This month is ‘plastic free July’ and if there’s one thing our trip to Bali highlighted for us, it was the drastic need to reduce our plastic intake; as individuals, as travellers and as humans. Did you know that globally we buy about 1,000,000 plastic bottles per minute… Per minute! That’s an insane amount and so upsetting when you consider how many eco-friendly alternatives to plastic there are these days.
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What people don’t realise is the impact this is having on small islands hundreds of miles away from them. In all honesty, we couldn’t fully comprehend it either, until we witnessed the extent of this plastic epidemic ourselves while in Indonesia.
Yes, it’s a paradise filled with palm trees and crystal blue oceans, but beyond the gorgeous scenery, there’s a dark side that nobody wants to talk about. Rivers flow from bank to bank with litter, mainly plastic bags and bottles.
The beach shores are home to the waste that washes in with the tide, and its surrounding waters have been seen by divers to be overflowing with plastic pollution.
We saw locals clearing the beaches of the plastic, but where does it go once it’s been thrown back into the bin? With so little plastic actually being recycled it’s an endless loop that we are needlessly adding to considering the thousands of plastic alternatives for travellers.
Don’t get me wrong, we can’t just blame tourists and travellers, although we are a huge impact on these small communities. Locals in every city, town and village all over the developing world could be doing a lot more to cut down on the waste, but as travellers, we need to be more conscious to impact we are having on these tiny Islands we love to visit.
One way is by simply using less plastic in our day to day lives while travelling.
Seeing for ourselves the damage plastic is doing really made me think about what Dec and I could do differently to lower our plastic footprint, so we made this list of plastic alternatives for travellers and I’m pleased to say we have already put some into practice.
Not only is it helping reduce our waste and do our bit for the planet but it’s actually saving us money too. So here are our plastic alternatives for travellers, that we have started to put into place! Feel free to let us know of anything you think we could add to this ever-growing list!
Say no to plastic straws.
Half a million straws are used worldwide EVERY. DAY!… WHY? For most people, drinking from a tube isn’t a necessity, yet it’s something we all do without a second thought. In fact, on average we use 2 straws EACH, every day.
Bamboo straws are becoming increasingly popular, especially throughout Indonesia. I’m not surprised, they’re such a cute idea. Not only are they reusable, chemical-free and eco-friendly but Bamboo can also grow at a rate of 91 cm in a day (!!! yeh. Wow, right!) so it’s certainly a sustainable option.
Adding a Bamboo straw to your packing list could save 730 plastic straws from being thrown into the ocean each year. Yea, you’re probably thinking 730 isn’t a huge amount but if everyone did it think of the impact it would make.
We’ve just ordered these ones because they also come with a coconut fibre cleaner to help keep the inside germ free.
a restaurant in Bali doing it’s bit to stay away from plastic straws – this one’s made from Yuka plant so it’s completely recyclable!
Scrap single-use plastic bags
Hands up if you have a bag full of bags somewhere in your home?
Jeez, we even had a bag full of bags when we moved into our campervan. Not anymore.
Single-use plastic bags are fast becoming a thing of the past here in Australia; South Australia and New South Wales make you pay for them now and Coles supermarkets are scrapping them completely as of June 30th; their aim is to encourage more people to buy fabric bags and bring their own for each shop!
It is estimated that 4 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide annually but only 1% of plastic bags are returned for recycling. So instead of picking up half a dozen new plastic bags to store under the sink every time, you do a food shop, why not buy a bag for life? Or why not pick up a textile bag from the high street or a foldable backpack. That way it can double up as a day bag when you’re out exploring!
This is the incredible work of Greenpeace activists in Rome, Italy. A stunning work of art that makes a powerful statement about the damage plastic pollution causes our oceans and marine animals. . What will you do today to reduce plastic consumption and protect our blue planet? 💙 . 📸 Lorenzo Moscia / Greenpeace. . . . #blueplanet #greenpeace #noplastic #endoceanplastics #whale #activists #plastic #breakfreefromplastic #plasticfreejuly
Avoid plastic bottles
Plastic bottles are a huge contributor to the plastic epidemic, due to only being 70% recyclable. There are so many other alternatives to using plastic bottles but here are our favourites.
Bring your own water –
When travelling in countries that have safe drinking water, why not take your own non-plastic bottle that you can reuse over and over again? We really like stainless steel ones with a flip-up straw. They keep cool for longer and the flip-up straw means you avoid getting anything nasty inside. When you’re in a country that doesn’t have great water quality you could try boiling it first or take with you water sterilization tablets.
