How to travel plastic-free (or nearly!)

Being passionate about our planet makes traveling a little tricky sometimes, as the travel industry seems to be addicted to single-use plastic. One way of traveling a little more Eco-consciously is by avoiding single-use plastic as much as possible. Here is my guide to plastic-free(r) traveling.

Take your own Zero waste travel kit along

The best way to travel plastic-free is to go reusable, by putting your own zero-waste travel kit together. This might take a little extra preparation, but once you have your kit you are sorted for your next few trips. I love my zero-waste travel kit. It has freed me from the Eco-anxiety and guilty feelings I used to feel when traveling. This very simple swap has gifted me the freedom to enjoy my travels. My zero-waste travel kit consists of the following:

  • Reusable water bottle: Keeping hydrated is important especially if you are visiting a hot and humid climate. A reusable water bottle is a great alternative to buying bottled water in single-use plastic bottles. I love my glass bottle with its screw top from Consol. If you are uncertain about your destination’s quality of water, consider getting yourself a travel filter bottle or steri-pen. These genius inventions apparently remove up to 99% of contaminants.
  • Reusable coffee (or tea) cup: Your reusable coffee cup is not just for your daily commute, but also makes the perfect travel companion. It isn’t just for coffee or tea – it also comes in handy for picking up water in the hotel lobby or buying soda or juice at a Take-away chain. I don’t go anywhere without my Ecoffee Cup. Ecoffee Cups are made from the world’s fastest growing, most sustainable crop – bamboo fibre. If you haven’t had a cup of coffee in an Ecoffee cup, it feels a bit like a thick, yet light cardboard. They are available in a range of fun colours and contemporary patterns, making them just a little more stylish than their plastic, ceramic or stainless-steel counterparts.
  • Reusable straw: Plastic straws are causing havoc in our oceans. If drinking from a straw is a must for you, make sure to include reusable straws in your travel kit. I especially like the new silicone straws from WWF’s new summer range.
  • Reusable shopping bag: The last thing you want to do is buy a single-use plastic shopping bag while traveling. Keep a fold-up bag handy in case you come across a must-have souvenir or some beautiful local fresh produce.
  • Reusable cutlery: Reusable travel cutlery is also a great way of reducing waste while traveling, especially if you like buying street food or take-aways.

Refuse wasteful freebies

We all love a good bargain and a freebie, but remember that most freebies are not made to last and will eventually (probably sooner than later) end up on a landfill. Every freebie we accept, or take, creates a demand to make more. When we take one of those little ‘free’ shampoo bottles from a hotel room, more oil will be rigged to make a replacement. Saying no to freebies can really make a difference. Here’s how:

  • Hotel toiletries: A great way of refusing freebies is by avoiding hotel toiletries. Ask the reception (nicely!) to remove them from your hotel room. They are usually packaged in plastic, and more often than not, barely used by guests, creating a lot of unnecessary waste. Adding a solid soap and shampoo bar to your zero-waste travel kit is a great way of avoiding those toiletries. Check out Nul Natural and Zero Bar for great shampoo bars.
  • Travel accessories: Travel socks, toothbrushes, masks, earphones etc. are generally packaged in or made from single-use plastic, and are usually used only once before being discarded. Avoid these travel accessories as far as possible. A bamboo toothbrush and travel case are great alternatives to the single-use toothbrushes that airlines and some hotels provide. I bought my Simply bamboo toothbrush and travel case from The Refillery.

Get creative with travel snacks

I love road tripping! For me long road trips are synonymous with snacking, which means they can be very wasteful. Opting for plastic-free snacks is a great way of cutting pack on single-use plastic while traveling. Here are a few of my favourite ideas, but the options are endless.

  • Instead of packets of crisps, roast your own peanuts and pop them in a reusable container.
  • Apples, pears, and carrots make great (and healthy) snacks.
  • Opt to wrap your sandwiches in bees wax wraps or wax paper, instead of clingfilm.
  • Swap tinned sodas for sodas or juices in glass bottles. Or fill your reusable glass bottle with water and fresh slices of lemon before leaving home.
  • Get yourself a flask that can be filled with freshly brewed coffee or hot chocolate.
  • Make your own fruit rolls, health bars or cookies ahead of time, and pack them in airtight containers ready for the road.  
  • And (for my South African friends) what is a road trip without dry wors and biltong wrapped in brown paper?

Living sustainably isn’t just about doing less harm, but also about doing more good. The cliché that says that you should only leave your footprints behind when visiting a destination has become one of my travel-mantras.

Happy plastic-free(r) travels!


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