Traveling the Planet and Reducing Plastic Consumption

By Patricia Santos & Miguel Vaz

Plastic is a global problem. Wherever we go and whatever we do, plastic is present—it’s in the products we buy, the clothes we wear, and the fish we eat. Humans are addicted to this cheap, versatile, and almost indestructible material. Most plastic is used only once, after which it’s thrown away only to linger on our planet for at least several hundred years.

Whether we’re heading out of the house to pursue our daily routine, or getting in a car to travel to a new location, we’re surrounded by plastic. As humans, we’ve adopted a fast and disposable lifestyle, and even though plastic is incredibly versatile, it’s also highly resistant to degradation. It’s up to all of us to change our habits and mindsets while we’re traveling (or just staying at home) so that we can reduce plastic consumption. Here are five simple actions you can take to help us stop living in a world wrapped in plastic.

Stop buying plastic water bottles

A million plastic bottles are used and disposed of every minute. The production and disposal of plastic bottles aren’t sustainable, and toxic chemicals used in their manufacturing aren’t biodegradable. Copious amounts of plastic end up in our oceans and on our streets—poisoning or harming marine life and wildlife. 

While you’re on the road, it’s often easiest to stop and get a water bottle or two, but this simple action does serious damage and it’s easily avoidable! Most hotels, restaurants, and shops have water filling stations, so next time you’re traveling carry your own reusable alternative.

If Miguel and I are ever strapped to find a refill station, we stop at a cafe and we’ve never heard a “no.” After all, water is an essential good that shouldn’t be denied to anyone, right?!

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Skip the straw

Single-use plastics such as drinking straws—which can take up to 200 years to decompose—may make our lives easier but have major consequences on the planet. Plastic straws represent one of the most found items in our oceans. Want to avoid adding to the problem? If you don’t need one, don’t use one! 

Relaxing with a cocktail-in-hand on vacation is a must, but does the drink really need a straw? Have you ever wondered where that plastic straw will end up? Usually, they don’t make it to recycling bins but end up in landfills and in the oceans instead. 

When you’re out-and-about, request an eco-friendly straw, and if they’re not available, request that your drink come without one. If you really need the straw or you just enjoy your drinks with one, have a sustainable alternative on-hand.

Carry reusable shopping bags

Plastic bags break up into tiny microplastics and remain indefinitely in the environment and they’re also fatal to animals who mistake them for food. You may not think to bring reusable shopping bags with you on vacation, but pack them, trust us! If you’re staying at a cabin, hotel, or rental house with a kitchen suite and plan on cooking then reusable bags will come in handy.

If you’re like us and like having snacks on hand while exploring a new place or love bringing souvenirs home for your family, a reusable shopping bag will help to reduce the number of plastic bags used. It’s that simple, really.

Miguel and I have a goal to leave every place we visit a little bit better than how we found it. We have bags that are ethically produced and made of jute, hemp, or recycled plastic bottles—which we can attest are easy to pack and don’t take up much room in the luggage.

Replace your hygiene products

Your hygiene products are something you will always need—no matter your location. Most shampoo bottles, toothbrushes, and toothpaste tubes are made of plastic and if you’re vacationing at a hotel or rental house with free products, there are even more plastic goods found.

It is possible to go plastic-free with your hygiene products on your next trip. Just start with the basics—buy a bamboo toothbrush, invest in a shampoo bar, get a reusable razer—but most importantly, take all of your hygiene products with you wherever you go!

Join a cleanup

… Or you can organize one yourself! Join a group sponsored by a local association that already hosts regular cleanups, or you and your travel campaigns can clean! Beach, city, or park—even just the streets of the town you’re visiting. Wherever you go, pick up the plastic you see discarded on the ground—without putting yourself at risk, or course. Remember that this is a global problem and we must all be part of the solution.

We are all responsible, both as citizens of a country and as travelers of the world. Although these actions seem small, their impact adds up over time; even the tiniest of actions to reduce plastic consumption can really help protect our environment. When you change your small individual habits, they become great positive global impacts.

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