The Bird’s Word Blog
4 Ways for Travelers to Stop Single-Use Plastics
“Single-use” plastics are items like plastic grocery bags, packaging materials, bottles, and straws that are intended for one use. In many parts of the world, disposing of single-use plastics means burial in a landfill or, worse, burning as a toxin-emitting fuel. And, throwing away plastics contributes to climate change by increasing both the demand for petroleum as a raw material to manufacture new plastics and carbon emissions from the manufacturing process.
Some single-use plastics are recyclable but, unfortunately, global capacity for recycling plastics appears to be shrinking. In 2018, China, the world’s largest importer of plastic for recycling, ceased importing certain types of plastic citing environmental concerns.* Now, more than ever, it is important for travelers to take responsibility to personally reduce their consumption of single-use plastics. Here are four easy suggestions for doing just that.
1. Decline bottled water.
Bottled water is a big one for adventure travelers who visit destinations in the developing world with questionable tap water. Ensure clean water while avoiding one-use plastic water bottles by carrying your own water purification system. We like the Grayl Ultralight purifier and water bottle in one.
2. Eschew plastic shopping bags
In some parts of the world providing your own shopping bag is expected or encouraged while in other places the custom is to provide a plastic bag for even the smallest of purchases. Plastic bags are hard to recycle and light enough to be blown by the wind until they find their way into water sources where they clog water flow, create breeding grounds for mosquitos, and are ingested by marine animals. Try to make carrying a personal shopping bag your own personal custom. A reusable fabric bag is lightweight and takes up little space in a daypack. Plus it can do double-duty carrying your picnic lunch or as a laundry bag. For international flights, we like to maximize leg space by stowing our daypack in the overhead and using our reusable shopping bag as a minimalist holder of essential inflight items – e-reader, eyeshade, headphones – under the seat in front of us. Our pick for travel is a packable bag that stows down to the size of an egg. Check www.ecobags.com for all kinds of reusable bags.
3. Pack wisely
Buy reusable containers, like the silicone GoToob, and fill up at home instead of buying travel-sized shampoo and conditioner bottles for each trip. Next, organize your luggage using packing cubes instead of plastic zip-top bags. We’re partial to Eagle Creek, but there are many other similar products out there.
4. Fall in love with ice cream cones
Okay, the point here is if you take your scoops on top of a cone rather than in a dish, then you can eat the whole thing without trashing a one-use spoon. Alternatively, bring along a spork so that you can eat take-away meals (and ice cream) in the airport or on the go using your own dining utensils and avoiding disposable forks, knives, and spoons. REI carries a wide range of fork-spoon combinations.
*UNEP (2018). SINGLE-USE PLASTICS: A Roadmap for Sustainability, at 6.
Since 1979 the Earth Preservation Fund and Journeys International have supported community-initiated environmental, educational, and cultural preservation projects in adventure travel destinations. To donate, visit www.earthpreservation.org.