We live in a world where plastic packaging is the norm and although this is changing, plastic is still the norm. In this guide, we’ll explore the best cheap, and easy ways to reduce plastic while traveling, without breaking the bank or adding too much gear. Cutting out plastic doesn’t have to mean losing the luxuries and ease in life.
Keep reading to discover these cheap and easy ways to reduce the use of plastic!
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Table of contents
- Why Reduce Your Plastic?
- 1. Bring Your Own Airplane Food
- 2. Save Your Airplane Cup/Bring Your Own
- 3. Unpackaged and Solid Toiletries
- 4. Swap Single Use for Reusable
- 5. Say No to Mini Travel Products
- 6. Bring a Tote Bag
- 7. Make Sure Single Use Items are Biodegradable
- 8. Restock at Zero Waste Stores and Local Markets
- 9. Sustainable Menstrual Products
- 10. Get a Reusable Bag for Liquids at Security
- 11. Don’t Use Your Airplane Blanket and Pillow
- Remember: You Can’t Be Perfect
- Read More About Sustainable Travel
- Follow Us on Pinterest
Why Reduce Your Plastic?
The infamous “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”. It’s important to remember that they’re in this order for a reason. Even if we recycle the plastic we use (not all of which is recyclable) waste is still being created and energy is still being used to create it. So, we need to instead focus on reducing our plastic usage in general.
Plastic is dangerous to ecosystems because it doesn’t decompose. As it breaks up into tiny bits called microplastics, it can harm ocean life (and land animals) by getting into their systems and causing premature deaths, which in turn wreak havoc throughout the food chain and the ocean ecosystems. It’s important to remember that humans are part of the food chain as well. Even if you’re vegan, you still likely consume seaweed and those who are not vegan most likely eat fish that can contain those microplastics. You can read more about plastics in the oceans from Earthday.org.
Evidently, rather than worry about the microplastics we’re consuming or how the potato chip bag we’ve just thrown away effects the coral reefs, it’s easier to just reduce plastic usage all together. So, without further ado, here are our favorite cheap ways to reduce plastic while traveling.
1. Bring Your Own Airplane Food
This one is often easier said than done, especially on long flights with multiple full meals. Unfortunately, airplane meals always come wrapped in so much plastic that, even if you don’t eat a specific bit of food, it will still all get trashed. Here’s our suggestion and something we are going to be more committed to. If your flight is 8 hours or less and you receive one full meal and a small breakfast, try skipping the food all together. Or, if like me, you turn into a hangry monster when skipping a meal, bring a thermos of pasta or couscous to the airport. As long as they’re not liquids you should make it through security.
PSA: A new jar of peanut butter will not make it through security even if you offer to eat some of it. Tried and tested.
2. Save Your Airplane Cup/Bring Your Own
As someone who easily drinks 4L of water a day, being on long, dry flights with only my two prefilled water bottles is not a comfortable experience. Sometimes, flight attendants (dependent on airlines) won’t refill water bottles because of contamination issues. If this is the case, you’ve got two options: ask for one of the large bottles (I will definitely try this on our 22 hour flight to Indonesia) or save your cup. If you do this, make sure to put it in the seat pocket or they might throw it out while you’re asleep. You can also bring your own collapsible cup which can also double as a snack container! This brand can hold hot and cold liquids and even has a lid so that your cup will stay clean or avoid getting other things dirty when you slip it in your bag.
3. Unpackaged and Solid Toiletries
These are a game changer for two reasons:
1) They’re plastic free (duh)
2) They’re perfect for travelers because of their solid form
“But my shampoo and conditioner?”, you ask, “In solid form!?” That’s right! As someone who uses these whenever I travel, I can really rave about how amazing they are. Because they’re solid and you add water to use them, they’ll get through airport security without a separate liquids bag, and they’ll last for months. One of my favorite brands, Lush, which is cruelty free and has clearly marked vegan products, also goes package free on many of their items. If you purchase in store, bring your own container to further reduce waste.
Here’s what I always have in my travel toiletries kit:
4. Swap Single Use for Reusable
There are so many items we use in our daily lives that are single-use but that could easily be reusable and create far less waste. Here are a few single use items that you can swap for reusable ones to save money and reduce plastic waste while traveling.
- Cotton swabs Gross? No, just check them out! Buy once and you’ll never be without one again!
