5 ways to eliminate single-use plastic when you travel

Water in plastic bottles on the stone against the background of a picturesque view of mountains.
Water in plastic bottles on the stone against the background of a picturesque view of mountains.

Traveling and going on vacation is a relaxing time. You get to unwind, forget about work, and go carefree from the normal stresses in life. For many people that means eating out every meal so there isn’t grocery shopping or dishes, for others it might mean sitting on a beach for hours while the resort staff delivers drinks right to your cabana, some prefer to go shopping for hours in exotic markets in search of unique local goods to gift to family and friends back home.  No matter how you like to spend your time away it’s not too hard to still be mindful that there is just too much consumption of single-use plastic going on and it needs to stop.  Here are 5 really simple things that you can do that won’t cramp your travel style but will still help you avoid single-use plastic.

1. Avoid straws in drinks

Tropical drinks

Sitting by the beach sipping on a cold cocktail is one of my favorite vacation activities but that mojito tastes just as good when my lips touch the rim of the glass instead of a plastic straw. Try it, I promise you’ll agree. If you absolutely love that straw though consider taking a reusable straw along with you. Tell your server that you don’t want a straw – easy, peasy. Just like at home.

2. Carry reusable water bottles

Sustainable Travel: Reusable Water Bottles
Photo credit: Evita Ochel/Pixabay

There are many options for reusable bottles that make great travel companions. Not only are these perfect for refilling in airports once you are past security but they can also be used to fill up in your hotel room or at water fountains along the way. I’m partial to a BPA-free collapsable water bottle. When I’m in transit my camera bag is usually packed to the gills and a hard-sided bottle just takes up too much room. I like this one because I can fold it up and tuck it away when it’s empty and it doesn’t take up loads of space.

3. Carry reusable bags for shopping

Photo credit: BRRT/Pixabay

You might be going somewhere for just a few days or for a few weeks, either way purchases will be made. By carrying your own reusable shopping bag you can avoid single-use plastic that would otherwise end up in the hotel waste can. The reusable shopping bags I carry aren’t anything fancy. Honestly, I just grab one or two of the same reusable grocery bags I have in rotation at home and pack those in my suitcase. When I’m out shopping they can easily be wadded up and put in my purse or camera bag. At the end of my trip, I find myself using them to separate out my dirty laundry or as extra padding around a more fragile/breakable item.

4. Avoid single-package condiments like butters and jams

The “breakfast included” might be what sealed the deal when you made your lodging decision but that breakfast might also include lots of single use plastic packages of jams, butters, and muffins. Instead of opening up a ridiculous amount of individually packaged condiments opt for the bulk cereal or fresh fruit.

5. Avoid using hotel toiletries

Instead of using the single-use hotel amenities, bring you own in reusable bottles. Photo credit: miles around/Bigstock

It might be tempting to use what the hotel provides so you don’t have to pack your own or you might be one of the folks who runs into your hotel bathroom and snatches up all of the free shampoo and body lotion so you can get more free stuff the next day. If you really want to cut down on single use plastics it’s best to bring your own toiletries in a reusable container. Except for a few hotels that participate in the Clean the World program the toiletries get thrown away after guests checkout.

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