If you’re lucky enough to live in a part of the world where things are going back to normal, you can feel the excitement to (finally) go out and see family, friends or discover new destinations. A getaway to a different city, to the beach, lake or mountains usually requires more convenience and therefore, more single-use plastic.
Well, a trip doesn’t need to come at the expense of the environment, so I put together a list of 5 easy tips (bonus: with facts!) that will help you travel greener this summer:
- It’s hot, it’s summer, stay hydrated! Fill up your reusable water bottle at home and refill at the gas station, airport or any stop on your way. Plastic water bottles are made of PET, one of the most recycled resins. And still, only 30% of it is recycled. Think of 70% of all plastic water bottles sold in the US sitting in the landfill waiting decades for decomposition. Here for the Bonus facts:
- The process of producing bottled water requires around 6 times as much water per bottle as there is in the container.
- Bottled water costs 1,000 times more than tap water. Drinking ~65 oz of tap water a day only costs 50 cents per year.
- On the go means: snacks! Packaged food has more shelf life, especially in hot days. Chips, cookies, crackers, yogurt pouch, applesauce: all are wrapped in hard-to-recycle materials. In fact, candy and snack wrappers are currently #1 litter in the ocean. Travel with a small cooler bag. It doesn’t need to be heavy or with an awkward shape that doesn’t fit anywhere. It could be, for example, a 10×10 in insulated flexible bag with an ice pack inside or an insulated backpack, which is super nice because you’re going to need it on the beach or pool again. Throw in some fresh fruits, a reusable container with cheese, nuts, homemade sandwiches… whatever is left in your fridge.
Fact: 4,700,000 is the number of food wrappers the Ocean Conservancy collected during its global beach cleanups in 2019, which exceeded the number of cigarette butts for the first time since the cleanups started in 1986.
- Not in your kitchen? I get it, people do more takeout when traveling. Single-use plastics are common with takeout food, along with plastic bags. And it increased even more with COVID. Although CDC stated last December “Currently, no cases of COVID-19 have been identified where infection was thought to have occurred by touching food, food packaging, or shopping bags”. Refuse plastic bag, plastic cutlery, straws and items that you don’t need. Pizza boxes are recyclable (make sure boxes are free of stray slices and crust). There’s also this very cool app called PlasticScore, where you can score a restaurant every time you dine out or get delivery, so next time you can order from a “less trashy” one. How cool!
- Annually, approximately 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide. More than one million bags are used every minute.
- A plastic bag has an average “working life” of 15 minutes.
- Billions of forks, knives, and spoons are thrown away each year.
- Plastic straws are among the top 10 contributors to plastic marine debris across the globe
- 3 billion pizza boxes are sold in the United States annually. Altogether, they weigh 600,000 tons—the equivalent of 53 Eiffel Towers. If they were all recycled, they would account for 2.6 percent of the recyclable cardboard generated in the US annually.
- Know the collection rules of the city you’re visiting: every state and municipality is different and have its own rules. Seriously, it won’t take much of your time and it will make a difference to the planet. You can also ask your rental host or the hotel concierge. Let’s hope they know, but if they don’t this is a great way to show that customers care about it and, hopefully, it will increase awareness.
- Bring a trash bag with you. Always. Can’t find the right trash bin to your waste? Just keep it with you, it’s ultimately your responsibility to dispose it right. Bring a paper or plastic bag with you and dispose it once you find the right way to do it. Bring your waste back home if that’s the option you feel more confident. Go for a stroll on the beach and collect some waste (I’m sure you’ll find A LOT). Bring the kids with you. What better way to teach them how to take care of the environment? And enjoy!