The use of disposable plastic items while traveling is hard on the environment, hard on the communities left with the garbage, it’s expensive, and it can often be unhealthy. No traveler wants to leave a trail of plastic behind them, but many don’t know how to avoid it.
Here are 6 simple ideas of how to cut back on your disposable plastic use:
- Bring a reusable water bottle
- Get a water purifier
- Bring a reusable bag, dry bags, rain cover
- Get a reusable straw
- Reuse shampoo and lotion containers
- Reusable coffee mug
This is becoming more critical these days. Tanzania, Kenya, and Rwanda have all made plastic bags of all kinds illegal to bring into and use in these countries. Also, in light of our Carbon Neutrality in Peru, it is important to avoid plastic while traveling (and at home!).
1) Bring a reusable water bottle
According to TAP (Travelers Against Plastic), carrying a reusable water bottle and a method to clean the water, helps avoid the waste of hundreds of millions of plastic bottles each year.
Why carry a reusable bottle and method to clean the water:
BETTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
- Globally 2.7 million tons of water bottle plastic annually.
- In the US alone: making bottles of water out of plastic takes more than 1.5 million barrels of oil, every year, enough to fuel 100,000 American cars for a year.
- Eighty-six percent of single-use plastic water bottles become landfill or litter in the US and in many countries that number is higher.
- Each week 1 billion bottles of water in the US. That’s equals 37,800 semi-trucks hauling water every week. It has to be transported in the countries we visit as well, often great distances.
- PET is made from crude oil. PET bottles produce toxic emissions at rates of 100 times that of glass.
- Bottled water can cost as much $10 per gallon, more expensive than gas.
- If tap water cost the same as the cheapest bottled, monthly water bills would come to $9,000.
- Americans spend more than $15 billion dollars annually on bottled water, buying 2.6 billion cases. Those who travel buy bottled water even more often.
- One SteriPEN can clean up to 16,000 bottles of water.
BETTER FOR COMMUNITIES
- Feeding the bottled water industry has taken a toll on wells from homes in rural communities by draining aquifers, lowered lake levels, and hurt wetlands. It takes three times as much water than is produced.
- Three corporations dominate the bottled water market in the US. Pepsi has 13% of the market and Coke has 11%, both of which resell treated tap water, by putting it through an energy intensive process called reverse-osmosis. This process takes more energy than turning seawater into drinking water.
- Most bottled water in the US is simply treated tap water sold at 1000-4000 times the price of tap. What kind of treatment are they using in the country you travel to? Who is overseeing that “treatment”? It’s safer to treat your own.
- Age and heat leaches chemicals in plastic bottles, this causes more problems with storage and transportation. Reuse bottles at home as well
- San Francisco’s tap water comes from Yosemite National Park and is so pure the EPA does not require it to be filtered. A bottled of Evian water at $1.35 could be refilled with San Francisco tap water once a day for over ten years before the cost would total $1.35.
DO THE MATH
- In the first two months of 2012, 8.1 million U.S. citizens traveled abroad according to data released by the U.S. Office of Travel & Tourism Industries.
- 8.1 million travelers over two months =48.6 million a year (estimated)
- 3 bottles a day for one 2 week trip= over 3.4 billion plastic water bottles used.
- Mexico remains the most popular foreign destination, with 3.3 million U.S. visitors in the first two months of the year. Recycling experts say that only about one-eighth of the 21.3 million plastic water and soft drink bottles that are emptied each day in Mexico get recycled.
2) Get a water purifier
A Grayl Bottle (staff favorite!), SteriPEN, or LifeStraw can allow you to drink water from anywhere! Whether you’re traveling in cities or wilderness both of these options are light weight and excellent solutions to make sure your water is safe and clean to drink.
3) Bring a reusable bag, dry bag, rain cover
Many of us when traveling, end up grabbing a garbage bag or plastic laundry bag from our hotel rooms to store dirty clothes or shoes. To avoid this, think ahead when you are packing, and take along a tote bag or something similar to avoid using the disposable plastic bags you may find in your rooms on your trip.
For your toiletries, use a non-disposable clear bag.
Get a rain cover for your day pack so that things inside stay dry. Many day packs now come with an integrated rain cover.
Dry bags can be used to keep your electronics and clothing dry.
4) Get a reusable straw
It’s estimated that we use over 500 million every day in America, and most of those end up in our oceans, polluting the water and killing marine life. We want to encourage people to stop using plastic straws for good. If we don’t act now, by the year 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.
If you like straws in your mixed drinks, sodas, smoothies, etc, maybe look for a glass, stainless steel, or paper alternative that you can bring with you on your travels (and around at home).
Check out the Strawless Ocean’s website to learn more about this and what you can do.
5) Reuse shampoo and lotion containers
This is another very simple way to cut back against the use of disposable plastic. Before you travel the next time, think about buying refillable shampoo and conditioner bottles. Fill them up before you leave for your trip.
6) Reusable Coffee Mug
Instead of getting a disposable cup when you order a coffee to go, use a reusable mug. It is also useful to take a drink with you when you are out and about.