July 21, 2018

Sustainable Travel Swaps


As part of my quest to fulfil the #PlasticFreeJuly challenge while travelling this month, I asked other travel bloggers from Female Travel Bloggers to share sustainable travel practices and swaps that they have made in their lives. It’s inspiring to see that people all over the world are thinking about the environment and taking steps to reduce their impact. 

It’s important to remember that your lifestyle habits at home usually travel with you wherever you go. If you’re in the process of, or thinking about making more sustainable swaps in your life, then it’s important to consider how you can literally take these swaps with you when you travel. 

However, this is also a judgement free zone, nobody is perfect and more often than not, the situation does not offer you a sustainable option. One of the major points that these ladies have highlighted, is that being prepared is a huge part of being a more sustainable traveller, so that you're not relying on circumstance. Even making one single swap or sustainable change in your life can have such an incredible impact on the world, and the simple swaps outlined below are a great place to start!


Sustainable Travel Swaps


Swapping Plastic Bags for Reusable Bags

I’ve become more and more aware of how much plastic there is in the world. Traveling to beautiful places and seeing how much damage something so small can have, really had an impact. It’s one of the reasons I started my blog, actually. 
Plastic bags are convenient, and they are lightweight and they are everywhere. It’s so easy to get sucked into this vicious plastic world and forget that pretty much all the plastic ever used is still on this world today. I started carrying a small lightweight tote bag with me wherever I go. It’s difficult to remember sometimes, but whenever I can, I’ll have it with me. This is especially true when I travel, it’s become obvious to me that I tend to give in to plastic when I’m overseas. Because it’s such a habit for me to use plastic bags when shopping in a market or by the beach, I forget that I have a tote in my bag and end up with so many plastic bags at the hotel. It’s definitely been a challenge, but slowly I’m getting used to saying ‘no plastic bag, please’ and fishing out my tote to use instead. 
Not to mention the fact that nowadays they have all those tiny foldable bags that can fit in your back pocket!




Swapping plastic utensils for bamboo utensils

Using plastic utensils when eating out while traveling is not only wasteful, but unnecessary as well! There are many options for non-plastic cutlery such as this bamboo set. Bamboo is a sustainably harvested plant, which means that this set eliminates plastic from becoming waste and also doesn’t harm the environment during its production.  
The set I have comes with a fork, spoon, and a set of chopsticks that are wrapped in a tie bag for neat storing. I get the most use out of the chopsticks as I frequently find myself munching on lo me in or stir fry, but the spoon and fork are handy too! The spoon is great for cereal or soup on the go, while the fork works well for salads and sautéed veggies. I simply pop the bag in my day pack and I’m ready to eat whenever hunger strikes. Clean up is easy too. Simply wipe down the utensils with warm water and a bit of soap in the bathroom or kitchen and they’ll be ready to use next time!



Swapping Tampons and disposable menstrual products for a menstrual cup
When I started getting real about going plastic-free, I took a serious look at my life and consumption habits and zeroed in on the single-use items in them. Plastic bags and bottles were the first things to go. Followed by straws, takeout containers, and utensils. And then one day as I was at the store buying tampons I had an epiphany. TAMPONS. Those pesky little things with the unnecessary plastic applicators. They are so wasteful! As I sat there wallowing in this realisation, trying to do the math on how many plastic applicators were littering our world and landfills, my eyes wandered to the product a little to the left of the tampons on the shelf. This was the first time I had ever laid eyes on a Diva Cup. I picked it up off the shelf. 
“REUSABLE AND ECO-FRIENDLY” it read. 
I was sold. That was all I needed to know. But beyond that, for those of y’all who still need convincing, menstrual caps (which come in many different brands, not just the Diva Cup) offer 12 hour leak-free protection, are made from the highest quality healthcare grade silicone, do not contain any harmful chemicals, and can last 10 years with proper care! Think of all the money you could save by buying ONE $30 cup per decade. Put that money in the travel fund! 
There was a very short learning curve with using the cup, it took me a good 20 minutes of struggling and YouTubing cartoon demonstrations before I was actually successful during the first attempt. But by the next day, I was an expert. Not only does it make me feel like a badass empowered woman, I also feel like a green queen with my reusable habits! Hands down, this is my favourite sustainable lifestyle swap of all! 
To view some of my other favourite ways to reduce waste while traveling, read my post here.



Ditching food packaging
One of the biggest issues of current times is, of course, plastics. Trying to cut down on how much plastic we use is such an important goal but it’s not always as easy as it seems. 
Food packaging can be a big challenge both at home and whilst travelling. While food shopping we are often at the mercy of supermarkets and stores in regards to what they will stock and when travelling, especially in smaller towns, there may not be many options. 
Packaged fruit and vegetables is an infuriating one for me as there really isn’t any reason why most items can’t be plastic free. If you are struggling to find fruit and vegetables that aren’t wrapped in single-use plastic heading to markets is a great way to source local and fresh ingredients. If you’re in more rural spots have a look for honesty boxes and farm shops too. 
While it’s not going to be an instant impact, you can also make sure to use your voice and give feedback to shops and store who only stock plastic-wrapped produce. The more people who highlight the issues the more likely they are to change! While I may only be one person, I continue to try and influence others behaviours and highlight the issues of single-use plastic, whether it’s raising awareness of the problem of marine plastics in Scotland or highlighting ways of reducing your environmental impact whilst travelling.
You can check out some of Kirstin's posts on sustainability, such as Marine plastic in Scotland and Reducing your environmental impact whilst travelling.



