Plastic pollution is destroying our planet—it’s time to reject, reduce and rethink our plastic use when traveling.

As travelers, we can fight plastic pollution and be a part of the solution. With a few simple changes in your travel habits, you can reduce your plastic waste. Let’s explore some effective solutions to reduce plastic consumption while traveling. Also, be prepared to be shocked by the impact of plastic waste.

Why should we reduce the use of plastic?

It’s cheap, durable, and easy moldable material. These versatile properties make plastic one of the world’s most common materials. However, it’s also a major polluter, especially in our oceans. Check out the impact of plastic on our planet with some plastic pollution facts.

  • Annually, the entire world population produces 300 million tons of plastic waste.
  • Each year, over 8 million tons of plastic end up in the oceans.
  • Every week, humans ingest 5 grams of plastic.
  • About 36% of all plastic produced is used for packaging, 85% of which ends up in landfills.
  • About 40% of the ocean surface is covered with plastic waste. If our plastic consumption and behavior continues like this, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean as early as 2030.

Easy tips to reduce plastic use while traveling

Carry your reusable water bottle instead of buying plastic water bottles

86% of US single-use water bottles go to landfill.

Let me tell you the easiest way to reduce personal plastic consumption: Fill up a water bottle before leaving the house. However, your water may run out while you’re still outside. And most countries have no drinking water refill stations. So, it’s understandable if you buy an extra water bottle in such cases.

Alternatives: Filtered water bottle or purification tablets. We have had a water filter jug at home for a few years and love it. Why don’t you opt for portable filtered water bottles when traveling or just out and about? Try to find solutions depending on the country you’re in.

Smart tips: No water bottle with you? It’s okay. Use a glass bottle (a plastic bottle is also ok, better than buying new every time).

Carry reusable bags instead of single-use plastic bags

The 2018 International Coastal Cleanup collected 1.9 million grocery bags and other plastic bags.

They’re foldable, easy to carry and lightweight. I always take a couple of cloth bags with me when I prepare for a trip. That way, I can use them for both dirty laundry and groceries.

Alternatives: Foldable shopping bags, paper bags, cotton tote bags, mesh shopping bags, shopping baskets or biodegradable plastic bags. However, also be aware of the facts about biodegradable plastic bags.

Smart tips: Sometimes we may need to carry plastic bags. So, keep the bags for later reuse. For example, to avoid using new plastic bags, I bring 15 to 20 reusable bags with me when I go to the market.

Use reef-safe sunscreen instead of toxic ones

Shocking fact: 100,000,000,000,000 plastic particles in one sunscreen.

Corals play an important role in producing oxygen. However, the harmful toxins (oxybenzone and octinoxate) in sunscreens kill corals in the sea and also enter the human bloodstream.

So, probably, you’ve already seen “reef-friendly” or “coral reef-safe” sunscreens. Their common ingredients are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Unfortunately, one study found that uncoated zinc oxide and titanium dioxide nanoparticles can be toxic to marine life.

Experts continue to research truly eco-friendly sunscreens. The College of Florida is working on a UV-absorbing compound derived from algae.

Alternatives: Sunscreens based on non-nano zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Opt for products with plastic-free packaging.

Smart tips: What to do if we don’t have a truly eco-friendly sunscreen? Research oils, but avoid those that are toxic to living organisms. Most important thing? Always, use a hat and sunglasses. Also, drink plenty of water.

Create a plastic-free beauty routine

Sheet masks are often a combination of aluminum and plastic that cannot be recycled.

How about making your face care routine plastic-free? With a few simple changes to your facial care routine, you can significantly reduce plastic waste and protect the environment.

Alternatives: Washcloths, reusable cotton pads, plastic-free containers.

Smart tips: You can turn old towels into reusable makeup pads. Also, you can make your own facial care products with natural ingredients. You can find many recipes online and store the finished product in reusable glass jars. Plus, avoid buying masks or other facial care products that come in disposable packaging, such as individual packets. Instead, look for products in larger containers or opt for reusable products, such as clay masks you mix yourself.

Take plastic-free toiletry bag

1 billion toothbrushes are thrown away every year in the US. That’s enough to stretch around the Earth 4 times.

What do you take in your bag? Toothbrush, razor, mini shampoo, creams, etc. How about making it as plastic-free as possible on your next trip?

Alternatives: Bamboo toothbrush, reusable razor blade, plastic-free dental floss, etc.

