As I mentioned on Monday, I’m out of town this week. But I don’t give my plastic-free habits a break just because I’m not at home. I have developed strategies over the years to avoid accumulating new plastic even while living out of a suitcase. Here are a few things I brought along with me on this trip to help:
1) Travel Mug
Water bottles are great, but for me a travel mug is eminently versatile. At the airport, I carry it through security empty and then fill up at a water fountain on the other side. I did hear that TSA has been screening insulated mugs a little more heavily lately, but so far I’ve had no problems bringing mine through.
It’s fine to bring water on the plane if you get it from within the secure area of the airport. And a mug is great for not only water but coffee, tea, or other beverages. I always use my mug on the plane instead of a plastic cup.
2) Reusable utensils
I carry a little set of reusable utensils in my purse or backpack wherever I go to avoid disposables. My kit includes knife, fork, spoon, chopsticks, and even glass drinking straws.
But you don’t need a fancy utensil wrapper like mine (which I ordered from a fantastic Etsy seller). Check out Micaela Preston’s super easy steps for creating your own utensil wrap in five minutes. No sewing or special utensils required.
3) Snacks & other food necessities
Airplane food is expensive and full of chemicals and packaging waste. We can avoid it by bringing our own yummy snacks or even full meals in reusable containers. It just takes a little pre-planning. And whatever container you bring can be reused for restaurant leftovers or take-out food while out of town.
(Those bulk bin pretzels didn’t last long.)
I also bring my own bulk tea in a glass jar or tin and metal tea ball, since I know that teas I purchase while away from home will probably come in disposable packaging, likely plastic. Most hotel rooms have coffee makers that can be used to heat water.
I usually have my headphones with me anyway, but I make sure to have them during any flight in case I want to watch the movie. There’s no need to buy new ones from the airline.
5) Travel Pillow
I used to have a drawer full of inflatable plastic travel pillows that I used once and then forgot. And asking for a pillow on the plane is not green either. Airline travel pillows are trashed at the end of each flight, for sanitary reasons, and they come sealed up in plastic packaging. Now, I always remember to bring my own.
6) Reused plastic zip-top bag
The only time I ever use a plastic baggie is for carrying liquids and gels in my carry-on luggage when flying. But I reuse the same TSA regulation baggie over and over again, keeping it in my suitcase when not in use so I’ll remember it for next time.
7) Personal care products in reusable containers.
Instead of buying travel size shampoo, conditioner, lotion, toothpaste, etc. or taking the free products provided by the hotel, I fill up my own reusable containers (3.4 ounce or smaller if flying) at home and avoid all the extra packaging waste from travel sizes.
I also use an old prescription bottle for toothpaste instead of buying the travel size tube.
It can be tempting to take the hotel’s free offerings, but remember that refilling from your big shampoo bottle at home generates a lot less plastic packaging waste than using those cute little travel size bottles. The planet would prefer that you politely decline them.
Personally, I try to do without liquid personal care products in the first place. Solid shampoo bars work as well as liquid shampoo and contain no plastic packaging.
8) My Resolve
It can be tempting to succumb to the convenience of single-use disposables while on vacation. But planning ahead and relying on my own ingenuity to avoid creating waste gives me a feeling of connection to the planet, wherever I happen to be, that is priceless.