10 Ways to Travel & Live More Sustainably - How to Refuse Single-Use Plastic
Why Care, Why Read and How Does This Effect You?
We are the first generation that knows our human impacts are destroying the planet and we may very well be one of the last. I don’t think any of us want our future children to blame us and our generation for not doing our part in ensuring that they could also enjoy the ocean and nature as we do. Plastic is a huge problem, over 90% of plastic isn’t recycled and a huge amount accumulate in the oceans, turning into micro plastic and ingested by marine life. Either the animal suffers from ingestion of plastic, or it gets turned into toxic compounds such as mercury, which accumulates up the food chain. As we humans are at the top of the food chain, this means that we are essentially poisoning ourselves. Not only that, but the ocean is a huge regulator for our climate and absorbs much of the CO2 we produce. With ever increasing CO2 production along with heavy deforestation and pollution of the ocean, we are losing our two biggest climate regulators. Everything is interconnected, our choices, the ecosystem, the planet we call home.
When we think of all the world problems, we become so disheartened and so frustrated. We think our individual selves and our individual actions insignificant, that what we do doesn’t matter. People also have more pressing matters to think about like working, sustaining their families, and just getting by on a daily basis. (Almost) Everyone knows that Global Warming/Climate Change and plastic pollution is an issue and we all think we have to wait for our politicians to make a change in the law or for greedy businesses to swap out cheap plastic for more expensive sustainable options in order to make change. But there are so many simple things you can start with right NOW to make an impact. It’s your choice — people think they are doing their part simply by throwing or disposing of their rubbish properly, but ultimately it’s your DEMAND that fuels the SUPPLY.
Think Locally: Here are 10 simple things you can do right now in your immediate surroundings, wherever you are in the world, to lessen your impact. They are simple swaps in your habit that once caught on, will feel like second nature. Sure, you will get the odd looks and scrutinising remarks but you just have to trust that your positive energy will spread to others who might pick up some of your newly acquired good habits. I’ve gotten so many positive responses simply by doing the below and when people see someone else doing it and defying social norms, you give them the courage to do so as well. So without further ado:
1.Have a set of metal and/or bamboo cutlery - (REFUSE PLASTIC CUTLERY)
I have more than one set of reusable cutlery and stash them away in the 3 bags I use most: my handbag/personal bag, my day pack, and my overnight hiking bag. That way, no matter what I’m doing or where I am, I can refuse plastic cutlery. If you do end up forgetting and accepting plastic cutlery, then don’t throw them away! Clean them, reuse them next time. When you fly, give back your plastic cutlery to the Air Hostess and use your own. They appreciate it SO much because they do feel bad for disposing an incredible amount of plastic every single day.
2. Bring your own reusable mug for coffee/tea - (REFUSE TAKEAWAY CUPS w PLASTIC LIDS)
There’s a huge selection of cool bamboo or stainless steel mugs out there! It’s a one-off cost, which doesn’t have to be expensive and lasts until you accidentally misplace it. Many cafes offer discounts and prefer you to bring in your own mug. If you forgot your mug, then at least refuse the plastic lid and hopefully the cup itself is recyclable.
3. Have a roll of biodegradable bags with you on your travels (REFUSE SINGLE USE PLASTIC BAGS)
This is more for when I’m camping or hiking, but in general, I do carry around with me a roll of green biodegradable bags so that if I’m in the middle of nowhere, at least I have a place for my trash. (Nearly 2 MILLION Single Use Plastic Bags are distributed worldwide EVERY MINUTE - that’s 2 MILLION plastic bags every minute that are only used once, but will stay on this earth forever!!)
4. Bring reusable shopping bags with you when you go out (REFUSE SINGLE USE PLASTIC BAGS)
Reusable bags cost just a few dollars and they’re often small enough to stuff into your bag so you always have it handy. Down the loose fruit and vege isles, just put the loose items into your reusable bag and take them out at checkout. Or buy smaller reusable bags for your fruits if you prefer. Seeing two apples in a plastic bag is simply so unnecessary. Worse case scenario, I carry my items as punishment for forgetting my reusable bags or just don’t buy so much.