We’re all partial to a sweet drink every now and then. Don’t let this treat impact our planet, why not go for the carton or tin can version? Carton and cans are a lot more likely to get recycled and are 100% recyclable.
Reusable containers and cutlery
A lot of our food these days comes wrapped in plastic with a plastic fork and then handed to us in a plastic bag.
Why not cook extra the night before and take your lunch with you? Or buy extra when you’re out for lunch and take home a doggy bag. Not only will this cut down on your plastic usage but it’ll also save you money in the long run, that to us is a win-win. Add bamboo cutlery to go with your new container and your set to eat plastic free over and over again.
Sea Turtles are amongst the most vulnerable when it comes to plastic in our oceans. Here’s a great post on what you can do to directly help Sea Turtles in the wild!
Swap your creams for coconut oil
It’s no secret, I’m obsessed with coconut oil. It’s probably mentioned at least once in every post. Not only is it super cheap here in Australia but it also means I have been able to swap out almost all other skin care products, that come in plastic, for just one glass jar; Echo friendly, affordable and leaves more room in your suitcase why not give coconut oil a try?
I prefer to use 100% raw organic, cold pressed unrefined coconut oil that can be found on supermarket shelves as this can be used for both beauty treatments and cooking!
- Anti-itch lotion, perfect for insect bites
- After-sun lotion
- Hair mask
- Rash cream
- Scalp Soother
- Balm for chapped lips
- Shaving lotion (before and after!)
- Exfoliating lotion (Add sea salt)
- Deodorant (Mix with coffee or baking soda)
- Bug repellent (add rosemary or mint)
For more uses for Coconut Oil, Wellness Mamma is a great source!
Our Favourite Plastic-Free Products
Bamboo alternatives to plastic.
Plastic usage has become a habit so ingrained into society that it’s going to be a hard one to break. Everywhere you look there’s plastic being used in places where there really is no need for it. Like toothbrushes and hair combs. Bamboo has proved to be a reliable, sustainable replacement for plastic so here are a few things you can replace with Bamboo to reduce how much plastic you use when you travel:
- Tissues/toilet paper (in bamboo wrapping too)
- Phone case
- Makeup brushes
And even clothes.
I think it’s about time we started making conscientious decisions when we travel, even if that means spending a little bit more on the plastic alternative. Single-use plastic is coming to an end but we’ve got a long way to go!
What are you doing to make a difference? We’d love to hear your methods of avoiding single-use plastic so join in the conversation below or over at our facebook page!
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Excellent article. This is such an important issue. Thank you for sharing.
This is so great! This was actually a New Years goal for me to do better at this! Everyday life I am doing better but traveling at times is tough so i am trying to improve! Thank you for the tips so I can continue to learn and do better!
I have started using glass bottles instead of throwaway plastic now. If I drink outside I have stopped using straws. We need to change how we think.
This is really a big problem and it´s so important that we discuss. I´ve been in Indonesia last may and i saw plastic everywhere. Really sad to see beautiful beaches with plastic in the water….
So glad to see more post like this up now. 🙂 I have been helping with reducing my plastic waste as well. Great blog.
Great post, I always try and think the environment when buying things and with regards to plastic use. I have seen some beautiful beaches destroyed with rubbish and plastic 🙁 Everyone needs to spread awareness on this topic.
Great post, but we would add a few more points. ANYTHING we use — bamboo, coconut, etc. — is a chemical or waste eventually, and has an impact on this earth even if it is naturally sourced. The key is using LESS. Doing with less. Repairing, not tossing. We use cloth shopping bags, steel straws, reusable water bottles, reusable coffee mugs, and even if a merchant allows, purchase products with minimal or no packaging to help eliminate some waste. Small steps.
While hiking in Tofino, they had just done a beach clean-up and I was shocked at how much of it was plastic. So important that we become more aware of how we use plastic. I’m not a straw person, so nixing that from my life is not a problem. I always forget to bring my reusable bags to the grocery store, but I do always bring my bags back and put them in the recycle bin.
The irony in that picture of wind turbines within the vicinity of plastic strewn ground. We really do need to reduce our plastic waste as they cannot be recycled effectively. I don’t like coconut oil lol. I prefer natural shea or cocoa butter for my skin and hair.
