10 simple ways to reduce your plastic footprint

Plastic waste hit a new high recently, with experts predicting that soon there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean. Travel firm Contiki offers 10 tips to reduce our plastic footprint.

hotel toiletries
Hotel toiletries may be convenient, but using and discarding these little bottles could be causing avoidable plastic waste. Image: Shutterstock

The problem with an issue as huge as the global plastic epidemic, is where do you begin? The statistics around plastic pollution speak for themselves and are impossible to ignore – 500 billion plastic bags used annually, 5 trillion pieces of plastic floating in our oceans, one million sea birds killed annually from plastic ingestion or entanglement.

The problem is real, but where do we start looking for solutions? The answer – we start with ourselves. Often we forget the power we actually all hold in this world, and that’s the power to make a difference, whether it be small or mighty. Humans have a domino effect on one another – when one goes, the next does and so on, and it’s this domino effect that needs to be used for positive change.

Try out these small but significant ways to reduce your plastic footprint, and watch the domino fall…

1. Invest in a reusable bag

Such a simple solution, but one that could have such an incredible impact. A plastic bag is used for on average just 12 minutes, and yet takes a staggering 940 years to decompose. Is it really worth it?

Make the swap: Pop your reusable bag inside your handbag, on the back seat of your car, next to your front door – anywhere to remind you not to leave it behind, and take it with you when you hit the shops. Want to get real crafty? Why not make your own from recycled materials!

2. Buy in bulk

Buying in bulk is a growing trend and for good reason – not only does it reduce the need for excess plastic packaging, it’s also cheaper and helps to promote a healthy, more organic lifestyle. Stores like Whole Foods now allow you to buy rice, pasta, beans, grains, cereals and other foods in bulk.

Make the swap: Take along a reusable container or, even better, glass jars, to a local market or supermarket that sells in bulk and fill your boots!

3. Leave the packaging at the store

Often it’s impossible to avoid excess plastic packaging completely, so in these instances use the opportunity to tell the supplier you’re saying no to plastic. When you’re buying large items such as a TV, computer or household electrical items, unwrap the product in store and leave the packaging there. Not only does this mean you don’t have to deal with recycling it yourself, it also sends a positive message to those higher up the plastic supply chain that excess packaging is unnecessary.

4. Say no to straws

One of the biggest culprits in both landfill and on the ocean surface is the plastic straw. A small, seemingly harmless product that can actually have devastating effects for marine life who mistake it for food.

Make the swap: When you’re ordering drinks at the bar, just say no to those tempting little straws conveniently located within hands reach, or else ask your waiter or bar tender to deliver your drink straw free. Can’t live without one? Why not invest in a stainless steel or glass alternative.

5. Use a reusable water bottle or Keep Cup

We know you’ve probably got one lying around at home, so use it! In the US alone, 28 billion water bottles are purchased every year. INSANE. Similarly, plastic coffee lids are a common offender both on land and in the ocean, yet did you know that if you use your own reusable hot drink keep cup at Starbucks, they’ll offer you your daily favourite for a reduced price? Win win.

Make the swap: Buy yourself a super cute reusable water bottle and keep cup and help to keep the planet water bottle and plastic lid free, whilst saving yourself a pretty penny. We love the huge range of options from SIGG.

6. Choose glass over plastic

Why? Because glass can be re-used time and time again, where plastic never can. A huge number of food products can be bought in jars, so whenever the option is there, take it. You can wash out and re-use your jars as many times as you like, and for more purposes than you might think – from storing foods to displaying flowers…or even starting a travel fund or rainy day money pot.

Make the swap: Check out this article for ideas on how to reuse your glass jars (spoiler – it’s not just for food).

7. Avoid using hotel or travel size wash products

Hotel products aren’t just a waste of packaging, they’re also just pretty crap, and never as good as what you use at home. Avoiding using them is a simple case of supply and demand – if you don’t demand them, they wont supply them. Cut off the demand cycle and they’ll quit ordering more from their suppliers – simple!

Make the swap: We get that travel size products are convenient, but instead of buying yet more plastic, why not invest in travel size reusable containers? Just decant your favourite products before you go on your travels, then wash them out when you get back so they’re clean and ready for the next time.

8. Wise up to your cutlery choices

Wave goodbye to disposable knives, forks, spoons and chopsticks, and instead be prepared by popping metal cutlery alternatives in your bag. Super simple, instantly effective.

9. Swap your takeaway lunch for a healthier make at home option

So it may take a little bit of preparation work, but bringing your own lunch to work/uni/school with you 100% makes the planet a happier place. Not only are you avoiding plastic packaging around your soggy shop bought sandwich or salad, you’re also doing your body AND your bank balance a favour too.

Make the swap: Invest in some long lasting Tupperware or, even better, go totally plastic free by preparing your lunch in a mason jar or stainless steel container.

 10. Watch out for BPA

Bisphenol A, or BPA, is a compound added to plastics to help them harden, and is commonly found in everyday plastic items like water bottles, plastic containers and plastic linings on packaged foods. Scarier still, BPA exposure has been linked to health effects including obesity, hormone imbalance, reproduction issues and even various cancers.

Make the swap: Look out for a 3, 7 or PC sign on plastic – these are the most toxic types of plastic so avoid them where you can. Also avoid heating up food in plastic containers, or where there’s an alternative to go plastic free, just take it!

This post is republished from Contiki Holidays. Contiki is a part of a joint initiative with The TreadRight Foundation, a not-for-profit foundation established by The Travel Corporation.

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