Recently I went on a holiday to Thailand, before you hate me it was the first proper holiday I’d had in about 7 years (and no way I’m leaving it that long again!). I had been to Thailand previously but this time round I had new eyes and had become a lot more thoughtful about how to reduce my impact on the environment. So I set off with the goal to travel as lightly as I could. Here’s my tips, my challenges, the fails I had and my successes.
BEFORE I LEFT
I thought about what I could do, I did do a bit of googling but couldn’t really seem to find too much helpful info applicable to me. I haven’t travelled for years so wasn’t sure about how flexible the plane and airports would be. It became clear pretty quickly I was going to be making this up as I went!
I used my noggin (as rusty as it is sometimes) and came up with a loose plan. My 4 weakest points were going to be;
- WATER – definitely water. Going to a tropical country where bottled water and water sanitation is an issue was going to definitely be something to figure out. Single use plastic water bottles create so much destruction on every level – the manufacturing of the plastic bottle, the draining of aquafiers to use the water and sell at a profit, the litter and break down of the plastic into the environment and also the leaching of the plastic into the water you are drinking! Yes it’s recently been revealed that there are actual plastic particles in the bottled water. I’m all about being alert not alarmed haha so sorry for the passion on this one – I just didn’t want to visit paradise and leave behind a ton of waste.
- PLASTIC TAKEAWAY CUTLERY – something we don’t often think about but it all definitely adds up.
- STRAWS – ahhhhh the common plastic straw, the waste of these adds up so much! And being little they really can end up everywhere,
- PLASTIC BAGS – for clothes shopping, fruit shopping and mini mart supplies.
It was really easy for me to take 4 simple supplies to help me along on my travels so this is what I took –
- a good water flask
- some stainless steel straws
- a bamboo cutlery pouch
- and a lightweight canvas tote bag.
I got the bamboo cutlery set from Ever Eco and the straws and flask from Mirablue (this flask also has a tea basket and a secret compartment in the top for tea leaves or cheeky snacks!) The tote is one I just had laying around at home already that my Shakti Mat arrived in. The straws, the canvas tote and the cutlery pouch all fit into my small handbag so they weren’t a hassle at all to remember because who’s got time for that on holiday. They just lived in there and they still do now I’m back home!
ON THE PLANE
This actually turned out to be my biggest challenge (and fail!) I didn’t have to worry about food as we were on a budget airline that prohibited outside food to be bought on, and I didn’t fancy the onboard meals so I ate at the airports either side with real plates and real cutlery (no plastic woo! Nat 1 – Plastic 0)
The challenge was water on the flight, I couldn’t take on liquid so I was ready with my tea flask instead to ask it to be topped up with hot water. This request got a bit lost in translation and instead I was given hot water in a Styrofoam cup (gasp!) it was so stinky of plastic it really was a FAIL so Nat 1 – Plastic 1 on this one.
However at our first stopover there were LOADS of refill stations and this was so cool to see, and also clearly marked recycling bins! So remember if you do have to drink a bottle of water on the actual plane you can take the rubbish with you and dispose of in the recycling bins as it is much more likely to get recycled that way than in the general rubbish on the plane. Refilling my flask was easy and water was not a problem here at all.
This was the moment I had been waiting for and ahh it was so bloody good. The point of this break was to relax so I REFUSED to stress about plastic and was just going to take things as they came. As it turns out I was really successful (not perfect) in reducing my waste!
For water I thought about buying a huge bottle to keep in the hotel room for top ups – but it really made no sense to me as one large bottle waste is pretty much the same as lots of smaller bottle waste. I found out at breakfast that the hotel had a water station and I could refill my water bottle from that and this helped heaps.
Occasionally I found I was stuck and had limited choice on having to have bottled water. So this is what I did.. I crushed and kept the empty bottles in my suitcase – I know that sounds nuts! But over 8 days I ended up with 6 bottles and I then dropped these off at the airport recycling station. This wasn’t a hassle at all.
I would usually drink 4 x 600mL bottles worth of water per day so over my holidays I managed to reduce my water bottle waste by about 26 bottles, and the rest got recycled. I was really stoked with that!
Straws were a bit more challenging and I had to be really mindful to not go in being all Western and painful. When asking for drinking coconuts I could just politely show them the straw and that was totally cool, the stall keepers thought they were pretty cool! They liked the novelty. I got caught a couple of times on cocktails (it was holidays) but overall I managed to reduce my waste significantly. Using your manners is key, nothing worse than a self righteous straw holder!
The cutlery came in handy many times – that knife is actually serated and does a surprisingly good job. I scooped dragon fruit, sipped soup and enjoyed Pad Thai with these guys. These come with me in my handbag everywhere still now and are just so convenient. The canvas tote was also a great idea. If you pull this out as you are purchasing people are totally chill with it. I did end up with a few other plastic bags (progress not perfection) and these ended up coming home with me for recycling.
So I hope you find this list handy. It really is possible in a tropical country where water is unsafe to significantly reduce your environmental impact by some very small steps. This really made a massive difference to my trip and I was really proud of myself for figuring this out as I went.
Next time I’m not leaving it so long to have a break and I’m looking forward to reducing my footprint even further. Small steps by a lot of people make a big difference!
From my heart to yours,