No matter how good travel may be for the soul, it's not always great for the environment.
According to The New York Times, a “round-trip flight from New York to San Francisco emits about 0.9 metric tons of carbon dioxide per person.” That works out to about one-eighteenth the average American’s carbon emissions per year.
When you’re traveling long distances, it’s very difficult to cut back on the environmental impact your transportation will have. But once you’ve arrived at your destination, it’s simple to offset your carbon footprint.
Manufacturing plastic is a gigantic contributor to greenhouse emissions. The Pacific Institute estimates that one 500-milliliter plastic water bottle has a carbon footprint equal to about three ounces of carbon dioxide. In addition, only about nine percent of the world’s plastic gets recycled.
But luckily it’s easy to cut back on plastic consumption during travel — it only requires a hint of foresight and the desire to do so.
These are five easy investments you can make to save the planet while you’re traveling around it.
Filtered water bottle
This is by far the most common and easiest way to cut back on plastic. It’s estimated that the world purchases one million plastic bottles every minute. Cut back on your plastic output by investing in a portable water bottle or thermos. While there are plenty of filtered water bottle options, consider a hot/cold thermos with a detachable filter straw to use for water, tea or coffee while on the road.
Plastic straws have been dominating headlines over the past few months. The single-use items take up to two centuries to decompose. As airlines, restaurants and cities ban plastic straws, travelers can lessen their own environmental impact by refusing straws while on the road. Invest in a glass, bamboo or metal straw if you the tubular liquid vehicle is very important to your beverage experience.
The same goes for plastic utensils. A reusable spoon and a pair of chopsticks should suffice for most food you’ll encounter while traveling. Leave the fork and knife behind if you’re flying; TSA agents may have some questions while you’re passing through security.
An incredible amount of stuff comes packaged in plastic. Cut your plastic consumption by keeping a small reusable bag in easy access for shopping trips.
Instead of buying chips or a nutrition bar while traveling, “try some local fruit that is far better for you and the environment,” a spokesperson for the environmental travel group African Impact told Travel + Leisure. “Remember to always give it a good rinse, or better yet, stick to fruit that comes pre-wrapped in environmentally friendly packaging commonly known as the peel. Bananas, oranges, watermelon, mangoes and so on have been supermarket-friendly for millennia.”
“Rather than use a plastic comb, try out a bamboo one,” the spokesperson said. “You could also invest in a bamboo toothbrush rather. Look for shampoo, conditioner and soap options that are not wrapped in plastic, or petroleum-based.”
Consider solid shampoos, conditioners and soaps instead of gels, like the shampoo bars from Lush. In addition to being better for the environment, you don’t have to worry about TSA liquid limits.
If you’re looking to cut all plastic out of your travels, pack glass containers in your suitcase. Ask restaurants to put your food in your containers to cut back on takeaway boxes or doggy bags. Containers are also useful for collecting street food to bring back to your hotel room.
And it can do double-duty in your suitcase. Pack jewelry, clean underwear or charging cords in resealable containers to keep it organized, protected and separate from any other messes.