Plastic isn’t fantastic: how to be a more eco-friendly traveller

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2019 is about responsible travel: here are 5 ways to reduce the amount of plastic you use on holiday

Plastic has become Public Enemy No. 1. And no wonder. According to Surfers Against Sewage, “In 1950, the world’s population of 2.5 billion produced 1.5 million tons of plastic; in 2016, a global population of more than 7 billion people produced over 320 million tons of plastic. This is set to double by 2034.”

People are reacting, though. The flippant consumption of single-use plastics is now about as socially acceptable as the flippant use of expletives by prime time TV presenters. Whether it’s down to Sir David Attenborough (likely) or something else (unlikely), we’re increasingly aware of how much damage plastic in the ocean, landfill and elsewhere is doing to the environment— and we’re determined to do something about it, with consumers applying some very organic pressure to companies and organisations to take action.

This includes the world of travel. According to Abta, 36% of people would choose one travel business over another simply because it has a better environmental record. Flash Pack is trying to do its bit through the Flash Pack Foundation, which aims to redress the damage done by global tourism. Among its many aims is to reduce plastic water bottle use by introducing clean water tanks on 50% of its trips.

“We want flashpackers to feel confident they are leaving no negative impact on the local communities they visit on a Flash Pack adventure,” says Radha Vyas, co-founder of Flash Pack. “But sustainable travel shouldn’t be difficult. We think making a positive difference should be totally hassle-free and we’re working hard to come up with innovative solutions to reduce the horrendous amount of plastic bottle waste in travel.”

It all goes to show that you, the traveller, are making a real difference through responsible tourism. But we can all do more to reduce our environmental footprint, so here are five very simple ways to use less plastic when travelling.

water bottle being filled from log

Re-use containers

Just finished that nice little pot of lip balm? Why not wash it out and fill it with moisturiser, sun cream or hair product the next time you travel, rather than buying ‘travel’ versions of everything with their nasty plastic packaging.

Think how you drink

Don’t use plastic straws, get yourself a reusable coffee cup and a nice water bottle, never mix tequila with beer. That last point has nothing to do with plastic, just don’t do it.

Be a barfly

Bars of soap are on the comeback, due to the plastic used for liquid soap. Check if your hotel uses squeezy bottles or—shock, horror—sachets of soap and shampoo, and if they do, a) tell them that they’re killing dolphins and b) take your own bar (yes, you get bars of shampoo).

bars of soap

Re-use your clear plastic ‘liquids’ bag

Airports kindly give you a bag for your hand-luggage liquids, though goodness knows why they won’t just let us use something more sustainable. But, you know what, they don’t self-destruct after one journey. So get one and keep it until it’s holier than the Pope.

Take your own shopping bag

We buy stuff on holiday. It’s a genetic compulsion. So take a shopping bag that you can tuck into a pocket or another bag. It could be a tote bag that expresses how clever you are or a fancy folds-in-on-itself number.

There you go. Five easy steps to making the world a better place. They might not seem like much, but when you consider that, for example, more than 8 million people fly each day, every little helps a lot.

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