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Reduce your plastic footprint – become a conscious traveler

29 Apr 2019

As travelers and backpackers we are lucky enough to be able to enjoy the beauty of our earth in different countries around the world. We explore busy cities like Bangkok and Singapore, hike through jungles in Malaysia and relax on beaches on Koh Phangan and Bali.

But something is not right. Something has radically changed throughout the last 70 years. The invention of plastic has brought a lot of convenience and progress to us humans, however it’s obvious that we have not figured out yet what to do with all our plastic trash.

We encounter it everywhere. In rivers, at the beach and in forests. On the streets, in the stomach of animals and in our own blood stream. It is close to impossible to live without plastic nowadays, however it is our responsibility to help keeping our surroundings and host countries clean. It requires minimum effort to change some ‘dirty habits’ and in many cases you will not only reduce your use of plastic but also inspire people you interact with and decrease your spending.

Here are some tips on how you can reduce your plastic footprint while travelling Koh Phangan, Thailand and the rest of the world!

Don’t use plastic straws
You have probably seen the video of the turtle that had a plastic straw stuck in the nose and had it painfully removed. At least since then, a lot has happened. Some restaurants have switched to bamboo, paper or metal straws over the past few years or you receive a straw only on request like in Phanganist Hostel on Koh Phangan. However there are still many places where you automatically receive a plastic straw with your drink. The trendy solution: Carry your own reusable metal straw and enjoy your smoothie anywhere anytime without risking another straw in the ocean. They are light and hygienic and usually come with a handy brush to clean them after use.

Reduce packaged take-away food
Sometimes it is tempting to just grab a take-away snack for the road, but consider the amount of plastic used for packing. A plastic box, plastic cutlery wrapped in a plastic sachet, plastic containers for sauces…and all that is packed in a plastic bag. Is it really necessary? Sometimes it might be, but at least be conscious about it and don’t make it a habit. If you want to enjoy fruit, go to a local market and cut them yourself rather than opting for packaged pre-cut fruit from supermarkets. Fresh fruit from the market is cheaper, tastier and cleaner than packaged and refrigerated ones!

Refill your water bottle
Constantly buying a new bottle of water is not only bad for the environment but also drains your wallet in the long run. Luckily, there are alternatives available nowadays in many destinations. For example you can find water machines around the island of Koh Phangan where you can refill bottles for as little as 1 Baht. If you stay for a few days, you might want to consider filling up a 5l bottle, keep it at your hostel and fill up smaller bottles for your daily use. Maybe you already carry your own reusable travel bottle?

Refuse plastic bags
Some countries have already banned them: Single use plastic bags. Unfortunately they are still frequently used in Thailand. Even if you just buy a single item it is common to sell it to customers in a bag. It is simple to avoid them if you are just conscious about it and refuse having your items packed in plastic bags. Carry your own reusable bag or simply put everything in your backpack!

Don’t use single use hotel shampoo bottles & co
I am sure you have encountered them frequently – small soaps and shampoos packed individually, single use toothbrushes and plastic shower caps… these utilities can be really useful if you just ran out of shampoo or lost your toothbrush, however it is really bad for the environment if you use them habitually. Better get used to carrying your own toiletries. In some eco shops you can even find waste free shampoo bars that last for a long time and don’t require plastic packaging!

These are some easy-to-apply ideas for your trip, however there are many more things you can do to reduce your plastic footprint while you travel.

Want to become active?
Tim and I from Phanganist Hostel decided to make trash picking a habit while travelling! Check out the article about our clean-up-beaches activities in Koh Phangan and join us no matter where you are at the moment!