Lifestyle, Plastic Free Challenge, Travel
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How to Use Less Plastic in Your Travel + Beach Bag

Main Beach Byron Bay

This post is part of an on-going series about going plastic free one area of your life at a time. See the other posts here and sign-up for Nikkey’s newsletter to recieve new plastic free challenges as they come out. This challenge is inspired by her work with eXXpedition on a microplastic research voyage through the Pacific Ocean. 

Summer is finally here!

I’m less than two weeks away from my microplastic research sailing voyage with eXXpedition which has me thinking about packing all things travel sized and sun related. I’m guessing you’ve got a trip or two coming up in your summer plans too. Whether you’re going on vacation or spending a day at the beach, you can stay safe from the sun and enjoy it all without using plastic! How great is that? Here are my suggested swaps for the essentials in your bag:

Sunscreen in Plastic Bottles > Sunscreen in Tins, Tubes or Glass Jars

Why:
Plastic sunscreen bottles and tubes are rarely recycled because of the labour involved to clean them and non-recyclable components.

Where to find alternatives:
Make your own! (DIY from Roberta coming soon.) Or shop online from brands like Shade (tin container) and Avasol (stick form in cardboard). Check natural food stores, re-fill apothecaries and surf shops for in-person shopping alternatives.

Cost association:
DIY method will cost you more up front for initial ingredients but less over time. Zero waste packaging brands average $2-$4 more.

Extra mile:
Make sure your sunscreen is ocean safe and won’t harm any of the fish, coral or you! Here’s a list of ingredients to check for.


Plastic Water Bottle > Reusable Water Bottle

Why:
Globally, 1 million plastic water bottles are bought every minute – yep you read that right. The lifespan is as long as it takes to drink the water and the majority of bottles are not recycled. It’s not safe to re-use these plastic water bottles either as the plastic is meant to be single use and will release harmful chemicals like BPA faster.

Where to find alternatives:
Almost any grocery, camping, sports store or coffee shops and of course, online.

Cost association:
This one will save you money. A reusable water bottle will cost you $10-$20 upfront but you’ll never have to buy water again. Fill up at water fountains, coffee shops, restaurants- basically anywhere the water is drinkable. In my experience, servers and baristas are always happy to help you out.

If you must:
There are times where plastic water bottles may be necessary; emergency kits, camping in places without water, travelling in countries without drinkable water etc. In that case my advice is to buy the biggest jug/bottle you can find and refill you reusable water bottle up from that. It will reduce the amount of plastic you use overall.

Sitka Water Bottle


Plastic Straws > Stainless Steel Straw

Why:
Straws are a single use, non-recyclable plastic. Over 500 million of these unnecessary items are used daily around the world making them a major contributor to the plastic problem.

Where to find alternatives:
Online and in natural food stores with kitchen sections. You can even find ones that fold or retract down to travel size.

Cost association:
Anywhere from $2-$15 depending on how many you’re purchasing and where from. The pack of 6 I bought off of Amazon came to $8.


Lip Balm + Deodorant in Plastic > Tin or Cardboard Container

Why:
These are two items everyday items we all use but rarely recycle the containers of.

Where to find alternatives:
Natural food stores, apothecaries, farmers’ markets and re-fill stores. I love my lip balm from Boreal Folk. If you’re in the UK Plastic Freedom is a great website to shop from.

Cost association:
On average $1-$5 more per item. I suspect the cost difference is due to the higher quality ingredients rather than the packaging difference.


Plastic Phone Case > Biodegradable Phone Case

Why:
Phone cases are another one of those items we treat as disposable and are rarely recyclable or reusable due to the ever changing phone model dimensions.

Where to find alternatives:
Pela Case is one I recently discovered, their products are made of flax shive and you can purchase them online. They even have a made-in-Canada collection! Bamboo cases are another option which you can always find online and sometimes in electronic stores.

Cost association:
None. I could not find any difference in average price between plastic free or plastic phone cases (of somewhat good quality).

Tip:
If you need a heavy duty or water proof case due to your job / hobbies I’d say switch your phone out of that case into a plastic free one when you’re not doing the activity that requires it. Hopefully that will extend the lifespan of the plastic one. I was personally surprised how fast my Lifeproof case broke down and will be trying this from now on.
 


Fast Fashion Bathing Suit > Bathing Suit from Ocean Plastic

Why:
It helps get plastic out of the ocean! These are also generally higher quality bathing suits and stop the cycle of fast fashion. This is another one of those “when you’re ready to replace” suggestions as quality bathing suits are usually an investment.

Where to find alternatives:
I feel like I see more and more swimwear companies using recycled ocean plastic in their fabric all the time. I’ve yet to see any in-store but you can find lots of brands online like Abyss, MONA and BATOKO. My personal favourite (and sponsor for eXXpedition) is BATOKO, their prints are super fun, you can be active in them and the company is awesome.  

Cost association:
You’ll be spending more upfront if you usually by cheap swimsuits that don’t last but I couldn’t find a cost difference between bathing suits of the same quality.

 


Trucker Hats > Cotton or Straw Hat

Why:
I know, I know, they’re breathable! But they usually have a plastic back. This is also another item that usually falls into the fast fashion category.

Where to find alternatives:
Any hat store or online, look for material like straw, hemp or cotton. I have a waxed cotton (good in the rain) panel hat from Sitka that is my go to.

Cost association:
Minimal difference, if any.


Plastic Sunglasses > Wood, Metal or Composite Sunglasses

Why:
Cheap plastic sunglasses are treated like disposables items, we lose and break them at an alarming speed and unconsciously add to our plastic footprint. 

Where to find alternatives:
There are a ton of conscious eyewear lines out there now, a couple that I like are Blue Planet Sunglasses and Proof Eyewear. I just purchased a polarized pair from Proof for the sailing trip, I’ll let you know how they go! You can also shop second hand for vintage, timeless styles.

Cost association:
Moderate upfront, minimal long-term.
 


Plastic Flip Flops > Natural Material Sandals

Why:
Flip flops wear through fast, are often lost and are notorious for polluting beaches. So much so many highly visited destinations now have beach sculptures made of them to raise visitor awareness.

Where to find alternatives:
Almost any shoe store, Birkenstocks are a tried and true brand and have lots of new modern styles. Sanuk is another well known brand with plenty of options and retailers. There are also plenty of smaller brands out there for you to discover online or at artisan markets.

Cost association:
More up front but less in the long run as you won’t have to replace them at the same frequency.

Main Beach Byron Bay

If this feels like a lot to you just take on one item at a time as you run out of the plastic version. These changes are meant to be sustainable for your lifestyle. Now, go pack your bags and enjoy your next adventure!

Did I miss anything? Let me know your suggestions in the comments below!

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