Holidays Away Are Good For The Soul – But Can They Be Good For The Planet Too?

It’s pretty easy to reduce your use of plastic at home. It’s your turf and you’re within your familiar day to day routines.

When you travel abroad (or even around your own country), it becomes far more difficult to keep things environmentally friendly. You're on the go, life is chaotic and your green pursuits can often get swept aside in the name of convenience.

Yet, it is possible to travel lightly and thoughtfully. Here are six tips for travelling without the use of plastic.

Pack reusable items, instead of using single-use throwaways

The number one hack for using less plastic when you travel is to eliminate the need for it in the first place.

The reason that plastic has exploded in popularity worldwide is because it's extremely convenient. People use the plastic bags offered at grocery stores, as it negates the need to carry their own reusable bag around with them. You'll buy a plastic bottle of water if you get thirsty while on the go. Throwaway cutlery is popular are food festivals due to its "ease" of disposal and so on, so forth.

However – if you have a reusable item ready on hand, you'll be able to refuse its disposable equivalent. This will instantly reduce the amount of plastic you use while travelling.

When getting myself organised for a trip, I always pack the following:

  1. Water bottle – a decent one with a built in filter will service you throughout all countries.
  2. Spork – you can use it for street food and pack it in your carry on.
  3. Reusable coffee/tea cup – can also be used in lieu of the plastic cups on planes for coffee, tea and even wine!
  4. A handkerchief – doubles up as a napkin.
  5. Cloth bags – for shopping and snacks.

At least one reusable container. I have a steel one that I quite like using, but Tupperware ones are nicer – if you get one that folds down, even better.

Stop to smell the flowers (and savour the coffee)

On the topic of convenience, you can save yourself from having to use oodles of plastic, simply by not rushing around.

The next time you fancy a coffee, why not drink in instead of taking away? Stop at a café that looks particularly nice, order your hot beverage of choice and indulge in one of the greatest pleasures of travel – people watching.

Our lives are chaotic enough as it is. You're on holiday! Give yourself a break to do something nice for both the planet and yourself.

Learn a few key phrases in the local language to help you get by

A language barrier can be the bringer of many problems. Yet, have you ever tried to tell someone that you don't want a straw with your drink, through the power of mime? It's no easy feat, I can tell you that much.

To be prepared, I would learn a few key phrases in the local language, to help you navigate any potential issues. "I have my own bag, thank you" works quite nicely, along with "I don't want a straw".

Practise patience and don't beat yourself up when things don't go your way

Refusing to use plastic is a bit like re-inventing the wheel. You'll find many people will simply be confused by your stance on the subject. It's a problem that many around the world unfortunately don't think about – they continue to use plastic mindlessly, without considering the consequences.

Some will be baffled, others will be ill-informed. I've had people refuse to put food into my reusable cloth bags on the basis that it is considered "less hygienic" than using their own plastic equivalents. There has consequently been many times when I've had to accept defeat and go without whatever it was I was trying to purchase. It's fine. I didn't want that Swiss chocolate anyway.

The key is not to get annoyed, frustrated or angry. Instead, be patient. Understand that you're not going to get the result that you hope for 100% of the time – people will be on autopilot and they will often forget your request.

Every little bit of plastic that you prevent yourself from having to use, is a win for the environment. That's one less piece of plastic that's floating in the wind, stuck on the branch of a tree, not rotting away fast enough in landfill, or polluting our oceans.

When you look at it from this perspective, it can only ever seem like a victory.

LC Haughey covers plastic-free travel and living on her blog, Birdgehls. Her life's aspiration is to one day live on a farm in Tasmania with 11 dogs, a Shetland pony and several pygmy goats.

Read this next: Why Quitting Plastic Will Help Stop Climate Change

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