Like me I’m sure you’re trying to do your bit for our beautiful planet and I’m a huge believer if we all make little changes it can have a big positive impact. Like most people I try not to use single use plastic, we’re slowly making the switch in our kitchen to go plastic free and we don't use plastic bags (unless I forget and then I feel super guilty but that's just the away it is sometimes). Where I fail most dramatically is when I go on holiday and this really hit home on our most recent holiday to Mallorca. The amount of plastic bottles being sold is frightening and worse still most of that won’t end up being recycled. So over the next four weeks my good friend Jacqui Scruby is going to share her tips and hacks to traveling plastic free. Jacqui inspires me every day with her eco warrior spirit and her war against plastic. To get daily inspiration follow Jacqui on instagram @jacqui.scruby or if you want extra help to live a plastic free luxe life check out her 6 weeks online course to going plastic free www.6weekstoplasticfree.com @6weekstoplasticfree and www.jacquiscruby.com
Travelling with young children in tow has it's challenges. Add plastic free travel to the mix and it may sound like more trouble that it's worth (my husband definitely thought so). But what I thought may be challenging has turned out to be an incredibly fun journey. Travelling plastic free immerses us quickly into local life as we go on the hunt for local, sustainable and zero waste food, it teaches the children so much and is incredibly satisfying knowing we're not contributing to local plastic pollution.
So how did it all start? Like most of us, my Pinterest Board was full of pictures of Mediterranean islands - dream worthy locations with crystal clear waters. But when I started to make these Pinterest dreams a reality, a cruel irony dawned on me. I suddenly realised that the most beautiful places in Europe have the worst waste management. On the island of Vis, Croatia, we rounded a coastal bend only to find a landfill site on a cliff within 200m of the ocean, directly above where MammaMia 2 was filmed (I've since found out this is standard on most Mediterranean islands). We've seen turtles swimming through plastic and beaches covered in trash and microplastics. But - it's not just these small islands - so many places you travel from Lisbon to Sri Lanka have a plastic water bottle culture - with tourist and locals buying litres per day instead of installing water filters.
Personally, I felt I couldn't unsee the waste I'd seen whilst travelling. Couple that with knowing what I know about waste management, I wasn't comfortable contributing to it. It's become overwhelmingly important to me to show our kids that playing in sand full of microplastics is not normal but also that you can't criticise a local culture's waste management and then be part of the problem. So instead of acquiescing, we decided to embraced plastic free living both at home in London and in our travels.
Travel looks a little different now. Instead of arriving in a destination and planning visits to top restaurants as I did pre-kids - we now seek out bulk and health food shops, local markets and supermarkets. As ridiculous as it sounds, we actually get off on discovering what we can get without packaging or in glass. The kids treat it as a treasure hunt, running around markets and supermarkets to see what they can find. Every destination has it's unique challenges and unexpected bonuses which enriches our visit and provides invaluable insight into global waste management issues. Some places refuse to use our container to put meat in, other times we can't find yoghurt in glass which limits desserts. But then other times we'll walk into a supermarket and find some local homemade ice cream in glass which of course I can't say no to!
We've embraced slightly slower travel. We sit down to eat rather than grab takeaway, we remember to bring our water bottle, smoothie jar and cutlery when we're out and we take the time to go to markets or local farms. We do one beach clean where we go and also get in contact with local sustainability groups via Facebook to see if there's any support we can give and to get their tips.
We're not perfect - sometimes I give into the kids or if I feel they're really missing out I'll grab them something in plastic occasionally. Some things we still buy despite having a small amount of plastic like nut butter with a plastic lid if we can't find an alternative (after trying hard) - but all in all, we have nothing but organic waste and high quality recycling (glass, paper, metal) and NO plastic recycling as it's not readily recycled. We have hardly any waste going to landfill and I actually love leaving a place with the original plastic bag still in the bin (if I've been able to find composting for our organic waste)... and that's a great feeling when you're in places where you know waste management is, well, not managed at all.
So what about your travels? You don't need to get obsessed to make a difference. One of my favourite quotes is "the world doesn't need one person doing zero waste perfectly, but a million people doing zero waste imperfectly". So here are my tips on how to reduce your plastic consumption whilst you travel and reap the new dimension it adds to your travel and family.
What to pack
My husband is as obsessed about travelling light as I am about travelling plastic free. Somehow we've managed to reconcile these two opposing interests and take a few essentials that allow us to significantly reduce our plastic use.
Here are my must-takes for any eco-conscious traveller.
1. The 'Berkley Go' Water Filter + Water Bottles
This has to be the single best thing you can do when travelling to avoid plastic pollution - especially when in locations where you can't drink tap water. From Lisbon to Sri Lanka - people are purchasing millions of bottles of water each year when you can avoid all that plastic by simply filtering. The 'Berkey Go' filters everything from heavy metals and chemicals to parasites and bacteria. We just keep filtering and filling up our water bottles. If we're out and about and run out we either asks restaurants for filtered water or buy water in glass bottles.
I was recommending this product way before I was offered an affiliate code - but I now have one. So if you want free shipping just click here.
2. Market Bags and Tupperware
Markets across the world suffer from what I like to call 'The Market Paradox'. On one hand they are paradise for zero wasters with huge sacks of everything from nuts to rice, crates of veggies and fruit and deli cheese and meats, yet the only bags offered to put your produce in are plastic - completely undermining the plastic free potential (it drives me insane)! I always carry at least one cotton tote and four cotton bags that can be used for rice, cherry tomatoes or nuts. We also carry one tupperware container that we can take for meats or cheeses. Being the smoothie addicts we are - we don't go anywhere without our Yeti smoothie / juice jar - especially to the beach (this is the one item the kids don't complain about carrying!).
You might need to sacrifice one or two pairs of shoes to squeeze these items in but that's it!
3. Mini Blender - optional!
For the diehards out there I love my mini blender to make nut milks as it's almost impossible to find milk - dairy or no dairy in glass (tetra is the worst for recycling). It's far more efficient that an hand blender and charges with a USB on the computer! It's also great for smoothies on summer days. I bought a glass one on Amazon.
4. Toiletries - Using Less is Best
I'm all for eco alternatives to toiletries - as a lifestyle switch not just for travel - but overall the trick here is to simply take less so you're not disposing of empty bottles as you go. I refill my shampoo and conditioner at The Source Bulk Foods and then ration it out (with lots of non-washed hair days) The best advice here is try to reduce what you take. You probably don't need all your beauty products for a short holiday, or to wash your hair every day when you're swimming the whole time anyway. And of course, don't touch the small samples in hotels or the plastic cups.
Jacqui Scruby is a health coach and personal eco shopping advisor in London. She's on a mission to make zero waste and plastic free living aspirational yet also efficient, easy and effective.
Prior to having her two gorgeous girls, she was an environmental lawyer and management consultant and has also owned her own homewares business.