Travelling Plastic Free
TRAVELLING PLASTIC FREE
Faye Lessler is a New York based advocate for sustainable living. Through her blog, Sustaining Life, she documents her journey towards a cleaner way of living and encourages the eco-curious to follow in her footsteps. Check out her journey Traveling #PlasticFree
When was the first time you wanted to go plastic-free?
I was in college and had just completed my first day of a course called “Sustainable Design,” where we were shown images of plastic bags floating in the ocean, plastic debris inside of the stomach of a dead Albatross bird, and a turtle that had been disfigured by the plastic rings that came off of a 6-pack.
That was the day I decided to give up plastic. I immediately purchased a reusable grocery bag and a classic Klean Kanteen bottle to take care of the most common single-use plastic items in my life. Over the years, my awareness of the various plastic items that end up polluting our oceans expanded, and so did my kit of reusable alternatives.
How do you travel plastic-free?
In the past 8 years I’ve remembered to bring my reusable bag and bottle along with me on trips to Thailand, Cuba, Mexico, and various cities throughout the United States. They’ve served me well, but every trip I find myself wanting to do more. As I planned this summer’s big adventure - a 2 week vacation in Scotland and France - I realized that it would be the perfect time to challenge myself to do just that by taking the Plastic Free July challenge.
What is the main challenge you encountered when travelling plastic-free and what did you do about it?
When we travel it’s easier for us to consume single-use plastic because we are often eating out and on the go, meaning that to-go cups and containers, bags, and travel-sized packets are often more convenient than the alternative.
I decided that the easiest way to avoid excessive plastic would be to arrive with my own meal and the utensils I needed to consume it. For me, that meant sticking a bunch of raw veggies and fruits into my Klean Kanteen Insulated Canister, throwing a boiled egg and a whole avocado in my bag (they come with their own compostable packaging, after all), and tying up a few slices of bread in a cloth napkin. I even included a hot mint tea in my insulated Klean Kanteen mug to help settle my stomach and lull me to sleep on the long flight. Knowing that I had everything I needed already in my backpack, I was able to walk past all of the tempting kiosks at the airport, avoiding prepared foods and their plastic packages.
When it came to ordering food on the go, I had to exercise caution before deciding on which cafe or street stall I would patronize. I treated it like a stake-out, walking past a vendor I was interested in to see how they would serve food to their customers before I became one myself. If what I wanted to order didn’t already come in paper or on a reusable plate, I chose a different place to eat or handed over my own food container and politely asked for my food to be served in there. While I did get plenty of funny looks, I got even more smiles and remarks of “wow, that’s cool, thanks for bringing your own!” This tactic even got me an extra serving of salad at one train station.
What was the main takeaway you got from travelling plastic free?
Overall, traveling without the use of single-use plastic is not that difficult. The water that comes out of the tap is potable, making it easy to refill a reusable water bottle, and some laws make it easier for both tourists and residents to avoid everyday plastics. I will now always travel with my plastic-free go-kit so as to minimize my footprint no matter where I am in the world. Even when I slip up (because inevitably we all do, that’s just how life goes), I know that my contribution to the plastic pollution in our world’s oceans, rivers, and lakes is significantly reduced by these simple efforts.
Bringing your own, being prepared when you know you’re heading into a plastic-heavy location, and politely speaking with business owners will take you a long way on the road to plastic-free travel. I’m happy to say that incorporating these simple habits into my travel routine has made me a more resilient and more outgoing tourist.