic bottle anyway, so you might as well change that with a refillable bottle. And the best thing is that if you use a water bottle made from stainless steel, it’s naturally anti-bacterial!
It’s also a lot cheaper to refill your bottle than to buy a new bottle of water every time.
2. Take part in the sharing economy
We live in the best time possible. There are so many ways to get in touch with people, we don’t need to do everything on our own anymore. You can get help with anything. Need to borrow a drilling machine or blender? Just ask your neighbours. Don't feel like breaking the bank for a hotel? Just rent an Airbnb.
We call this the sharing economy. It’s when persons that don’t know each other (yet) share assets or services between each other. Sometimes this exchange happens for free and other times you pay a small fee. It makes sense, because why would you buy a tent if you’re not sure you’re going to use it regularly?
Do you have devices that are lying around the house, collecting dust? Share them with people who need them and make some money out of it!
3. Download your tickets, newspapers, and books to your phone
It’s so easy nowadays to do everything digitally. Who needs paper anymore? We can do business online, our administration, our taxes, our insurances, and also our flight bookings. Just download your airline tickets on your phone, and you’re good to go. The same goes for books, newspapers or magazines. You’d be surprised how easy it is to get used to reading on a tablet or on your phone.
And the good thing is that you can bring a whole library worth of books with you without having to carry the extra baggage! You won’t ever have a boring moment again. Take out your phone and dive into your favourite book.
Extra tip: bring your charger with you. There’s always a power plug somewhere around you, especially on airports. If you want to go extra green, invest in a good solar phone charger. This way you can always recharge your phone or camera in a sustainable way.
4. Think twice before you throw your food away
Are you out for dinner in a restaurant and can’t finish your food? Ask for a doggy bag! You or someone else might enjoy it later that evening or the next day.
Staying in hostels? Do you know how happy fellow travellers are with your leftover bread, pasta, sauce or eggs? Especially in places like Australia or Europe where food is expensive. Make sure your food is still good and then place it in the leftover section in your hostel’s kitchen.
At home, you can start by putting your shopping list on a diet. Yearly, we throw away some 40 kilos of good food per person. That is about 140 euro worth of good food. And yet there are still people starving on this planet. Try to buy smart, check what foods you have in your fridge and cupboards, and don’t buy or cook more than what you need.
You can keep products such as ham and sausages in the refrigerator for 4 days after opening. Pre-packaged sliced vegetables can be consumed until one day after opening. Smoked salmon: 2 days after opening. Milk: 3 to 5 days after opening.
5. Bring clothes that are easy to wash
If you’re going to a tropical country, don’t bring any jeans. First of all, they’re way too hot. Secondly, they’re hard to wash. If you bring your stuff to the laundry, it will be better if you give them a light load. This doesn’t only reduce water, time and soap but will also save you money! Usually, you need to pay by the kilo, so pack light and save your bucks for fun things.
6 Join a Beach CleanUp
There are regular beach cleanups all over the world organised by local communities or organisations. If you care about the beach and the ocean, this is a great way to pay your respect to the country you’re visiting. It’s also a fun way to meet new people and you’ll feel fulfilled at the end of the day.
This might be preaching to the choir but make sure you throw away your own trash as well. Is there no trash can in sight? Then take your trash with you and throw it away when you see one.
7. Say NO to plastics
Plastic bags and single-use plastics such as straws and wrappers are a huge problem for the environment. Plastic bags end up in the ground and then release toxic chemicals. Animals eat them and starve to death as the plastic blocks the intestinal tract and keeps their stomach full.
This is why it’s so important to reduce our own use of plastic items. It’s easy to bring your own reusable, cotton bags to the supermarket. Use your own bags to weigh your fruit or vegetables and bring your groceries home.
If you always carry a small foldable bag with you, you never have to accept a plastic bag from the store. Buying souvenirs? Ask them to not use any plastic wrappers or bags. Bring a daypack or keep your souvenirs safe in some socks or towels.
This also goes for the laundry. When you drop off your clothes, they usually give them back to you in a plastic bag. Instead, give them a laundry bag and ask them to put your stuff in there.
8. Say no to plastics on your face
And no, we’re not talking about cosmetic surgery, we’re talking about sunscreen! Did you know that sunscreen can contain microplastics or microbeads? These are very small plastic pieces that are not only present in sunscreen but also in scrubs, toothpaste and shampoo. They are used to replace natural exfoliating materials in rinse-off or leave-on cosmetics.
If you put on sunscreen and dive into the ocean, these microplastics end up in the water, contributing to the problem of the “plastic soup”. Between 10 and 100 trillion of plastic particles can be present in one flacon of sunscreen. They are easily absorbed into the food chain because they are so tiny. And the smallest part can even be absorbed by animal tissue!
This means that they end up in your body as well - especially if you eat fish.
How can you see if your products contain microplastics or microbeads? Check for these names in the list of ingredients:
- polyethylene (PE),
- polypropylene (PP),
- polyethylene terephthalate (PET),
- polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA),
- and nylon-12.
Sunscreen products that do not contain microplastics are Lush, Rituals, and Lovea. You can also download the app ‘Beat the Microbead’ to see if your product is safe.
Do you have any other ways to reduce your waste at home or on the road? Help other people and share your tips below in the comments.
Author: Jessica Scheper