Swapping Plastic bottled water for reusable water bottles

It sounded like a simple enough mission, 5 years ago. Instead of using the ubiquitous plastic bottled water, I was going to... not. All I needed was a re useable water bottle, right?Well it turns out, it needed quite a bit more effort than that.
The biggest obstacle turned out to be the Asian assumption that municipal supply is unsafe everywhere. Therefore if you are hospitable (and Asians like to think we are), it is rude and stingy to offer people tap water (or even filtered water because courtesy calls for the unbroken seal on the plastic bottle cap). Consequently, hotels, conference events, and even private house parties will push bottled water to guests. This alone made it an uphill battle, because the entire society around you is geared to provide drinking water in some kind of plastic individual packaging.
Third, was the mental block to simply go up to restaurants and hotel kitchens and ask for refills, even though it’s usually never any big deal (except once, in the Maldives, when I could not convince the resort to do it. However, I succeeded in a different guesthouse). 
Fourth, constantly forgetting to bring the water bottle! I finally bought my own backpack instead of using the one that came with the office laptop which didn’t have a slot for a water bottle. And, I got a carabiner to hook it onto my handbag for other times (thank heavens for outdoorsy chic!). But then, there were still the locations where the water supply genuinely is questionable. I couldn’t figure out how to avoid bottled water in these situations, until... a friend introduced me to a portable mini water filter! I tried it out in the most challenging travel conditions I could think of - filtering water in the mountains, and then filtering tap water in north India. It was a success! I am finally independent of plastic bottled water!




Swapping bottles for bars

How many plastic bottles of shampoo, conditioner and body shower gel do you use? It can be even worse for travellers using the small hotel bottles or throwing away liquids at the airport because they are too big for cabin luggage. 
A few months ago, I decided to avoid all this plastic waste and switched to bars. I bought three metal tins where I can place the shampoo bar, conditioner bar and soap bar. No more plastic. It was an excellent shift for travelling too as they’re small, light and not liquid, so they don’t leak and can be placed in carry-on luggage. But the switch didn’t come without challenges. First, bars are not available in my usual supermarket, so it is less convenient as I have to plan to buy them. 
Second, it’s more expensive than the cheap products in plastic bottles I was previously using. And finally, it’s hard to convince others in the house to do it too as it’s seen as something uncommon. But I’m happy I switched, and I won’t go back on my decision. 
The more people I convince to follow me, the easier it will be. I know single-use plastic is convenient, but our laziness has turned into a scary habit. I love scuba diving, snorkelling and taking underwater photos. I have seen the Great Barrier Reef struggling and fading in a few years. But it’s not too late to react and reduce our impacts, and it would be crazy not to try.





Swapping disposable coffee cups for a reusable cup

When I bought an RV with my partner to travel from Canada to Argentina we knew we would have to make a few changes. 
Life on the road is not as easy as it might look on Instagram: adapting to vanlife while trying to keep a sustainable lifestyle is not an easy task. However, thanks to lots of reading and educating ourselves, we’ve been able to make a few changes to reduce our carbon footprint and keep our travels environmentally friendly. One of our favorite swaps in the last year has been to start bringing our own cups any time we visit a Starbucks. See, in our pre-RV life, we always found it a bit inconvenient to carry our own reusable cups everywhere. But now, we go everywhere with our home! So anytime we park at a coffee shop, we just pick the cups from the back of our camper and bring them in. Unfortunately, this hasn't been a walk in the park. Even though Starbucks has an environmental responsibility policy where it encourages customers to reduce waste, truth is most baristas will look a bit puzzled when they see you walk in with your own cup. 
While they have always been very kind and accommodating, I've found it sometimes takes a bit of explaining and calculating (will my Venti frappuccino fit in there?). Also, Starbucks will give you a 10-cent discount any time you bring your own cup! I know, it's not that much, but if you are a serious coffee drinker like I am, that will have some impact on your monthly expenses. This is one swap we will carry onto our daily life once our travels are over: it really does feel good to know that you are not throwing away a plastic cup for just a 10-minute coffee break!





I hope this post gave you plenty of inspiration for some easy sustainable travel swaps! If we missed one of your favourite swaps, be sure to leave us a comment below – I'd love to hear your recommended sustainable travel swaps and your experience with them so far. 

You can also check out my other #PlasticFreeJuly posts:

- Breaking up with Plastic
- Halfway through #PlasticFreeJuly 

5 comments:

  1. Fantastic - and important tips - more people need to be aware of these!

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  2. Love these tips and I can find myself in many of these! As you mention, it isn't always easy to ditch some of the most polluting items. And how I hate the packaging industry for packing cucumbers and other veggies into a plastic wrapper... why? Thanks for sharing this!

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  3. Such great tips! I take my reusable water bottle everywhere with me, not just when I am traveling. Saves money and helps the environment! I wish more people would hop on board. :)

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  4. Great tips!! I try my best to implement most of these!

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