I hope you’re all doing well and have been able to enjoy some sunny weather – has anyone tried a ‘plastic-free picnic’ yet? Let me know how it went, and if you’ve discovered any tips of your own please feel free to share them in the comments below!
This month has been a little different for me, as I have actually been on holiday to Greece. I got my COVID-19 vaccine back in June, so I felt safe to travel (and I of course still used my re-usable facemask where appropriate!). I have to admit, it was quite strange to be in an airport again, and experience a new country and culture but after a few days I was right back into the swing of things. I thought I should share some of my plastic-free and sadly not-so-plastic-free experiences, and also some tips for travelling sustainably using some of the items I’ve already mentioned in my previous blogs (the amazing Hélène has actually made a whole video dedicated to sustainable travel, so check it out for even more amazing tips!)
First, some updates from Denmark
A quick update on the Facebook group: it now has 83 members!!! My goal is to get at least 100 by the end of this blog series, so here’s hoping (fingers-crossed emoji). I’m planning a trash collection on the beach (near Aarhus) on Sunday 1st August, which will be our first proper chance to meet up. I’m really excited to meet my fellow environmental enthusiasts in person, and do something good for nature 🙌
I will also try to arrange to go “green kayaking” later in August . Green Kayak is an amazing initiative which allows you to ‘rent’ a kayak for totally free – but the catch is you have to collect trash while out on the water. So you get to do a fun activity and save the environment, for free – it’s a win-win for me! So far, Greek Kayak is in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Germany and Ireland – so if you live in one of those countries, check out the website to see if it’s available near you.
So far, Greek Kayak is in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Germany and Ireland – so if you live in one of those countries, check out the website to see if it’s available near you.
Additionally – new recycling bins have come to Aarhus town centre and surrounding areas – now there is the option to sort glass, plastic and metal separately the regular trash, which is a great improvement.
And, as something even better… I’ve noticed many ‘mainstream’ stores are now incorporating a great plastic-free/reusable/environmentally friendly range! This is in a Danish store called ‘Normal’, which sells mainly health and beauty items, but also household goods. Here they’re selling a range of items, from special bags to make nut-milk, to reusable baking mats, to bamboo cutlery and biodegradable straws… it’s so nice to see these products becoming more easily available, and I hope this will encourage many people to make the switch to a plastic-free or at least reusable option!
On Holiday – The Good
First off, let’s start with some positivity… since the EU’s Single Use Plastic Directive came into force on 3rd July 2021 there has been a really noticeable change. Many of the cafes and restaurants I visited have made the switch from disposable plastic straws and cutlery to compostable or wooden versions, and in supermarkets the single-use bags were mainly biodegradable or paper! It’s really great to see these changes being made, and I’m feeling really positive for the future now that we are getting rid of these totally unnecessary single-use plastics. This will make sure that no more plastic gets washed out to sea and is eaten by fish, whales or turtles, or ends up in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
On Holiday – The Bad (and the ugly…)
However, this sadly brings me to the not-so-positive part… THERE WAS SO MUCH TRASH IN THE SEA AND ON THE BEACHES! It’s really so, so, sad to be at a beautiful beach, swimming in crystal clear water, and suddenly a wrapper (or sometimes even worse… a nappy or sanitary towel! 😷) floats past you. Or lying on some nice, soft sand, only to feel a cigarette butt between your toes. We did a bit of trash collection, especially with what we found floating in the sea, but much of the plastic on the beaches was actually tiny shards, or microplastic, which becomes very difficult to collect.
Both types of plastic are a huge threat to marine life – and sadly many of them end up getting eaten by marine animals – which in turn works its way into the food chain and can end up inside of us humans. So when we pollute the oceans, we end up polluting ourselves and the future generations to come. Most plastics take hundreds of years to eventually degrade – which means your great-great-great-great-great grandchildren could still be finding (or eating…) plastic that was thrown away today.
Can you spot the plastics? Imagine being a turtle, how easy would it be to swallow this clear wrapper by accident? Or to a bird, these brightly coloured microplastics on the beach might look like food. It’s easy to see how plastic ends up in the food chain and is the reason I’ve organised a beach trash collection.