Smart tips: A miswak is a natural toothbrush made from a twig that has been used in many parts of the world for centuries. It isn’t only plastic-free, but also biodegradable and compostable.

Protect yourself and the planet with eco-friendly deodorants

15 million pounds of plastic waste are generated annually by the deodorant industry.

Substances like aluminum, parabens, and phthalates harm the planet and our health. Unfortunately, many deodorants contain these harmful ingredients. If they get into rivers, they can harm marine life. Besides, using toxic deodorants can cause hormone imbalances, breast cancer, and more.

Alternatives: Cream deodorants without plastic packaging with natural ingredients. They also last much longer.

Smart tips: You can make your own deodorant. It isn’t hard as you think. And, it’s a smart way to save money and avoid harmful chemicals.

Revolutionize your menstrual experience

Disposable period pads contain up to 90% plastic and tampons up to 6%.

Think of plastic pollution. What comes to mind first? Probably, not pads and tampons. However, according to one study, pads and tampons are the fifth most common waste in marine pollution.

Alternatives: Menstrual cups. Washable pads made from organic cotton or hemp.

Smart tips: Although almost everyone likes to use menstrual cups, there are also people who aren’t comfortable with them. These people may prefer washable period underwear. Remember that even organic pads and tampons create waste and cannot be recycled.

Bye bye hotel mini toiletries

200 million of the mini bottles of fancy shampoos end up in landfills every year.

Unfortunately, like other plastics, the plastic mini-toiletries end up in mountains of trash and oceans.

Alternatives: Shampoo, conditioner and soap in reusable bottles. And cotton swabs made from bamboo.

Smart tips: Solid shampoos instead of liquid shampoos. Since they’re not liquid, you can pack them in your carry-on and their ingredients are better. You can also use apple cider vinegar diluted with water instead of conditioner. The first smell may not be pleasant, but then it’ll go away.

Use matches instead of plastic lighters

When exposed to chemicals such as chlorine, strong acids, and alkalis, plastic lighters release formaldehyde.

Disposable lighters are an everyday item, like a toothbrush. Even if we aren’t nonsmokers, we might need a lighter.

Alternatives: Matches, electric arc lighters, hemp wick, solar lighters.

Smart tips: You can use refillable metal lighters. Depending on the frequency of use, lighter fluid will probably last you for a few months.

Say no to plastic straws and utensils

Researchers have found a plastic straw in the nose of a sea turtle during a research off the coast of Costa Rica.

One person’s tiny trash can has painful consequences for the environment. Although it’s encouraging that more and more restaurants are adopting sustainable practices, there are still businesses that rely on single-use plastic.

Alternatives: Bamboo or stainless steel straws, reusable utensils, cutlery.

Smart tips: Spread awareness about the harms of plastic waste. Encourage your friends and family to join you in using plastic-free straws and utensils. Besides, look for restaurants and cafes that offer plastic-free alternatives.

What else can you do to reduce plastic use while traveling?

Choose eco-minded tour operators or hostels

Many tourism companies run their business in an environmentally conscious way. So, you can choose responsible tour operators. You just need to do a little more research or ask at the front desk of your accommodation to get information.

Choose eco-friendly hotels and lodgings

Opt for nature-friendly accommodation, but it’s advisable to watch out for greenwashing companies. How can you tell if a company isn’t greenwashing? We’ve shared the details in another article, you should definitely read.

Fly smart

The environmental cost of air travel can be high, but sometimes we need to use the plane for long distances. Also, airlines often use too much plastic food packaging. If you have your thermos with you, no need to take a single use paper cup. Or keep it until the end of the trip. You can also buy your next ticket from these companies to support the airlines limiting using plastic

Participate in a beach or forest cleanup

Many volunteer groups clean up trash from beaches, public places, etc. You can join one and help out. Click here to find out where the next beach cleanup is. Also, you can always take a bag and collect plastic wherever you are.

Take baking soda with you

You can use baking soda as a whitener for teeth and clothes, as a medicine for stomach problems, as a cleaner for dishes, and as a lime remover. It’s easy to find everywhere.

Raise awareness by asking questions of local authorities

Raising our awareness is very valuable, but the truth is that personal efforts and being a green traveler aren’t a sufficient solution. We need a holistic approach. That’s why everyone should take responsibility and do their part. However, sometimes political and local leaders fail to live up to their commitments. In such cases, we should exert pressure to accelerate change on decision-makers.