- Safety Razors are great because you purchase one and it should theoretically last a lifetime. You will still have to replace the blade, but they’re much cheaper than other razor blade replacements. You’ll also likely have the closest shave of your life.
- Reusable Wheat Silverware is a fantastic option to stick in your bag and take with you on the go. Because they’re made from wheat, the production process is much more sustainable.
- Reusable Travel Straws are another product that has been all the rage lately and I can’t recommend enough.
- Reusable Makeup wipes or cotton pads: Not only is makeup wipe packaging often plastic, but makeup wipes themselves (and wet wipes) are made from plastic that never fully biodegrades, instead of becoming smaller and smaller plastics in the environment. These are also ideal for traveling because they take up less space and you won’t have to purchase new ones for years. These reusable cotton pads from LastObject sit in a place of pride on my bathroom counter, plus, they’ve got a lovely vibrant container.
- Reusable Tissues: Remind you of your dad’s handkerchief? Me too, but at least these have a container and a system to keep the dirty ones away from the clean ones! LastObject was kind enough to send some to try and I have to say that these are a staple in my bag now. I rarely buy tissues (I usually just use toilet paper) so it’s so much better for both my budget and the planet to have a reusable option.
5. Say No to Mini Travel Products
As tempting as the lovely little scented bottles are, the plastic to product ratio is simply horrendous. Especially if you’ve followed the tips above, you’ll be well-stocked with eco-friendly toiletries.
6. Bring a Tote Bag
It is my firm belief that you should never leave home without a tote bag. Not only do they reduce plastic, but you won’t have to pay for a plastic bag nor will your groceries go spilling everywhere.
7. Make Sure Single Use Items are Biodegradable
Some items are simply not easy to find in a reusable form, such as toothbrushes and straws. The best alternatives are to find biodegradable options. Try a bamboo toothbrush in which the only plastic is the bristles. Pair it with eco-friendly toothpaste tablets and you’re on your way! Read more about the environmental benefits of bamboo toothbrushes from Greener TYWYN. The important thing is to do your best. Jack and I often forget to pack our reusable silverware, so we once ended up buying a pack of wooden forks (as opposed to plastic ones) to eat our lunch with and kept the extra in our camera bag.
Keep Reading: Are Paper Straws Really Better for the Environment?
8. Restock at Zero Waste Stores and Local Markets
Zero waste stores are fairly easy to find in major cities. These can range from stores specifically tailored to produce zero waste or supermarkets that have turned to plastic free packaging. If you’re not near a major city, try looking for a local market. Idealy you’ll find delicious and fresh produce that came straight from the garden. Don’t forget to bring your tote bag!
9. Sustainable Menstrual Products
Reusable pads, menstrual cups, tampon applicators, and more! We have an entire post on this “How to Have a Zero-Waste Period” with my favorite products that reduce waste and actually make traveling with a period so much more comfortable. If you’re looking for a quick recommendation, invest in a menstrual cup. So much less waste and it’s so convenient for travelers and anyone who doesn’t want to worry about TSS.
Keep Reading: How to Have a Zero-Waste Period
10. Get a Reusable Bag for Liquids at Security
Last year I purchased this TSA approved liquids bag so that I wouldn’t have to try and stuff everything into a plastic bag that ends up ripping (we’ve all been there). I’ve never had any issues with security accepting this and it is so much easier than a zip lock bag. And of course, no more plastic baggies gone to waste! Another easy and cheap way to reduce plastic while traveling that will save the environment and your wallet in the long run.
11. Don’t Use Your Airplane Blanket and Pillow
If you’re like me (aka a germaphobe) you’ll understand the lack of desire to use the blanket and pillow provided on the airplane. Instead of tossing them on the ground and dealing with them at the end of the flight, give them to the flight attendant for safe storage so that they don’t need to be washed and repackaged.
Remember: You Can’t Be Perfect
We’re the first to admit that it’s really hard to be plastic-free. I personally am guilty of not being conscious when I’m hungry, but what this teaches me is to be prepared with snacks so that I’m not in that position. We can only do our best and encourage education of others.
We hope that this post “Cheap Ways to Reduce Plastic Waste While Traveling and Why You Should” has helped you on your journey to more sustainable travel and lifestyle. We’re all on this boat together, so we hope you’ll continue to join us on this journey to ethical, sustainable, plant-based travel.