Sustainability

6 easy tips on how to travel plastic-free

If you’re like us, you’re probably planning how to travel plastic-free on your next trip. From plastic cutlery on airplanes to mini toiletries in hotels and endless plastic water bottles, it seems like there’s single-use plastic at every turn when you travel. But it doesn’t have to be that way. To celebrate Plastic Free July, we’re looking at how to travel more sustainably with some sustainable plastic-free travel tips. From bringing your own reusable water bottle to creating a greener bathroom routine, here are six simple swaps you can make to help make your travels a little more plastic-free.  

RELATED CONTENT: 9 ways you can travel more sustainably in 2022

Why go plastic-free?

Plastic is bad news for everyone. Not only does it pollute our lands and oceans and kills thousands of animals every year from ingestion, but it also releases harmful chemicals that are linked to diseases like cancer and infertility. It also uses an alarming amount of resources, taking around 12 million barrels of oil to manufacture 102 billion plastic bags in the United States alone. 

The world already uses way too much plastic. We are producing more than 380 million metric tons of plastic annually around the world and around 50% of this is only used once. Meanwhile, 91% of plastic is never recycled, yet exists for hundreds or thousands of years. That means it ends up in our waterways and natural habitats, with nearly all ocean pollution coming from the land. Over eight million tonnes of plastic end up in our oceans every year. Fish then consume this plastic, with one in four fish tested containing plastic. This ends up in the human bodies that eat the fish, causing disease and illness. It’s even projected that there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050. 

So how do we play our part to put a stop to the single-use plastic battle? As part of our 5-year How We Tread Right Strategy, Trafalgar has committed to eliminating as many unnecessary single-use plastics from our operations and itineraries by 2022. We’re making great progress, as seen in the first Impact Report released this year.

Wondering what steps you can take to travel plastic-free on your next trip? Here are six easy tips…

RELATED CONTENT: The Travel Corporation Impact Report 2021: The results that matter to you

plastic in the ocean

1. Go for reusable water bottles and cups

If you’re wondering how to travel plastic-free, one of the easiest ways to start is to get a reusable drink water bottle. Take it with you on all your travels and refill it at hotels, restaurants, cafes, or public water fountains  – instead of buying plastic water bottles – and you’ll save lots of money. 

You’ll also save lots of plastic waste, which is crucial considering since humans use about 1.2 million plastic bottles every minute and Americans alone buy around 50 billion water bottles per year. One plastic bottle takes around hundreds to thousands of years to degrade and releases harmful chemicals in the process, which end up in our land and seas. It’s not only healthier for the environment, but also better for you, as most single-use plastic water bottles can also release toxins into the water you’re drinking. 

Travelling to a destination where the tap water isn’t safe to drink? Buy a straw filter or a water purifying bottle instead! And if you know you’ll drink a lot of coffee on your trip, take your own reusable cup. More than 500 billion plastic cups are used each year around the world. These are coated with plastic and have plastic lids. More coffee shops are encouraging people to bring their own coffee cups and not only does this save on single-use waste, but you might even score a discount on your coffee. Win-win!

RELATED CONTENT: 12 ways to save money by going green

traveller using a reusable water bottle in airport

2. Pack some reusable straws and cutlery

So you’ve got your favourite beverages into a reusable bottle or cup. But what about your food? We all love digging into some delicious takeaway or street food when travelling, but we don’t love the plastic waste that comes with it. You can ditch it all together by bringing your own reusable straws, cutlery, and even takeaway containers. You can find so many options for your reusables like metal, bamboo, and silicone straws and cutlery. And with Americans alone using half a billion drinking straws every day, you’ll be doing your part to stop the plastic tsunami. 

As for reusable containers or food storage? You can always go for the classic Tupperware or bring reusable food wraps like beeswax wraps. They work just as well as cling film, of which more than 1.2 billion metres are used by British households every year. That’s enough to go around the Earth 30 times.

RELATED CONTENT: These are the top 10 most sustainable cities in the world

reusable tote bag with fruit

3. BYO reusable bags

Wondering how to travel plastic-free when you love to go shopping? Ditch those flimsy plastic bags and bring your own lightweight tote bags or backpacks for shopping. If you’re taking liquids on a flight, you can get clear, reusable, and waterproof bags, to replace the plastic Ziploc bags. Every time you say no to single-use plastic bags, you help prevent the plastic bags from ending up in the ocean and suffocating or getting eaten by animals. With five trillion plastic bags produced worldwide annually and each bag taking over 1,000 years to disintegrate, this is a simple switch – but it’s a real lifesaver.

RELATED CONTENT: Eliminating single use plastic is now a worldwide issue, but is change coming quick enough?

reusable cotton face pads

4. Switch to greener toiletries

It wouldn’t be a proper plastic-free trip without some solid toiletries. You can find eco-friendly swaps for almost any bathroom product these days! Not only do you not have to carry a bunch of liquids around (that always leak into your suitcase), but you’ll also find many solid products that work just as well, or even better, than your original stuff – without the plastic waste. After all, most of your shampoos and liquid soaps are solid ingredients, just mixed with extra water to make them a liquid. The solid bars also tend to last a lot longer than the liquid stuff. So what are you waiting for? 

Here are some of our favourite green toiletry swaps to try (but this is just the tip of the iceberg – there are so many other eco-friendly bathroom products to explore!):

  • Solid shampoo and conditioner bars
  • Solid soap or body wash
  • Solid body lotions
  • Solid face cleansers
  • Toothpaste tablets
  • Bamboo toothbrush
  • Plastic-free dental floss
  • Solid deodorant bars
  • Reusable shaving razors – known as safety razors
  • Reusable, washable cotton pads – instead of face wipes and cotton swabs
  • Reusable menstrual products – like menstrual cups
traveller using reusable containers for snacks

5. Travel-sized containers

If you still want to use your own preferred liquid shampoos and cleansers – no problem! You can buy reusable travel-sized containers and decanter your products into these. Wash the containers after your trip and use them again and again. That way, you won’t have to buy the travel-sized version of your products, which usually come in a plastic container that just gets thrown out anyway. 

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6. Say no plastic in your room

So you’ve made all the swaps and you now travel with no plastic in your suitcase. But the next question is – how to travel plastic-free in hotels? We so often find tons of single-use plastics in hotel rooms from the tiny shampoos and body lotions to the plastic toothbrushes. You can avoid this by emailing the hotel ahead of time and requesting no single-use plastic products inside your room. Most hotels will be happy to accommodate your request and you might even find some eco-friendly hotels that are already doing away with the single-use plastics for greener options like reusable dispenser bottles. 

Do you have any handy tips on how to travel plastic-free? Let us know in the comments below!

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