Great tips! I was personally disgusted by the amount of trash I saw on the beaches in Bali, it was so sad and really made me realize that in the western world we use just as much plastic but never see it since we have landfills or send our garbage to other countries. I started using bars of soap and shampoo to cut down on my plastic use as well, which is great for traveling because these are carry on friendly and save weight!
Great post! We all need to travel responsibly and your post is a reminder of simple steps we can take every day to make a difference. BTW, I agree with Eloise and recently switched to Lush products.
I am ao on board with everything you’ve mentioned here. Plastic straws do so much damage and are just unnecessary. I’m all for banning plastic bags, too. LIving in Florida, we have been on this mission for a few years but it is just now starting to gain momentum. NIce job!
It makes me so angry when I see a beautiful place cluttered with litter. Which is why it is so important to become eco friendly travelers and be more conscious of the footprint we leave on our environment. You’ve given some handy tips here. I’ve already invested in a reusable water bottle, now on to ditching the straws!
This is a super-important topic – thank you for dealing with this matter. One should always be cautious and use sustainable products, but when travelling, this can be extra important. It’s so frustrating to see how these beautiful regions – like oceans and beaches – get endangered and destroyed; especially when there are alternatives.
Its all so simple once we start doing it. That’s the part about change of all kinds…it begins with awareness. Thanks to more and more information that is being spread, we can adopt more environmentally-friendly alternatives. I’ve stopped using straws to begin with.
This is such a thoughtful post. And so relevant in the world today. Thanks a ton for sharing this.
So glad you decided to write this post. Such awareness about plastic usage is so important & you have given great tips ! Very thoughtful and wonderfully written. Great Job ! Thanks for sharing.
Wow, 1 million? Geez…I have to admit I’m a guilty straw user. I HATE drinking from the glass. I just do. I use the same reusable straw at home and even travel with my yeti and straw domestically (when I can justify its weight). However, I have been wondering what to do about a straw otherwise and figured there had to be an alternative. Bamboo straws, awesome! Going to look into these to take with me! The only time I allow myself to drink soda is when I travel and I much prefer it in a can so I was relieved to be doing something right there! Great eye-opener!
People littering is my biggest pet peeves! I spent my time picking up plastic straws on the beaches in Barbados, it drove me nuts! Thank you for writing this post, it is important for people to understand that!
Great article, this is something that really resonates with me. On a month long bicycle tour in Vietnam, I would wake up every morning to the smell of burning plastic. As I biked early in the morning, I would pass people burning their plastic trash by the side of the road as the sun came up. It was devastating. This is really important, and these are great tips!!
Some very thoughtful tips and such an important topic. I am very pleased to see it receiving more of the attention that it needs in recent months. Thank you for adding another strong voice to the effort.
Great article! I have been making changes at home; no more plastic water bottles for one! I need to make a conscious effort to do more, as we all should.
I had no idea we buy such a crazy amount of plastic bottles! So shocking! You put together great ideas for the alternatives! We should all contribute!
The figures are scary, aren’t they! If everyone made small changes, we’d be one step closer to making an impact
So sad whats happening to our planet and those poor as a turtles amongst other sea life 🙁 it’s good you’re bringing awareness to alternative things to use instead of plastic. More people should be aware to not use them anymore.
Good share. When we use to travel, we carry things in plastic covers, after the use we will make sure we are not throwing it away instead we carry it back to the disposable area to dispose it. It’s individuals responsibility to keep our environment clean and green. Me and my crew makes sure that we are not polluting the destination we visit. A good post for travelers awareness.
Thank you Koushik. It’s important to spread education on these subjects. Especially in places that might not have a great recycling system. Cutting back on single-use plastic is the best way to help get this planet green again. Thank you for doing your bit 🙂
Great article and so, so relevant. Unfortunately the hierarchy of short-term local needs seems to be outweighing the potential long-term damage to the ecosystem. On the positive side, awareness of the issue is trending, which can only be a good thing, so long as people keep the issue current through posts like this! Awesome stuff 😀
You’re so right David, It’s a hot topic at the moment. If everyone who reads this decides to make just one small change to the way they consume plastic, we’d be heading in the right direction.
