Eliminate Plastic: 6 Eco-Friendly Travel Alternatives 

eliminate plastic

Written by Michael Hodgson on

A lifetime of globetrotting across all seven continents fuels Michael's ongoing passion for exploring the world, all in search of a great story or photograph for the HI Travel Tales blog he runs with his wife.

eliminate plastic

Floating islands of plastic junk are polluting our oceans. But you can help by reducing plastic waste at home and when you are traveling with these six easy and eco-friendly alternatives. Join us in supporting 5 Gyres in its fight to eliminate waste and create plastic-free communities around the globe.

Plastic—disposable bags, bottles, and straws—have become one of the biggest sources of pollution in our oceans, which should concern you as a global citizen. There are massive floating islands of plastic junk in our oceans, pulled together by winds and currents called gyres. They are a danger to marine life, not to mention a hazard along shipping routes. To support the 5 Gyres Institute in its fight to create zero-waste and plastic-free communities globally, Eagle Creek has established the 5 Gyres Collection. Proceeds from a portion of the sales of the bags in this collection are donated to 5 Gyres. But that alone is not enough. You can help by also reducing your own use of disposable plastic. Here are six eco-friendly alternatives to help you reduce the use of plastic when you travel or are at home.

1. Carry a Reusable Water Bottle

This is the easiest thing you can do and frankly will save you a bunch of money on all those disposable plastic water bottles that you'll use once and throw away. Carry a reusable bottle in your daypack side pocket that you can refill (just remember to empty your water before going through airport security, and then refill it before boarding your plane). Any water bottle will do, though stainless steel bottles complete the divorce from plastics completely and are the most eco-friendly alternative. If you are worried about the quality of the water where you are traveling, then opt for a bottle with an integrated water filter, like those from Katadyn or Grayl.

2. Use a Reusable Shopping Bag

Stop with the plastic shopping bags already! When you are shopping, at home or when traveling, you can carry a separate compact tote bag, but you can also just use what you have to pack up your groceries or other purchases. The cargo hauler duffel makes for a perfect travel and shopping companion, and it's easy to carry fully loaded down with goodies, too.

3. Rely on Packing Cubes

Packing cubes are for more than organization. Pack-It Isolate cubes are so light and compact, you can pack a few extra and use them as laundry bags. A packing cube is a perfect eco-friendly alternative to a plastic hotel laundry bag, a plastic trash bag, or any other plastic tote often seen littering laundry rooms around the globe. Plus, once your laundry is dry, fold or roll it up and, presto, it's already packaged in a cube ready to go back into your duffel or luggage.

4. Stop Using Disposable Straws

Sure, straws are only small bits of plastic, but they add up to a serious problem in landfills and oceans because they are difficult to recycle. And, because they are so small, plastic straws are very dangerous to marine life, too. If you simply have to or want to use a straw, then go eco-friendly and pack a stainless steel one that is washable and reusable.

5. Pack Your Own Silverware

Eating takeout or wandering through street food markets is such a delight anywhere in the world, but please, forgo the plastic utensils that are frequently offered. Instead, pack a stainless steel or titanium spork (a device that combines a spoon, fork, and a serrated knife edge into one utensil). Carry your stainless steel straw and spork in your daypack, or if you're traveling light, stow them in a cross body bag for easy access.

6. Travel With a Solid Shampoo Bar

This is another very easy thing to do to embrace eco-friendly alternatives when traveling: Toss your plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles and never use the hotel mini bottles (increasingly hotels are not using disposable bottles anyway). Instead, pack a solid shampoo bar and conditioner. The added benefit for you is solid bars won't leak and they last far longer than liquid shampoo. Plus, most items in your toiletry kits are often full of plastics, so going solid makes good sense for plastic-free travel!

None of these eco-friendly alternatives to plastic are difficult and, in the long run, will actually save you money while you are helping save the planet. Best of all, by embracing these concepts in your everyday life, you'll also be reducing your use of disposable plastics at home. To take your travel plastics game even higher, consider choosing sustainable luggage and even gear that harvests plastics from landfills for its water-resistant coating.

Related Links (from Eagle Creek blog):

7 Ways to Become a More Sustainable Traveler

6 Reasons Why You Should Travel Locally

How to Make Your Travel More Environmentally Friendly