Aloha! I’m honored to be sharing my insight here on Michelle’s blog about traveling (and living) more consciously and sustainably. I am Elana – a photographer, educator and the writer behind elanaloo.com where I share my travel adventures, wellness findings and entrepreneurial journey. I’d love to connect with you on social and you can find me on Instagram @elanaloo.
Something I’m passionate about is sharing small ways we can make BIG impacts in the world. I’m sure you’ve noticed, as have I, that tourist destinations all around the world tend to see the worst of it when it comes to pollution, waste and devastation to the natural environment. Here in Hawai’i, as you walk the sacred, beautiful beaches you see as much plastic as you see seashells. In other places in the world, people are snorkeling in a sea of plastic bags surrounded by dying coral reefs. Animals are being affected as are humans. Right at home where you’re reading this, I’m sure you notice the effects of our wasteful global society too.
The information I share below is going to empower you with small, impactful ways you can change the way you travel to reduce your waste! You can still leave your stress behind and get into ‘vacation mode’ while being mindful and caring for our planet. Here’s how. . .
Bring your own reusable water bottle and reusable bags when you travel! Your water bottle will serve as a great reminder to stay hydrated and will reduce your use of plastic throughout your trip significantly! We often aren’t aware of the recycling process in other countries or states, so rather than relying on them to recycle, simply reduce your impact by USING LESS. Reusable bags, whether cloth or straw, are wonderful for shopping in local markets and can double as a beach bag or purse.
Eliminate absent-minded waste
Stop using single-use plastic + styrofoam!
Grocery shop with the reusable bags you bring. Refuse plastic straws. Eat at places that use dinnerware instead of one-time-use containers. Get your coffee to stay (instead of to-go) and sit in the coffee shop, enjoying the view. Buy wood or metal utensils that you can bring with you. Refuse plastic every time it’s offered – I politely decline and don’t allow stores to give me plastic bags which doesn’t bother anyone. Avoid buying individually packaged foods. Fill up your reusable water bottle vs taking the water available in plastic bottles. It’s not hard to do any of this, we just have to be conscious throughout our day.
Stop using K-Cups
The inventor himself has been quoted saying that he wishes he never created them because of their impact on the earth. K-Cups generate vast amounts of plastic waste that does not biodegrade and cannot be recycled which is absolutely terrible for the environment!
Bring snacks with you!
I’m always hungry when traveling and since eating out can add up, we love to pack protein powder, protein bars and trail mix in our bags. Swap out your ziplock bags for some of these rad reusable ones.
Buy LOCAL food + goods. Processing, packaging and shipping is straight up wasteful. One of the easiest ways you can reduce your waste is to shop local, so you’re literally buying food (without plastic packaging or a huge carbon footprint to get to you) out of the hands of someone who grew it or goods that are made right there in that location.
When moving to the Big Island of Hawai’i, I pictured farm stands and local farmers for our food source. Sadly, 90% of the food on the island is shipped in and most of it perishes ridiculously quickly because it’s been on a boat for so long. Also, a lot of the markets just import goods that don’t support local tradition or artisans but instead create a lot of packaging waste and emissions from the importing.
When traveling, shop at local farmer’s markets and ask them about their growing process. Shop at health food stores that stock local farmer’s produce. Buy from local artists and makers.
Switch Your Toiletries
Consider the packaging of toiletries.
I know it’s tempting to buy those cute, tiny ‘travel size’ toiletries but instead, I recommend buying reusable go toobs or reusing glass jars that you can fill with your favorite products. You can reuse those containers trip after trip, meaning less plastic waste and also, you can bring your favorite quality products that often don’t come in travel sizes!
Bring a shampoo bar.
Reassess your dental situation.
Replace your toothbrush out for a bamboo one or one made with recycled materials. And switch out your toxic toothpaste for one that comes in a glass jar and is full of ingredients that are actually good for your body!
Use one soap for everything.
By using one product for many uses, you’re cutting down on packaging and shipping while saving space in your suitcase or backpack! Dr. Bronner’s is a great example of this. While their soap is still in plastic packaging, their bottles are 100% post-consumer recycled and why I mention them is because they list allll the ways you can use their one soap.
Ladies, make the switch to a menstrual cup.
Think about it: your tampons come in a cardboard/plastic box, in a plastic wrapper, with paper instructions inside the box (like we need help?) and then you end up tossing the tampon itself away. Needless to say, this is a lot of waste. Consider switching to a medical grade silicone menstrual cup. They last for years and they are small and easy for travel! I love mine.
Limit towel use in hotels.
This tip is simple but something I don’t think we consider when we’ve switched over to ‘vacation mode’… Don’t use a lot of towels! Follow the instructions on the cards if you’re staying in a hotel. Think about how many rooms are in just one hotel and how much water it takes to wash allll of the towels in that hotel. It’s insane and not sustainable. Instead, only use what you NEED and leave the rest alone.
Use Reef Safe Sunscreen
*Especially* if you’re traveling somewhere you’re going to get in the ocean, wear reef-safe sunscreen. I recommend switching over even if you’re not going into the ocean because the ingredients in mainstream sunscreens are disgusting. Our oceans are such a vital part of this earth, which means this is such an impactful, important switch to make. Read all about this topic on my blog!
So there you have it! Simple changes you can make on your next trip to make an impact, reduce your waste and travel more sustainably. Those were all pretty simple and actionable, right?
Would love to hear your thoughts and see you implementing this during your travels! Be sure to post to your Instagram story (or anywhere on social) tagging me so I can cheer you on in your efforts.
Remember, the best way to predict the future is to create it.
You are amazing for caring about our earth and doing anything you can to preserve it. Mahalo nui loa for reading and for Michelle for sharing this on her incredible platform!