July 1, 2019

BE LEGENDARY! 7 easy ways to travel plastic free in 2019

Words by Matt Leedham
Travel Better
Pic: Australian Marine Conservation Society

Plastic Free July 2019 is here and we’ve got a feeling this year is going to be bigger than ever – So how can you become a sustainable legend on your travels?

In the last couple of years, the much-needed war on single-use plastic and its revolting impact on the environment has really amped up – and it’s truly awesome.

Thanks to excellent documentaries like the recent 2040 with Damon Gameau, Sir David Attenborough’s One Planet and the ABC’s War on Waste, more and more people’s everyday consciousness is shifting to one of awareness around the deadly consequences of plastic waste on our planet.

Yes, the aviation industry still has an awful lot of work to do around their obsession with single-use plastics, but it’s a confident sign to see airlines such as Etihad Airways and Qantas taking steps to reduce their footprint in their operations. Hopefully, more airlines will follow.

Positive change it seems, is happening – and quickly.

Believe it or not, Plastic Free Julyonly started in 2017 and is a campaign led by the Plastic Free Foundation. In the last two years, millions of people around the globe have taken the challenge and chosen to refuse single-use plastics.

Their vision is “to see a world without plastic waste.”

“Hell yeah!” to that.

So where do you begin on your own Plastic Free journey? The trick is to start small and work your way up from there. Here are some simple plastic-free travel tips to add to your packing list.

Eco bottles –

1. Take your own refillable water bottle

You’ve probably been hearing on repeat, but taking your own refillable water bottle is a must for every responsible traveller.

Aside from helping the planet, it’s common sense anyway. You won’t always be able to drink the tap water in a foreign country, which will result in you having to buy expensive bottled water, and you know what that means – more cost for you and more unnecessary plastic destroying the planet.

Invest in a quality metal bottle and perhaps even look at one with an internal filter if you’re heading off to somewhere remote so you can block out any nasties.

2. BYO your own cup too

While we’re on the subject, why not take your own reusable coffee or tea cup on your travels too?

While there are a lot more recyclable and compostable coffee cups out there in today’s world of cafés, the majority still use single-use cups headed for landfill or the ocean after one use.

Bringing your own cup to a cafe will always be a great talking point on your travels (Hello new friends) and a growing number of cafés even offer discounts to people bringing their own cup. Win-win!

3. Take your own shopping bags

Not that long ago you perhaps wouldn’t have dreamed of taking your own shopping bags anywhere, let alone on your travels.

Thankfully, it’s an ethical dilemma easily solved in today’s’ society and means taking your reusable bags with you on your travels is a must.

When you consider that many countries, including Bali, China and within Europe and Africa, have now banned single-use plastics and first and foremost – plastic bags, this traveller list will only continue to grow.


3. Just say NO to plastic straws

Do we even need to talk about this one? Really? Nah, just move on to point 4.

But if you are still reading…

In the last couple of years, plastic-straws have felt like the totem for the mainstream war on single-use plastics with many hotels, bars and restaurants culling them to do the right thing.

While forbidding the straw has been the entry level for any individual or company desiring to become more sustainable, there’s still plenty of them out there. So refuse loudly if one comes your way!

This Bangkok supermarket is wrapping vegetables in banana leaves

4. Snack Au naturel

One of the joys of travel is the seemingly endless supply of snack-able items to sample and chomp on while you’re on the go.

What isn’t so joyful is seeing the amount of plastic the snacks often come smothered in. Whether its an apple shrouded in styrofoam, a packet of plastic covered nuts or dates, the stress on hygiene is admirable but unnecessary.

Choose plastic-free snacks and stock up in markets or places where you can grab your own to keep your energy levels up and your impact down.

5. Pack your own sustainable toiletries

If you choose to take single-use plastic with you on your travels, you may end up leaving some of it in the places you go.

Could be a plastic toothbrush saying “Caio baby'” as you leave it behind in the hotel or a finished shampoo bottle shouting “Au revoir” as it hits the trash can. Whatever you leave behind, it’ll likely end up in landfill or worse.

Why not invest in a recyclable bamboo toothbrush or reusable silicon bottles? You can even get shampoo and conditioner bars now and many quality hotels have also got rid of in-room single-use plastic toiletries and replaced them with reusable dispensers.

Cutlery set from

6. Oh and cutlery too!

Plastic forks, spoons and knifes have always been pretty hideous to eat with anyway and certainly don’t add anything to the flavour of your food.

Plus, think hygiene again for a second and ask yourself “How clean is this cutlery anyway?”

Biome is an ethical supplier who has an excellent range of travel cutlery and sustainable accessories that won’t cost you the earth (Boom, boom). Otherwise, if you’re in Asia, opt for wooden chopsticks.

7. Find your plastic-free tribe

Isn’t it cool when you find and connect with others on your travels who are trying to make the same difference you are?

You’ll soon discover that there are so many tips to be learnt and so many ways you can share your experiences with like-minded travellers, not just around single-use plastics, but around responsible travel in general.

Doing good on your travels is infectious, addictive and I think, a little bit sexy too. Enjoy the journey!

Find out more:

How can you travel to change the world?

Congratulations! By reading this post and taking some of these insights on board, you’ve already made a difference.

Now you can easily create your impact by sharing your new-found knowledge with other friends who you think would also be interested.

Ultimately, responsible travel comes down to common sense – stay curious, keep yourself up-to-date with the challenges at hand and make yourself accountable for your actions on your travels.