BE AN OCEAN HERO TRAVELLER
Here are 10 ways to limit your plastic footprint when you’re on the road
We all know about plastic pollution and the harm it’s causing, and there are now lots of awesome collaborative efforts to help solve it, from grassroots to government. However, many of the countries I visit for surfing aren’t equipped as well as the UK, USA and Australia, so are unable to handle the influx of travellers, and in particular their plastic waste. As local infrastructures struggle to handle the increased volumes of plastic being disposed of, it’s more likely to find its way into waterways and oceans. Rivers overflowing with plastic, beaches covered in plastic straws and waves tarnished by plastic bags are an all too familiar site.
Want to help change this? Here are some simple, guilt-free ways to limit our impact on the environment. Although the global solution to the marine litter crisis has to be collaborative, it’s our responsibility to do our best to limit what harm we do by travelling consciously. And the knowledge that you’re not contributing to the destruction of the place you’ve fallen in love with, can ultimately increase your enjoyment of your trip.
1. Limit plastic water bottle usage
This can be daunting, especially in countries where the tap water isn’t safe to drink, so I’ll break this one down further into a few points: a. Take a reusable bottle regardless – you never know where you’ll find refill points. Which brings me to my next point: b. Airports – In the UK you can take an empty, refillable bottle through security in your hand luggage, then find somewhere on the other side to fill up – a coffee shop/bar or there are water fountains in several international airports. c. Check water safety in the country you’re travelling to – the NHS Fit For Travel website is a good resource for this: www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk. Some countries’ tap water can be safely navigated by using water purification tablets or a filter. d. Deposit return schemes – if bottled water seems to be the only option, find out if there is a deposit return scheme in your destination. In Indonesia I was thrilled to find water in massive gallon bottles: you paid an extra few pennies for the bottles, which could then be returned to a local shop for the refund of the deposit. The bottles would then be sent back to the processing plant to be refilled with drinking water.
2. Refuse straws in your drinks
In Indo I’d have a fresh coconut after every surf, drink a lot of juices and, let’s be honest, a fair few cocktails. Each would be served with two straws. I took a reusable straw with me, and I worked out that over six weeks I saved over 300 plastic straws. Imagine the impact we could have if every tourist did that. You have to be fairly on it to opt for the no straw option, so remember to start the order with, “no straws please,” before bar staff shove a couple of straws in your drink.
3. Take your bag for life
Take a couple of cloth bags with you – they’re just as useful for shopping abroad as at home and they can be washed out if they get a bit mucky. One of the beautiful things about a lot of warmer countries is the insanely delicious fruit and veg – try and buy this out of wrappers too and pop it straight into your bag for life.
4. Coffee cup
I have an amazing insulated coffee cup that keeps my hot drinks hot and my cold drinks cold. As well as using it for coffee, I use it for takeaway juices and beer in bars that
only serve plastic cups. You can also use it on the aeroplane instead of the million plastic cups the hostesses give out.
This time round I travelled with bamboo cutlery, and I’ll never travel without it again. I’ve used it up mountains with super noodles, on deserted beaches on SUP expeditions and in airports with my cheesy chips. It’s super light and durable and can save on a lot of throwaway plastic cutlery. 6. Shampoo and soap bars
Swap your shower gel and shampoo for a shampoo and soap bar – these take up a lot less space and weight than traditional bottles too.
7. Beach cleans
On one beach in Indonesia last year I collected over 100 straws in under 20 minutes, along with plastic toothbrushes, water bottles and sanitary products. Not only does cleaning beaches physically remove that waste from the environment and limit the harm it can have, but this particular clean up got the attention of locals, some of whom joined in as well. I find beach cleans always re-stoke my plastic-free fires as well; after a few minutes picking up unnecessary single-use items in areas where turtles hatch in Barbados, I felt like I never want a plastic straw in my drink ever again.
8. Bamboo toothbrush
This is a good one for everyday living as well as travelling. Bamboo toothbrushes often have nylon bristles, which aren’t compostable, but the handles are compostable and light, and they look helluva cool too.
9. Sanitary wear
For the love of all things convenient, safe and empowering, get a Mooncup. Travelling light is such a joy; having half your backpack stuffed with bulky sanitary towels or tampons is not. Having to pay £10 for an imported pack of Tampax in a foreign country is not cool, nor is finding yourself in a country where tampons are just not used and being unable to surf for a week. Menstrual cups eliminate all plastic waste from your periods, are incredibly convenient, and save a heap of money. They can, understandably, be a little daunting at first, and I would really recommend trialling it a few times before relying on it to travel with (it took me three months to get used to mine; I’m so glad I persevered), but now I don’t even have to think twice about travelling or surfing with my period abroad. Total life changer, and no toxic plastic waste to try and dispose of in a country that isn’t set up to deal with that.
10. Sun protection
Buy sunscreen in bulk and choose reef-friendly varieties. Some ingredients, including oxybenzone, bleach coral reefs even in small amounts, killing reefs and ultimately their ecosystem. Alternatively, opt to cover up every now and again instead of slapping on the sunscreen – it’s better for your skin, wallet and the planet. For some of us pale-skin folk sunscreen isn’t even an option: I regularly have to dress head-to-toe ninja style when surfing to avoid the burn. And I mean socks too. Make sure you wear a decent UPF 50 rash vest or similar and there are some beautiful sea leggings out there too.