I've been into the whole reduce, reuse, recycle thing for as long as I can remember. I'm always the person encouraging everyone to bring their own plates and cutlery to the vegan potluck and removing your juice bottle from my kitchen bin as soon as you turn away. Yep. That's me! When I lived in Brighton I supplemented our kerbside recycling with monthly trips to recycling points dotted around town to recycle things like tetra paks of soy milk (did you know that you need to remove the plastic spout and lid before recycling these?) and textiles. I also paid a little bit of cash each month to Magpie Recycling Co-op's opt in scheme so that I could recycle things like yoghurt pots and tofu tubs. So I was kind of a champion recycler and I always washed out my zip seal bags so that I could reuse them until they fell apart, but the whole reduce thing? Not so great!
Since taking a tour of the Sea Shepherd ship the Bob Barker in Melbourne and reading a few articles and blog posts about the impact of plastics on our oceans I've been trying to do more. By putting more of a focus on reducing my plastic consumption I feel like I'm stepping up my game! It definitely isn't an easy thing to do when you're travelling; you can't buy in bulk, often have to avoid drinking the tap water, and are given plastic bags and straws all the time but here are the steps that I've taken so far.
• Refuse plastic carrier bags
One of the few things that I can say confidently in Japanese is fukuro wa kekkou desu which roughly translates to I don't need a bag. It's a very helpful thing to know how to say if you don't want to be given a carrier bag for the smallest of purchases. I'm working on the same for chopsticks, straws etc for when I return to Japan this winter. I travel with a fabric tote bag and a larger fabric shopping bag for those times when I'm in one place for long enough to do a proper food shop.
• Buy some metal straws
I've wanted to get glass straws for ages but they aren't practical when you're backpacking. I was pretty excited when I saw bamboo straws being used all over the place in Bali and when I spotted these stainless steel straws at Atman Cafe in Ubud I knew that I had to grab a set, they're the perfect solution!
They were affordable and they can travel with us in our backpacks without getting damaged. They're a good reminder to ask for drinks without straws but we aren't having 100% success with that yet. We recently stayed at a resort on Lombok and we asked for our drinks without straws every single time and every single time they still came with a straw. It was incredibly frustrating! By this point you know the straw is going into the bin whether you use it or not so there's little point saying anything but damn, is it that ridiculous a request? Our new straws haven't solved the bubble tea dilemma yet either as it requires a much thicker straw and always comes in a plastic cup with a cellophane lid. I'm definitely ordering less bubble tea but I don't think that I can quit it completely.
• Travel with a water bottle
This is easy and fantastic if you're travelling in places where you can drink the tap water. My only issue is that I'm on my third water bottle in two and a half years as I'm prone to leaving stuff in the seat pockets on busses and trains. I like to think that some other traveller has picked them up!
• Don't use travel size toiletries
This is a tough one especially if, like me, you're only travelling with hand luggage. It's definitely tempting to use the cute little toiletries provided by hotels but just think of all of that plastic going into the ocean and you'll quickly go off them. I travel with as many solid products as possible including LUSH's Godiva shampoo bar and their Jungle solid conditioner as well as a solid bar of soap for my body and another for my face.
I'm just trying to be more mindful of my choices at this stage. When I eventually stop travelling I'd like to look at my cooking routine with a more critical eye and try my hand at making my own margarine, bread, and tofu but until that point I'm just trying my best. Is reducing your plastic consumption something that you're thinking about doing? Are you already on a similar journey or are you already the queen of zero waste? I'd love to hear what you're doing to help save the planet!