Plastic Free July: Traveling Right

Your travel pictures will look much better without all that plastic pollution. 

 
plastic bottle on the beach
 
 
 

What is Plastic Free July

Well it’s pretty self-explanatory: as you can expect, it’s all about not giving into the plastic temptation! Or at the very least, generally reducing plastic waste. This is a global movement, and Plastic Free July is there to lend a hand in showing you exactly how to make a difference. We often think that our small individual changes don’t matter, but if we all make an effort, it’s bound to have an effect. Over 120 millions participants in 177 countries have found alternatives for July (and hopefully forever) and together it adds up. 

We’re all living the effects of our bad environmental decisions. It isn’t about ridding the world of every single bit of plastic, it’s about cutting way back on the single-use type. With a world full of alternatives, why do we keep going for what we know is destroying the environment? Plastic is not biodegradable, it just breaks up into smaller pieces and will stay behind much longer than we will. 

Why Should You Care? 

 
piles of trash and plastic next to the ocean
 

If our single-use plastic addiction doesn't hit close enough to home and you need a little more convincing, just think on this: our consuming habits are affecting and will continue to affect traveling. 

The ocean is really where it’s at here. A great majority of vacations are centered around the sea. Surfing, snorkeling, kayaking, diving, sunbathing and so many more are an integral part of traveling... and they’re all at risk. Surfing is amazing, but not when the wave is more solid than liquid. Sunbathing isn’t so great with plastic waste lapping at your feet. Snorkeling loses its charm when you can’t tell if it’s a jellyfish or a plastic bag.

If humans struggle to decipher what’s what under the water, imagine from the point of view of a whale or a turtle? That whale-watching trip you had planned in Canada? Or in California? Or in Colombia? Those turtles you wanted to see in Akumal and in Hawaii? What about dolphins? Sea Lions? Well your opportunities are dwindling at a steady rate. 

At the rate we’re going, by 2050 plastic will outnumber fish in the ocean. So also say goodbye to your sushi trip to Japan. 

 
snorkeler grabbing plastic bag in the water
 

The Cocos (Keeling) Islands, off the coast of Australia, are slowly but surely getting buried by tons of plastic. What was once known as an unspoiled paradise is now very much spoiled. And many more idyllic destinations are suffering the same treatment. Eventually, the only islands we’ll have are the ones akin to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Here’s one thing you probably didn’t think about: plastic production leads to greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse gas leads to climate change. Climate change leads to the ruin of many a destination. Your trip to the Alps for the best skiing of your life? Not going to happen. Your number one bucket list item: climbing to the top of Kilimanjaro… well it might be a little less grand without any snow at the top. And as if plastic wasn’t already bad enough for the ocean, climate change has got to join in! The coral reefs in the Maldives, Hawaii and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef are all in danger here. That’s bound to put a damper on your snorkeling plans. 

If you still have a hard time caring about all this, see it in the most selfish of ways: your travel plans will be altered by this and litter in your selfie’s background kind of ruin the vibe. 

How to Travel Plastic Free

 
reusable cup and backpack next to hiker on mountainside
 

This is pretty easy: if you see single-use plastic, don’t touch it. Don’t bring it to your destination, don’t buy it once you’re there, and don’t bring it back home. Let’s play the floor’s lava but instead of the floor, it’s plastic you’ve got to stay away from. 

Bring a reusable water bottle! 

 
reusable water bottle being refilled outside
 

This is especially great for countries where you can actually drink the tap water. For those where that’s not the case, it can be a bit trickier, but you can still figure this out! Buy a water bottle with a filter in it. Like these ones. Plenty of hotels and hostels have refill stations. Airports usually have filtered water available as well. Even better, download Tap (North America), Refill My Bottle (Asia), or Refill (Europe) on your phone to know where the nearest spot to fill your bottle is. Easy peasy! It’s cost efficient and eco-friendly. Win-win. 

If you’re an avid coffee drinker, a reusable mug is the way to go! 

When you’re in a hotel, resist the temptation to use the tiny bottles of shampoo and body wash.

Bring your own stuff in reusable TSA approved bottles. Or go even further and just get rid of all products that involve plastics. Go back to the good old bar of soap! It doesn’t involve much packaging and it won’t bust your liquid limits in your carry-on! Lush even has shampoo bars! It’s easy being green when you try a little. Eco-hotels and resorts are also a good choice if you want to make sure to resist the temptation of small shampoos. 

 
trashcans overflowing with garbage next to the beach
 

For the love of all things, bring a reusable bag. 

A canvas tote is so useful when traveling! You can make it a beach bag on the go, use it for fresh unknown fruits and vegetables from the market, use it for dirty laundry...the list goes on! Plus, many countries are banning plastic bags all together, or at least charging you for them. Help the planet, save some money, and get a cute bag. It’s not rocket science! 