Top Plastic-Free Travel Items
I ended up using many of the items I already owned at home, and have mentioned in my previous blogs; I mainly brought some of my ‘plastic-free picnic’ items with me, along with my bathroom items (https://www.thefootprintsinitiative.com/makeapledge-reducing-plastic-waste/) – such as:
- reusable water bottle
- bamboo cutlery set
- shampoo and conditioner bars
- solid soap bar
- wooden sunglasses (I’ve not talked about these before, but I am in LOVE)
I have also since discovered some items that I WISH I had known about before my trip:
- Solid sunscreen – comes in cardboard packaging
- Solid deodorant – comes in metal packaging
The reusable water bottle came in handy at the beginning and end of my trip especially, however on some of the Greek islands we visited, it was unsafe to drink the tap water – so I sadly ended up having to buy plastic water bottles. I was a bit unhappy about this, so I made a big effort to find recycling stations for the empty bottles, and made sure to buy the biggest bottles I could, instead of buying many smaller ones, to reduce the overall amount of plastic waste.
The bamboo cutlery turned out to be an actual life-saver. In some of the studio accommodation there was a little kitchenette with real cutlery, which was great as I often like to make my own packed lunch, especially when going hiking or doing other activities. However, in the hotels there is often only a mini-fridge and no other equipment – so this was a super useful set to have, and meant we didn’t have to go and buy any disposable cutlery (although, thanks to the EU’s Single-Use Plastic Directive disposable cutlery can no longer be made from plastic, which is great!).
Taking solid shampoo, conditioner and soap makes life in the airport soooo much easier. We were only travelling with hand luggage, which of course means wrestling all your liquids into a tiny zip-lock bag.
By removing three of the usual liquids, it meant I actually had a relatively easy time, and also removed a lot of worry about any of the bottles breaking in my bag and leaving a sticky mess. I would recommend buying a thicker, reusable zip-lock bag, to reduce the waste of using the flimsy single-use ones you can get at the airport!
About the wooden sunglasses… a few years ago it dawned on me that almost every summer I would buy a pair of cheap plastic sunglasses, which would inevitably break and end up in the bin. I realised this was really an unsustainable, ‘fast-fashion’, way of using sunglasses, so I searched for an alternative and found out that wooden sunglasses are a thing! I have had mine for about three years now, and they’re still going strong – they even came in a wooden box to keep them safe. As another plus, they float in water, so no more panic if you accidentally take them swimming 😉
Now to my new items… whilst I was on holiday I mainly used an oil-based sunscreen which I bought in Athens, and this came in a mostly glass bottle but with a plastic lid, so not completely plastic-free. When I got back to Denmark I decided to search for something a little more environmentally friendly – and found a totally plastic-free sunscreen in TINC! It is available in SPF 20 and SPF 30, and comes in a solid stick form, in a push-up cardboard tube.
So far I have been drawing a line of sunscreen on to my skin directly with the stick and then massaging it in… a word of warning, the stick softens significantly when it warms up (which is why mine looks a bit ugly at the top now… I pushed too hard with it after some hours in the sun and it squidged a bit). It is definitely taking me a little bit of time to get used to, especially in comparison to the spray-oil I was using before, but so far, I haven’t got sunburned, so it’s definitely doing its job! As another plus, this product is also not tested on animals, and is vegan ☺.
Whilst searching for a plastic-free sunscreen, I also came across plastic-free deodorant! The one I chose comes in a tin (although there were also push-up cardboard tubes, similar to the sunscreen).
Whilst searching for a plastic-free sunscreen, I also came across plastic-free deodorant! The one I chose comes in a tin (although there were also push-up cardboard tubes, similar to the sunscreen). I ended up making my choice based on fragrance and also on price… plastic-free deodorant is actually one of the more pricey items compared to the normal, plastic bottle versions, but I’m really hoping that it will last a longer time and end up balancing out the cost that way. As you can see from the pictures – it’s a sort of paste, and it’s really simple, you just take some with your fingers and apply it to your armpit. So far, it’s been working just as well as a roll-on or spray deodorant, so I live in hope that this might eventually see its way onto mainstream shelves! I’m not sure if this would be technically counted as a ‘liquid’ when going through airport security, however it is still waaaay more compact than a traditional deodorant so would definitely have saved me some space.
So, that’s it for this time – thanks for checking in on my journey, and I hope you’ll consider trying out some of these items and making your travels more sustainable! Let me know if I’m missing out on any of your great tips too – I would love to learn from you ☺.