People around the world are becoming more aware of the issues around single-use plastic and how to reduce their plastic footprint in day to day life. But what about while travelling? On the road, it can feel even more difficult to reduce your plastic use. But, with a bit of planning, it can be done. And even if everyone made just a few small changes to their plastic consumption, it could have a big impact on the environment.

Here, The Reef-World Foundation – which coordinates the Green Fins initiative internationally in partnership with the UN Environment Programme – shares its top tips to reduce your plastic footprint while travelling.


Plan in advance

Remember, your impact starts at home. While you’re travelling it might be difficult to get hold of certain items, particularly in remote areas. So, plan ahead, purchase key items before you leave and pack smart. Once you’re on the road, it will make it much easier to have key items with you already.


Bring your own canvas bag

It’s likely you already have a reusable shopping bag (and, if you don’t, it’s not hard to pick one up). So, remember to bring it with you on your holiday. It won’t take up much space in your suitcase and it will make it a lot easier to avoid single-use plastic bags.


Buy a refillable water bottle or Life Straw…

Every single-use plastic water bottle you buy goes into landfill. So, if you bought a bottle of water every day for a two-week holiday, that’s 14 pieces of plastic waste during your trip. Just think of how quickly that adds up every time you go away. Investing in a refillable water bottle to take with you is a great way to avoid all that plastic. Even better, you can use it at home too! In destinations where it’s more difficult to find safe drinking water, try a Life Straw or water filter bottle.


…and a Keep Cup

While you’re at it, how about a reusable coffee cup? If you’re a bit of a caffeine addict, it’s handy for your morning coffee run back home. Plus, you can get collapsible versions which don’t take up too much space to bring on holiday. 


Switch to bamboo toothbrushes

Another simple change you can make both at home and abroad is switching from plastic to bamboo or wooden toothbrushes. Think of how much plastic we could avoid if everyone made that one small change!

While we’re talking toiletries, paper cotton buds and glass floss - good alternatives to plastic versions – are much more easily available today. Replacing your disposable razor with a safety razor not only reduces your plastic footprint but also works out cheaper in the long term. And, for the ladies, a menstrual cup is much better for the environment than tampons or sanitary towels.


Try shampoo bars

There are some great shampoo and conditioning bars on the market now. As well as minimising your plastic use, they take up much less room in your suitcase. It also makes it much easier to avoid the single-use shampoo bottles often available in hotels, apartments and Airbnbs – yet another source of huge amounts of plastic waste.


Bring a Tupperware and cutlery

There are lots of destinations where it’s hard to avoid single-use plastics, particularly when ordering street food or take out. You might be surprised how much waste you can minimise by bringing your own Tupperware and reusable cutlery.


Say no to straws and other plastic items

This might seem like an obvious one but, when travelling, you might come across lots of bars and restaurants that still serve plastic straws. Try to get into the routine of asking “no straw, please” when you order your drink. Even better if you can learn it in the local language!


Take part in clean-ups

Lots of dive shops, hotels and resorts organise regular beach or underwater clean-ups. They can be a fun way to meet other eco-minded travellers so why not join in? Even if you don’t take part in organised beach clean-ups, picking up any trash you see and disposing of it properly can make a big difference.


Book with a Green Fins member

Green Fins dive operators have committed to taking proactive steps to reduce their negative environmental impact. And that includes their plastic usage. By following the Green Fins Code of Conduct, dive centres can minimise – or, ideally, eliminate – their use of single-use plastics. So, to know you’re booking with an operator who is working to become more sustainable, choose a Green Fins member.


Do what you can!

Particularly while travelling, you might find you slip up now and again – sometimes it can be hard to totally avoid single-use plastics. But keep doing what you can and remind yourself how much you’ve reduced your plastic use by making all these changes. It will add up much quicker than you think!


This blog post was written by Melissa Hobson, Communications Manager at The Reef-World Foundation, and first appeared on Shearwater