Stay away from straws.

While the Internet did get a little preachy about straws recently… we should still do our best to stay as far away from them as we can. Just say no to straws and drink straight from the cup or bring your own reusable straws. And give kudos to any cafe you walk into that has bamboo straws or other biodegradable options! 

Bamboo toothbrushes are also a good idea! 

Bet you haven’t thought of this one: flip flops.

Whether you call them thongs or flip flops, they are pollutant. The footwear is usually made from plastics and other non-biodegradable materials. Opt for eco-friendly options to not be a part of the tidal waves of sandals destruction. 


Overall, just pack yourself a suitcase, backpack or duffle you can be proud of and that Mother Earth wouldn’t frown upon! 

Also, don’t be a passive consumer. Buy things you can get behind from companies with half-way decent politics. It’s all about offer and demand: if you demand eco-friendly options, more places are bound to offer them. 

Countries Reducing Their Plastic Footprint

Plenty of countries are making an effort to lead a plastic free nation. Some are a little bit late to the game, but effort is effort and it should be acknowledged!

Kenya

 
indigenous women and children dressed in colorful clothing
 

Kenya has been plastic free since August 2017 and it’s serious about it. This African country is the most extreme about its ban: anyone entering in any type of relationship with a plastic bag could end up in jail for up to four years or pay a cool $38,000 USD fine. As if you needed any more reasons to go check out the big five in Kenya!

Zimbabwe

Although not exactly plastic (but kind of), as of July 2017, Zimbabwe has gotten rid of a styrofoam-y food container that takes literally forever to decompose. Score! 

Morocco

Plastic bags don’t even cross the threshold of Morocco. Keep that in mind next time you head over there!

Canada

 
clear glacial lake and mountains in canada
 

Canada has been making plenty of moves recently! While prime minister Justin Trudeau is often most well-known for his dreaminess, he also has great plans for the environment! By 2021, single-use plastic will be no more in the great white north. 

European Union

The European Union will also shun all matter of plastic by 2021. We’re talking cutlery, straws, cotton swabs, bags and plenty of other things. Even though things are a bit complicated with Brexit, the UK still has similar plans! They’ve got a 25-year plan and want to lead by example. So much so that even the Queen has even banned pesky straws from her estate! If it’s good enough for the Queen, it’s good enough for us! 

 
aerial view of waves crashing on beach
 

United States

While the United States remains in blind denial regarding environmental policies, cities like Malibu and Seattle are rising to the occasion. You won’t find any plastic straws or single-use forks, sporks, spoons or knives in Seattle and Malibu. New York is also working on this! Wouldn’t it be something to have a nice green Big Apple? 

Thailand

Thailand’s been using banana leaves instead of plastic wrappers in certain grocery stores. Why haven’t we thought of that before!? It might not be a country wide initiative, but Rimping supermarket in Chiang Mai is setting the example and other Southeast Asian countries are catching on. 

India

 
train in the mountains in india
 

A school in India is swapping tuition fees for plastic waste. Children bring in twenty five items per week in order to attend class. This solves two problems in one go: children from low income families get a shot at learning and their environment gets a bit cleaner. The Akshar Foundation runs the schools and the recycling center attached to it.

The entire South Asian country hasn’t taken the plunge yet, but make sure not to bring any plastic to the Taj Mahal, just for good measure. 

France

Next year, in 2020, France will officially be saying non to single-use plastic! Plastic bags have been out of the picture for a couple of years, but things will be taken further with a ban on many more plastic items. You can-can be as eco-friendly as the Frenchies! 

Rwanda

 
gorilla in the jungle in rwanda
 

You know what country is way smarter than all of us and has had plastic bags banned for more than ten years? Rwanda. If you’re caught with one, you’ll get a $60 or so fine, or if you run into a particularly eco-friendly officer, you might go to jail for a bit. This is only the beginning for the African nation, and by next year, 2020, they’re hoping to be 100% sustainable. Doesn’t that just make a safari even more tempting? 


Doesn’t it feel nicer to visit a destination that actually cares? Take your dollar where it matters the most: the future. And it doesn’t hurt if you get to visit some really cool (and green) spots along the way as well. 

 
person surrounded by plastic waste in the countryside
 

Any self-respecting adventurer should care and respect the ground they travel on, and we haven’t been doing the best of jobs so far. Small changes make a big difference, so ditch the single-use plastic. You have no good reason not to. Want to make it official? Take the Plastic Free July challenge! And maybe in a short or long while, we’ll be able to go snorkeling without dodging plastic bits. Wouldn’t that be an amazing new normal? 


Interested? Jubel can get you there responsibly. 

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