5. Buy reusable bamboo or metal straws (REFUSE PLASTIC STRAWS)
You can buy a set of bamboo or metal straws and distribute it/sell it to your friends/family. However, unless you’re handicapped, the use of straws is just so unnecessary no? Why can’t we use the fine motion hands we evolved to acquire and bring the cup to our mouths? (More than 500 MILLION PLASTIC straws are used in America EVERYDAY! They are used ONCE and then disposed of. That’s enough to circle the earth twice and this is just ONE country! Plastic Oceans UK)
6. Women - use menstrual cups (REFUSE SINGLE USE TAMPONS AND PADS)
Tampons and Pads are SO bad for the environment! Not to mention the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome from Tampons. If you are still using pads and tampons, consider switching to collapsable menstrual cups (this is the one I use: Lily Cup) which are amazing for travelling; or period proof underwear that act like pads (Knixteen and SheThinks are fantastic). To all you men out there, don’t be afraid to tell your female friends/partners and family about these! I actually learnt about this alternative thanks to my first boyfriend.
7. REFUSE products with micro beads (in many face wash/scrubs, body scrubs, toothpaste, beauty products)
Facial washes that claim to get rid of blackheads actually do more harm for your skin by stripping it of its natural oil, the micro beads get washed out and enter our oceans, they get ingested by the marine life, which then enters our food chain. Use Baking Soda instead as a natural exfoliator - it’s amazing! Also research Oil Cleansing Method - this is something you can do at home for a very affordable price and it’s the world’s best make up remover and cleanser (far better than any facial wipes or cleansers I promise you). Saves you so much money and is much better for your skin.
8. REFUSE the amenities provided in hotels and just bring/use your own
The shower caps, shampoo and conditioner are all single use plastic and get disposed of after your visit. Bring your own. This is a very very minor effect on your travels and has a huge positive effect.
9. Bring your own water bottle! (REFUSE PLASTIC BOTTLES)
Refill at cafes or restaurants when you can, you would pay a fraction of the cost (if at all) instead of buying a useless disposable single use plastic bottle. Or choose glass bottles over plastic. (More than ONE MILLION Plastic Bottles are bought EVERY MINUTE around the globe and less than half is actually recycled. )
10. Watch NETFLIX Documentaries:
A Plastic Ocean - amazing videography and story lines. If you should watch any of these three documentaries, watch this one first.
Before the Flood - a rather long documentary starring Leonardo di Caprio, very extensive look into Global Warming and how climate change effects all of us.
Terra - our relationship with nature and the animals around us, how our actions are driving species extinct and ultimately our own species.
An Extra: BOND with the Ocean. It’s what sustains us.
Go for swim, do a diving course, grab a board and just paddle or learn to surf - observe the way how everything seemingly flows together. I feel at home when I’m in the ocean and it’s a home I want to protect. If you’re not comfortable in the water, then stroll down the beaches and see if you can find a beach without rubbish or micro plastic. Only by seeing and experiencing can you begin to develop a respect for the ocean and our beaches, only then can you really start caring and seeing the impacts our consumer choices have on this fragile beautiful eco system.
Travelling and not having a base certainly makes all this a little harder but not impossible. I have been a huge critic of my own travel style, I have been guilty of using plastic because it was easier or because I forgot my own reusable materials. I do not exonerate myself and certainly am by no means a perfect example, but I’m trying everyday to be a better version of myself, to lessen the impact I have on our beautiful planet. Because I care… I care so much, I won’t even tell you the number of times I’ve cried seeing plastic floating in the water or scattered like a dump on beautiful pristine beaches. So I will never stop learning, caring, changing for the better and creating awareness so that our future generations can enjoy this amazing planet too and not grow up in a trash dump of our human waste. This is me trying and I’d love for us all to help inform and support each other.
If you care, please share! Hopefully you already do some of the above, if you don’t it’s never too late to start! Is there something you are currently doing that wasn’t mentioned? I’d love to hear your thoughts and insights down below.