How to have a holiday without excessive plastics

The environmental impact of going on holiday has been much-discussed.

There’s the carbon cost of travelling, for one thing, but there’s also the plastic content of a lot of your must-have holiday items.

Reducing plastic consumption when travelling isn’t always easy, but we have some top tips for jet-setters keen to purge the plastic from their holidays.

Read on for a full set of tips.

Embrace sporks

Styrofoam containers and plastic cutlery can be hard to avoid when abroad – especially at street food stalls. This is precisely why it’s worth bringing your own utensils.

“Packing not only a reusable coffee cup but reusable cutlery further reduces plastic consumption when abroad,” says Heather Magnussen, responsible travel and sustainability manager at Audley Travel.

We’re huge fans of Mnched’s Travel Cutlery and Straw Set, which includes a stainless steel knife, fork, spoon and straw, all tucked into a rugged travel case.

Buy it for £27 from Mnched.

Master sustainability speak

InsideJapan gives every client a pack containing information relating to waste reduction, which can be tricky in destinations where travellers might not be familiar with the language – although we love InsideJapan’s solution, which is to provide all travellers heading to Japan with a flashcard which states “I don’t need a bag” in Japanese.

Follow their lead by writing down a translation of this phrase in the language most commonly spoken in your destination, and always pack a reusable bag.

Our top tote? PADI’s Green Fins X PADI Healthy Reefs Charity Canvas Tote – 20% of the proceeds from every purchase supports reef conservation.

Buy it for £13.50 from PADI Gear.

Do your homework

Making an effort to research the sustainability criteria of your hotel won’t just provide reassurance – it will hammer home the fact that travellers have certain expectations when it comes to sustainability.

“Researching whether a hotel or restaurant has a policy on plastic, or a sustainability certification such as Travelife for Accommodation, means that that companies will be more likely to have a proper system in place to reduce plastic, and not just a couple of greenwashing touches that they think you’ll notice,” says Rob Moran, sustainability coordinator at the Inside Travel Group.

Bring your own… everything

Gone are the days when hotels could get away with simply ditching single-use plastic shampoo bottles.

“Rather than seeing plastic reduction as potentially inconveniencing guests (even though it doesn’t) we’d like to see hotels and restaurants rewarding customers for not using plastic and bringing their own reusables,” says Rob Moran.

“Creating a positive culture around reusable materials and circular economies is far more beneficial than merely creating a negative one around plastic.”

Our favourite reusable, travel-friendly tableware items include Rex London’s lightweight bamboo plates and beakers.

Buy a beaker for just £1 from Rex London.

Top tip: Become a refill whizz

Refill My Bottle is an app and website which identifies locations where you can refill water bottles for free at 4,373 locations in 37 countries.

Become a packing pro

Shunning food on offer on trains and planes won’t just save you money – it will help reduce plastic use for the duration of your trip.

“Take a packed lunch stored in reusable packaging for long journeys,” says Explore’s Prue Stone, who’s also head of the Association of Independent Tour Operators’ Sustainability Committee.

“It means you won’t have to buy expensive airport or train food, it will reduce the amount of wasted packaging and it means you’ll have reusable wraps or containers for picnics on holiday.”

We recommend Ecovibe’s brilliant beeswax sandwich wraps, which are biodegradable and compostable and can be handwashed.

Buy it for £3.99 from Ecovibe.

Invest in a bacteria-busting water bottle

We’re most likely to grab a plastic bottle of water when we’re unsure about the quality of the stuff which comes out the tap, but purifying personal water sources has never been easier.

“If you’re concerned, carry a water purification device such as a SteriPEN or a similar type of handheld UV water purifier,” says Kasia Morgan, head of sustainability at Exodus Travels.

We love LifeSaver’s fantastic Liberty bottle, which will remove 99.9999% of all bacteria from water.

It was invented in response to two natural disasters (the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005) and has been used by British Army personnel operating in remote locations far from reliable water sources.

Buy it for £129.99 from Icon LifeSaver.

This article contains affiliate links. We may earn a small commission on purchases made through one of these links but this never influences our experts’ opinions. Products are tested and reviewed independently of commercial initiatives.

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