It’s a very sobering thought once the figures are laid out in front of us, 1 million bottles per minute! Just a quick note, the fastest and easiest way to prolongue life on Earth is to go vegan, so I’d say start there. Drop me a message for any help 🙂
Such a powerful post that goes very well with the current scenario. I have worked with NGOs in India to find a solution to this problem but there is no solution that seems to work. Unless we completely boycott plastic, the problem won’t be solved.
I don’t believe the situation can’t be resolved but you’re right, we need to be doing alot more than we are doing to make that happen. Hopefully, if people start implementing small steps, eventually we’ll get there.
It is distressing to see how we have ruined the environment just to make our own lives easier. It is sad that a lot of travellers travel for Instagramming and not to learn. It is not overwhelmingly difficult to reduce some plastic usage in your everyday lives but not many are willing to accept the discomfort. Every year, countries from the Global North ship tonnes of garbage to developing nations like India and I don’t hear a lot of people in those countries protesting.
I believe that if everyone made a conscious effort to make small changes in their lives, bigger changes would follow. It’s going to take time though, and a lot of educating, before we start seeing the benefits.
I am so glad that plastic awareness is now in the public view but this should have been done years ago. I was in Hawaii a few weeks ago and the amount of plastic washed up on the shores is unbeliveable. I hope one day we can sort this problem out and use other materials but its going to take a long time.
You’re right, it’s going to take time. I’m not certain we’ll see the benefit of these changes in our lifetime, due to the sheer amount of damage we’ve caused but at least if we make baby steps in the right direction, we’ll get there one day
We just did a turtle trek in Fort Lauderdale and watched them hatch and march to the sea. What we didn’t realize is how much plastic is impacting these guys. Plastic bags look like jellyfish to Letherbacks and a lot of turtles have their stomach so full of plastic that they don’t have any room for food. The literally starve to death with a full stomach. There are a million good reasons to cut down on plastics. Our reason this week is turtles. The juxtaposition of litter on the beach and windmills behind it is astounding.
It’s so sad, isn’t it! We saw Turtles on our recent trip to Bali. Our guide said that the number they see on their tours is slowly decreasing; presumably through the pollution in the waters. I hope we can make a change before they disappear forever
Great tips here, I’m actively trying to cut down my plastic use… but it’s so difficult as it is on everything! Next step is a bamboo tootbrush. Thanks for the inspiration ?
Amazing post to encourage responsible and sustainable travel. Thanks for the amazing tips! We hope it reaches the masses…Love.. Backpacking Series.
Thank you! If I inspire just one reader to make small changes and pass along the message, then I have done what I set out to.
Articles like these are super important! Especially as travelers we need to look at ways to reduce our waste. Thank you for sharing 🙂
You’re welcome Monique, It’s a much talked about topic at the moment but I feel it still isn’t being covered enough. Hopefully one day we’ll see changes!
I love seeing the movement away from plastic in so many ways – like the yuca straws that are recyclable! So clever!
I was amazed at how many alternatives there are! Which makes it even sadder when you see they’re not being used.
I loved reading this post! I’ve also seen a lot of the harm that plastic can cause here in Hawaii. There are certain beaches I can drive to that are just covered in large plastic pieces, and I just can’t help but think how did this even get into the ocean??
I know what you mean Sarah, some of it comes from cargo boats that get wrecked in storms but they can’t be completely to blame. We’ve seen first-hand people disposing of household waste into waterways, I don’t think people realise that it’ll eventually end up in the ocean.
It is shocking how dependent we have become on plastics. We have surrounded our lives with it and now to escape it and reduce the damage it causes is very hard. Countries banning plastic bags and straws it is a good first step. But we need to get real about how we can all unshackle ourselves from the suffocating plastic world we have created.
I couldn’t agree more Anthony! Unfortunately years ago we didn’t have the foresight to see the damage this indestructible material would do to our beautiful planet. I’m confident we’re heading in the right direction but will we see the changes in our lifetime? I hope so.
love the bamboo strawa. I’ve also seen metal ones which fold up & can be attached to your keyring & alot of UK places are moving to paper obes which i am not fan off becuqae thwy are utterly rubbish, but still better than plastic
Haha I agree with you there Sarah, the paper ones are a bit rubbish but at least they’re recyclable.
At home and when I travel, I use bar shampoo, bar conditioner and bar soap. I have long hair that I often wash, so it’s made a massive difference in the number of plastic bottles I now throw away!
That’s such a great idea!! I see them in Lush all the time but it’s honestly never occurred to me to try them! Guess that’s being added to my shopping list!