Here are 10 ways to limit your plas­tic foot­print when you’re on the road

Surf Girl - - Surfgirl Summer Travel Guide - words CAL MA­JOR

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:­for­ 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.

5. Cut­lery

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.

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