Before leaving for this trip I became more and more interested in sustainability and the environment, as a lot of young people are. We’ve started to learn more about what pressure our planet is under and what we, as individuals can do to help it, to protect our environment and its inhabitants by making small changes in our everyday life. We see a lot of activists or people living certain sustainable lifestyles accused of not doing enough when our elected (or rather unelected) government won’t make the big changes that are more drastically needed. It tends to be the blame game on people who are trying their hardest but aren’t seen as perfect! What if we all just tried a little harder, to avoid single use plastics, to cut down your meat intake! Small steps do matter, don’t get a Starbucks if you haven’t got a reusable cup on you, if you can, don’t ask for a straw! I’m travelling for six months and in that time we are obviously taking a lot of flights, but wherever possible we use public transport, bikes or walk to try and counteract our flights emissions. I’ve written a list of small changes I’ve made to reduce my impact on the planet while travelling below!
Embarking on a six month trip has its packing challenges anyway but I wanted to make sure I was taking sustainable and useful items that would last me the whole trip. As we were heading to south east Asia first I knew we were going to be faced with the issue of drinking water. Unlike back home where you can drink out of the tap, which you should, having the ability to have clean fresh drinking water should make you never buy a plastic bottle again, it’s a luxury. Here you have to buy filtered water in plastic. Before I came I researched water filters but couldn’t find one last minute ( I packed the night before) but made sure my trusty chillys bottle was firmly attached to my bag for when I could use refillable water. At the start of our trip we spent a week in one place so bought two gallons of water and topped up our reusable bottles from that. It meant only buying two pieces of plastic in a week, unfortunately the rest of our trip has been made up of short two night stays so haven’t had the ability to buy in bulk. However we have had a fair few hostels offer refillable water for free if you have a reusable bottle which I wish I could see more of! My trusty Chillys bottle has taken a beating here but it’ll be with me till the end!
The plastic situation here is unexplainable. People drink iced coffees from plastic cups with a plastic holder and then chuck in in the street when they are done. There is plastic in the most rural of places and in the cleanest lakes. I brought with me a Stooje collapsible coffee cup for when I needed that caffeine fix; sadly it has been lost along the way so no more take away for me until I find a new one! They are everywhere in the UK so grab one, it’s much nicer than showing off your Starbucks cup with your name spelt wrong.
Before I left I purchased lots of sustainable items including metal straws from The Kind Store. If you’ve not heard of it get over to their website, there are sooooo many things to buy and it’s all plastic free, reusable and a great price! Only a handful of places here in SE Asia offer metal of bamboo or paper straws and when they do I get super excited but it’s quickly diminished by the other 80% of cafes and restaurants giving you a plastic one, unnecessarily! Even when I ask for no straw, magically a straw always appears in my drink.
I also bought some bamboo cutlery from Leave No Trace which has come in handy multiple times especially when I can’t use chop sticks, no matter how hard I try!
I knew I wouldn’t be having my normal day to day skin care routine, a bit hard when you’re staying in places with outdoor showers! I brought a Liz Earle cleanser which comes with a cloth, which is great as I can use it multiple times and then I just chuck them in the wash and they are as good as new! Alongside that I have reusable cotton pads to use with toner which again, use multiple times and then pop them in the wash! There is no need for one use throw away items just look for a reusable replacement that suits you!
Another purchase was a bamboo toothbrush and tooth tabs instead of paste. I couldn’t bring my electric toothbrush with me so instead of buying a plastic one, I spent a bit more and got a bamboo one which brushes just as well! Using tooth tabs from Lush also makes me waste less as you chew the tab and start to brush and voila you have a paste! Although this came in a plastic bottle it is reusable and I’m pretty certain you can take them back to Lush!
Buy a reusable razor! This is one of the best swaps I’ve made! Also from the kind store, I was a bit nervous about this swap as I am very clumsy when it comes to shaving and this was taking it old school. The razor I own is not only pretty but it will last a hell of a lot longer that plastic throw away ones that actually cost way more than they should. This razor comes apart for you to put in a razor blade, which is the only waste product from it, however the blades last super long and shave really well, just be careful as they are very sharp – watch those knee caps!
(If you’re going to buy cotton buds, buy the bamboo sticks to avoid those pesky plastic straws!)
If you can and are comfortable with trying it, buy a menstrual cup. A lily cup or moon cup is perfect for travelling. It collapses into a case that fits in the palm of your hand, is reusable and easy to keep clean. Farewell spending a fortune on tampons, this is revolutionary. It is so perfect for travelling as living out of a bag for six months does not offer you a lot of space to keep sanitary products. My contact lenses are taking up enough of that space!
This is super ideal if you are willing to try it out; I can confirm that being on a mosquito infested, secluded jungle island whilst on your period, this is a lifesaver!
Shampoo and soap bars are fabulous.
Okay so I haven’t conditioned my hair in WEEKS but these bars are pretty game changing. The shampoo bar I got from Lush not only smells delicious but actually lathers up to give you a great hair wash without drying it out! Farewell plastic shampoo bottles! I am converted and also going old school by using a soap bar instead of shower gel, it does exactly the same thing so why did we ever stop?!
Lastly my trustee tote bag is with me for the ride. Every shop offers you a plastic bag here, making you realise England were right to add the charge/remove bags altogether. Even when I’ve forgotten the tote or we don’t have a bag we will carry everything in our arms to avoid using one! If you go shopping make sure you have bags in your car or keep a mini tote in your handbag, the options are unlimited!
Be sustainable and help Mother Nature.
We’ve seen a lot of beaches so far and a lot of them are a far cry from their postcard pictures. On top of all the micro plastic that seems to go unnoticed the amount of waste washing up is heart breaking. The worst beach we’ve had is Ao Nang where I sat for hours picking as many bottles as possible that washed up and giving them to a local lady to recycle. If you’re on a beach and can spare ten minutes from sun bathing, picking up trash will make such a difference. A lot of the stuff that washed up wasn’t even from Thailand and it shows the amount that is living in the sea which hasn’t even reached the shore yet! Be part of the solution not the problem!
Finally never litter, it is so bad for wildlife and environment and it’s so unattractive! If you’re out and can’t find a bin keep the rubbish on you until you’re home! That doesn’t seem to apply here (I’m looking at you Sihanoukville). Obviously we can’t pick up after everyone but if you see litter, on a dog walk, out in town, even if it’s not yours, please pick it up, I promise it’ll make you feel like a better human!
Obviously I’m not perfect, there are times out here where it’s impossible to avoid plastic, but I’m doing my best and hopefully others are too. Make some small swaps then make some big ones! Cut out meat from your diet if you can, use public transport, small changes will make a difference to you, and hopefully in turn people around you!