How do you end plastic pollution in the world? Most people would agree that it’s quite a tough problem that we got ourselves into. And chances are, it’s not that easily solved. There are millions of tons of plastic on the planet, and lots of it is stuck in our oceans. Only about 9% of all plastic produced has been recycled to date. It seems like some big scale solutions are necessary to reduce the impact that plastic has on our planet (see my post on why plastic is bad here).
I’ve had countless discussions on the right approach to tackle climate change, plastic pollution, and the like. Do we need regulations banning the use or production of plastic? Or does it start with the consumer to seek alternatives and stop demanding more plastic? In my opinion, a combination of both is needed to end plastic pollution. There are widespread figures that show how imposing a fee for plastic bags reduced the use of plastic bags dramatically.
I truly believe that you can’t impose real change from above though. The individual has to believe in it in order to follow through with the ideal solution, even in less than ideal conditions. Change like that will be slower, for sure, and more resources and passion is needed from believers to make more people believe. But just think about the impact we could potentially have! If 7 million people decided to skip plastic just one time, that would mean a reduction of plastic by 7 million!
Traveling Often Contributes to Plastic Pollution
As much as we love traveling, we can’t deny that it does have an impact on our planet. Both positive and negative. One of the negative impacts we can see is the plastic footprint that we leave behind when going home. However, I see traveling as a real chance for change. We often travel with friends or loved ones who might not have started making smart choices to reduce plastic in their life yet. By spending an intensive amount of time with them on your trip, you can actually lead by example. Show them how easy it is to reduce plastic in their life! And if it’s not that easy, by trying hard to reduce plastic pollution, you can make them aware of the massive plastic problem the world faces.
Our travel also has an impact on the local community that we visit. By refusing plastic products or choosing to shop in plastic-free shops, you vote with your money. Often, tourism has an enormous impact on the local economy. Depending on where you go, countries are very dependent on you as a tourist. If you show them what you like and don’t like, you will give them a chance to adapt to your needs. When enough tourists demand plastic-free alternatives, it will probably not take them long to adapt their practices. After all, they want you to come back and spread the word on how great it is there!
Small Choices Can Have a Big Impact on Plastic Reduction
But how do you actually reduce your plastic consumption on your trip? Sometimes it’s not as difficult as you think! Below are examples of ten easy choices that you can make to reduce plastic while traveling. Sometimes it’s as easy as just saying no. If every traveler would follow them, just think about the joined impact we would have on reducing plastic!
Say ‘No’ to Straws
Nowadays straws are handed out left and right when buying smoothies, iced coffees, cocktails and so on. But do most of us actually need one to enjoy the drink? A Coke can be easily drank straight from the bottle without that little helper. Next time you buy a drink, just remember to order it without the straw.
Eat in Instead of out
By choosing to enjoy the meal at the restaurant or café instead of outside, you can potentially save plastic containers, plastic cutlery and coffee cups. The quality of your vacation might also increase as everything becomes less rushed and you actually sit down to enjoy our meal.
Cone Instead of Cup
Ice creams might be one of your daily guilty pleasures on your summer vacation. Instead of getting one in a cup though, order the cone. You will not only save the cup from potentially ending up in a landfill, but also the plastic spoon that comes with it.
Take a Water Bottle
You will probably find this on every single list of mine to reduce plastic pollution, but I just cannot stress this often enough. By taking a water bottle to refill instead of using once, there is a huge potential for plastic reduction. Airports or cities often have free water dispensers. If you don’t have your own bottle, you can just buy a plastic one and reuse it a couple times before buying the second one. Be careful though, as sometimes heat or continuous use means some of the plastic is leaking into your drink.
Bring a Bag to Pick up Trash
When going exploring, make sure to bring bag to take all of your plastic waste with you instead of dumping it in the environment. You can even make a competition out of it, by challenging your travel companions to pick up some trash along the way. Let’s see who can clean up most of the plastic!
Return Tourist Info After Use
Maps and brochures are often once of the most collected items after every holiday. Yet we rarely take a look at them once we get home. One way to reduce waste is to actually return them after you’re done using them. Future travelers can use them and the tourist agency has to print less material next time.
Take Any Leftover Bathroom Items
Hotels normally throw away all toothpastes, shampoos or soaps that you did not finish on your stay. By taking them with you, you can save on buying new ones at home. Reusing the plastic bottles for your future trips is another great idea to reduce the new plastic you buy!
Take Your Own Reusable Bag
The hardest part is actually remembering to take one before you go out. Once you do, however, you will love the freedom it gives you. There are so many opportunities where you can use it: Clothes shopping, at the farmers market, when buying souvenirs, etc. You might even save a tiny amount of money as some countries have made it mandatory to charge for them.
Opt for the Unpackaged Item
When stocking up on snacks for your hiking trip, choose the plastic-free item instead of the packaged version. There are often whole loafs of banana bread with limited plastic packaging available instead of individually wrapped slices. Same goes for fruit. Loose apples offer a great alternative to buying the plastic bag with a set quantity of apples.
Buy in Bulk
Instead of getting one small bottle of shampoo for every person on the trip, why don’t you get one big bottle to share? Buying bulk saves the amount of plastic used per shampoo dose. The same goes for toothpaste, sunscreen or body lotion. You’re gonna use the same bathroom anyways, why not declutter it by using less bottles?
Upgrading Your Travel Experience to an All Green Travel
These ten tips are just one way to get started on making your travels more sustainable. Obviously, plastic pollution is just one of the problems that contribute to an unhealthy planet. Excessive use of energy, water and carbon emissions are accelerating climate change just as much. If you would like to learn how to make your entire trip more sustainable, head over to the post from Green Global Travel. They have collected a list of 40 tips to make your entire trip greener!