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How To Travel Plastic-Free | 10 Eco-Friendly Alternatives

Whether you’re a savvy eco-friendly warrior, a zero-waste ambassador or recently became aware of the ‘refuse single-use plastic’ campaigns, the truth is we are all faced with a daily choice. As global citizens, we can, and should take up the responsibility to change our own habits to ensure a better future for our beautiful planet. Before you embark on your next journey abroad, take the Plastic Pledge below and use the printable Packing List as a guideline to ensure you travel plastic-free.

Let’s talk plastic

Firstly, we need to be aware of the various problems our natural environment currently faces. Do you know that we are producing more than 300 million tons of plastic yearly across the globe? Almost 50% of this is only used once, but will still exist for hundreds, if not thousands of years. The plastic thrown into landfills can contaminate the soil and groundwater. The 8 million tons of plastic that end up in our oceans, threatens marine life, and eventually finds its way into our ecosystem. 

How can we be part of the solution?

Knowledge is power. By educating ourselves and our communities we can all implement small changes that make a huge difference. While environmentalists and scientists continue to lead the way in finding innovative solutions to conserve and preserve our environment, we can start by being more eco-conscious at home, in our communities, city, and country. You certainly have a choice in what you refuse or choose to buy, how you reuse what you already have and if you recycle it. You also have a choice in what you decide to pack when traveling or studying abroad as this will also impact the environment of your chosen destination. 

Plastic bans in Africa

Africa is leading the way in banning what has been called the number one consumer product – plastic bags. According to the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP), 127 countries have enforced plastic bag legislation around the world. 34 of these are African countries including Rwanda (Kigali being one of the cleanest cities in the world), Kenya, and most recently Tanzania.

“As African nations have shown, taking action can quickly lead to an improved environment.”

– Ephrat Livni, World Economic Forum

The question is not ‘how’ will these restrictions affect students and tourists traveling to these areas but rather, ‘what’ can student travelers and tourists do to assist their fellow global citizens in these plastic-free efforts. How can we contribute to the solution, not the problem?

Think green, pack clean

One way of ensuring you travel more responsibly is by being mindful of what you pack as this will inevitably influence what you use and leave behind. To assist you on this journey, we’ve compiled an eco-friendly packing list for the conscious traveler. These items are better for the environment and will ensure you leave ‘less waste’ behind. 

10 Eco-friendly alternatives to pack for your next trip

1. Reusable water bottle
Refuse those single-use plastic bottles that fill up our ocean and rather invest in a reusable or filtered water bottle that you can refill at a recommended water source. 

2. Travel cup
More and more takeaway coffee shops are encouraging customers to bring along their own coffee mug. Not only does this save the environment from the single-use takeaway cup, but you might even get a discount on your coffee!

3. Reusable straw
Just refuse the plastic straw. Can’t go without a straw? There are many reusable options available these days including bamboo, metal, and silicone straws.

4. Shopping bag
With plastic bags being banned or taxed in many African countries, make sure you bring along a lightweight tote bag or use your backpack for a greener shopping experience.

5. Bamboo cutlery
You can start using these on the plane and will have no need to reach for a piece of plastic when eating something on the go. 

6. Bamboo toothbrush
Yeah to starting every day with a clear conscience, knowing your toothbrush won’t still exist for hundreds of years. 

7. Solid toiletries
Yes, there is such a thing. Swop your shower gel & shampoo for a solid biodegradable soap or shampoo bar and leave no trace behind.

8. Travel size containers
Instead of buying travel-size products, rather invest in metal or silicone containers that you can decant your preferred products into. 

9. Reusable waterproof bags
Even though Tanzanian airport security might still let you through with your plastic Ziploc bag, investing in reusable waterproof bags is still the better option and much more versatile.

10. Solar power bank
Disconnecting from technology and enjoying your journey should be your first priority, but the African sun can be turned into cleaner energy when you need to charge your phone or Bluetooth speaker while out and about. Not plastic-free, but definitely better for the environment.  

Plastic Pledge Packing List

Ready to refuse single-use plastic and to create less waste? Take the Plastic Pledge and receive a downloadable Plastic Pledge Packing list that will help you prepare for your next journey. 

As an eco-friendly traveler, commit to departing from your African destination by only leaving your footprints behind.