How to reduce your single use plastic when travelling

Volunteering & Travel Advice / 09 July 2019 How to reduce your single use plastic when travelling

Here are our Pod Volunteer top things to pack to help reduce your plastic and waste on your travels and try to #GoPlasticFree :

  • Reusable shopping bag
  • Reusable water bottle 
  • Reusable coffee cup
  • Shampoo bar rather than plastic shampoo bottles
  • Solid deodrant bar 
  • Reusable cutlery and straws
  • And avoid plastic packaging at the markets!  

We have shared our own experience of ways that we have reduced single use plastic on our travels: 


Lady paddling a boat on the sea with man in the back
"Each time I go away, I enjoy challenging myself to find more plastic free alternatives to help protect the oceans!

My current favourite thing to take on a trip that’s plastic-free is a solid shampoo bar, like the ones you can find from Lush here! A quick google brings up heaps of other brands too, suitable for both guys and girls. Not only do these fit nicely into a reusable tin and do a great job of washing my hair, they also last longer than a bottle of shampoo, take up less space in my packing and can even double up as a body soap too if I'm particularly pushed for space. 

A standard bar of soap is also an easy replacement for a bottle of shower gel and a simple flannel (or “reusable eco face wipe”!) a much more environmentally friendly alternative to face wipes, sponges or scrubbers that don’t biodegrade. You can even get things like “toothy tabs” these days - a solid alternative to plastic tubes of toothpaste that clean your teeth by chewing on them! Or ‘truthpaste’ is the UKs first zero-waste toothpaste – once you start looking into it, there are loads of interesting alternatives available!

If you’re thinking of taking a packet of detergent for hand washing clothes with you, switch it out for a bar of laundry soap. My favourite, Sunlight soap (ask your grandparents!) has sadly been discontinued but can still be tracked down online. Most supermarkets also sell cheap ‘household soap bars’ to be used on clothes that are amazing at getting out the kind of dirt and stains everyone gets whilst travelling and, guess what, they’re plastic free! Chop a lump off the bar if you’re going on a short trip and won’t need the whole thing! And an extra tip - keep it in a stuff sack (instead of a plastic bag!) along with your dirty laundry to help keep your laundry smelling fresh(ish) until you get a chance to wash it too!" 


Gemma from Pod Volunteer

"My favourite thing about travelling to new countries has to be trying new dishes and stretching my taste buds. I love trying new foods although dried fermented yak cheese balls in central Asia was the one time I wished I wasn’t so adventurous as I tried to wash away the sour, salty chalk like “snack”!

I love the exotic smells and buzz of night markets where you wander between smoky stalls selling freshly cooked snacks, unfamiliar dishes and enticing colourful deserts. 

However the main downside to eating at the night markets is that it does have the potential to create a lot of waste with all the disposable cutlery, plates, napkins and straws which you are given from each stall. My essential packing items are my reusable spoon, knife, fork and chopsticks, which are perfect for exploring. The amazing Surfers Against Sewage environmental group has some lovely eco bamboo options. 

If you do like to have a straw for your holiday tropical juices and cocktails then these sustainable bamboo straws are a great option from Ecostrawz! 

With your own re-usable cutlery and straws you can explore the food markets on your travels without needing to use any single use plastic!"


Iona from Pod Volunteer

"When I prepare for my travels, I have a set list of things I know I always need to pack – headphones, a well-supplied first-aid kit, enough pairs of socks! However, recently, it has become increasingly important to remember to pack a really useful addition to my backpack – a reusable shopper bag!

Here in the UK, after the introduction of a charge for plastic bags in 2015, we have gotten used to the idea of bringing our own bags when we go shopping – this initiative has reduced the amount of single-use plastic bags used by 80%!

Unfortunately, there are many of us who can forget to apply this mentality to when we go overseas. Although these charges aren’t implemented in the majority of countries I have travelled in, it doesn’t mean that I should forget to consider the implications of using single-use plastic bags. As many of us are aware, the issues with single-use plastic have led to research suggesting that by 2050, the ocean will contain more plastic (by weight) than fish. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, around 500 billion to 1 trillion disposable shopping bags are used around the world each year. On average, a plastic bag is used for only 12 minutes, but it will stay in landfills, oceans and the environment for centuries.

With these scary statistics in mind, it is up to us to make conscious efforts to reduce our single-use plastic consumption and this can be through simple steps like making sure you always have a reusable bag when you are out shopping. Some great things about them are that they take up very little space in your backpack or suitcase, you can find a variety of prints that suit your personal style and they are really durable. I am always surprised by how much I can fit into mine, whether I am stocking up at a food market or doing my laundry!

To get an idea of the different kinds of reusable bags out there – and the advantages of them – you can read more about this on the Tree Hugger website here." 


You can read more about our Top tips for Responsible Travel here.