Five ways for travelers to use less plastic: Mother Nature thanks you

Be Mother Nature's best friend and learn how you can use less plastic while spending time abroad!
Plastics are not only harmful to the environment, but they also leach toxins that are hazardous to your health. Invest in a plastic-free water bottle before embarking on your next vacation. Photo provided by SIGG in partnership with

As a traveler myself, I know that reducing your carbon footprint is sometimes the last thing on your mind when you’re preparing for a trip. But in reality, being green is the most important thing you can do during your adventures.

Being an informed and environmentally conscious traveler is just one facet of promoting sustainability within the tourism industry in order to preserve and protect the environment as well as the local cultures.

Plastic is harmful to the land, sea, wildlife, and your health, so making a wholehearted effort to use less of it on your journey will make a big difference, especially to the local people you meet along the way. After all, your travel destination is their home. On your next vacation, consider these eco-friendly, plastic-reducing tips to ensure that you leave the tiniest, almost non-existent carbon footprint possible. There are many practices to reduce your carbon footprint while traveling, but the following are a few to consider involving plastic consumption during your trip.

1. Bring a reusable water bottle

Unfortunately, consuming bottled water in Latin America is unavoidable. Because of the poor water sanitation infrastructure in many countries, it is inadvisable to drink water from the tap. But there are ways to reduce how many plastic bottles you consume throughout your trip.

First, I recommend bringing a reusable water bottle, or purchasing one at a local market, and refilling it. Buy water in bulk and leave it in your hotel room for use throughout your stay. Many grocery and convenience stores sell bottled water by the liter or more, and often times an attendant will help you carry it a short distance for a few soles.

San Luis bottled water, PeruAt many grocery stores, you can buy bottled water by the liter or more.
Photo by Britt Fracolli

2. Inquire about natural water purification techniques

This is very useful if you plan to do a lot of hiking during your trip. Water from the tap or fresh spring water can be made safe to drink through a variety of different methods. One of the easiest ways is by purchasing water purification tablets before your trip from a sporting goods store like REI or Big 5. Another option is a UV light stick that neutralizes harmful bacteria present in untreated water. Then there’s the old fashioned boiling technique.

3. Reusable bags are essential

One of the best ways to reduce your plastic consumption while traveling is to have a reusable bag, or two, or three, or four… Bring as many as you think you might need. You can also purchase a beautifully handcrafted bag along your journey to provide you with a tangible, lasting souvenir, as well as the warm fuzzy feeling of knowing that you contributed to the local economy AND did Mother Nature a favor.

a woman showing a finished bag made entirely out of recycled plastic bags, Plastic Desert, PeruPlastic Desert is a program started by Dutch NGO Soul Surfers in northern Peru. The program aims to provide women in impoverished communities with the resources to make handcrafted tote bags entirely out of recycled plastic bags.
Photo provided by Planet Desert/Facebook

4. Reevaluate your toiletries

I, for one, am guilty of enjoying the convenience of travel size toiletries, but little switches in the products I decide to bring with me make a big difference for the environment. Try bringing bar soap in a reusable soap traveler container. If you think about it, this is not really a huge sacrifice because many body washes that are sold in plastic bottles also come in the bar form, such as Dove, Caress, or Lever. You can also bring a razor that uses refillable cartridges or that is electric, instead of using disposable ones. Believe it or not, this really cuts down on plastic consumption, while also leaving your skin softer and healthier.

5. Pack your own cutlery

It may seem silly, but plastic eating utensils are one of the most harmful wastes for the environment and your health. Plastics cutlery and styrofoam to-go containers are made from #6 PS (polystyrene) which is made from petroleum byproducts. Things made from this plastic are very light weight and are easily carried by the wind, making it a significant contributor to the pollution of the ocean and other bodies of water. Not only is it hazardous to the environment, but it’s also detrimental to one’s health. #6 plastics are known to leach styrene over time, which is a neurotoxin and carcinogen that has been linked to hormone disruption, infertility, and cancer. You can avoid using things made from #6 during your travels by bringing your own set of eating utensils or requesting metal ones at the hotel.

Follow these five suggestions during your next adventure and Mother Nature with thank you. Have other helpful eco-friendly traveling tips? Please share in the comment section!

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