9 ways to be a plastic-free traveller

December 18, 2019
Carolyn Manning
Responsible Tourism Specialist @
Urban Adventures

If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you’re already a conscious traveller, so good job on taking initiative and being an upstanding citizen of the globe. Unfortunately being the sustainable, eco-conscious, earth loving being that you are isn’t always easy. When we pick up and take life on the road, scrambling with our suitcases to get from one site to the next, trying to blend in with the locals, getting the perfect photo and tasting all the local bites we can find, it’s hard to be weary of our single-use plastic use. Being a responsible traveller takes some extra time and a bit of planning but the pay off is helping to keep this world beautiful so we can keep exploring. We have 10  tips and tricks on how to be a plastic-free traveller so both you and the sea turtles can keep roaming free. 

1. Ditch Single-Use Water Bottles

More than 60 million plastic bottles end up in landfills and incinerators every day – a total of about 22 billion in 2017. Photo by Brian Yurasits

Water is a necessity and plastic bottles seem like the hardest thing to ditch, especially in countries where the tap water isn’t drinkable. There are so many alternatives to single-use water bottles that won’t just save the planet but they’ll save your wallet in the long run as well. 

Get yourself a water bottle with a filtration system and you can stay hydrated anywhere. Companies like GRAYL and Survimate are two of many companies that offer this great travel necessity. 

Use a water purification device or powder like a steripen, any Lifestraw product or P and G Packets water purification products. 

Support businesses that provide clean drinking water. There are some great apps like Refill the World, Find Tap and Refill My Bottle


Disclaimer, I’m not an influencer or getting paid by any of these brands( unless that’s an option? j/k)  but I 100% support what they’re doing and I hope you do to!

2. Stop using hotel toiletries

The times of stocking up on hotel toiletries are far behind us. Hotel conditioners, shampoos, soaps etc. are so wasteful and unnecessary.  Hotels are already starting to take initiative on this, which is great, but be prepared for accommodation that doesn’t have a wall pump option. Bring your own toiletries and refill from you shampoo etc. at home. When packing them in a carry on using the same required plastic bag every time, all the time. 

3. Don't do takeaways

Eat in, savour your meal and avoid all the packaging that comes with a takeaway. Photo by Lucca Urban Adventures

Give yourself time to enjoy your experience and eat your food in a restaurant or cafe, rather than grabbing a takeaway, which usually involves a lot of unnecessary containers. Besides,  eating in is one of the great joys of travelling. 

4. Say no to plastic straws

Or bring your own. Reusable straws are trendy these days, from paper to metal,  you can find them online is many commercial stores. Get creative with alternatives like dried out pasta. 

5. Carry a re-useable coffee mug

Even if you skip the lid on a normal to go coffee cup the inside of the cup is lined with plastic. This means it can’t be recycled as paper OR plastic and it will probably outlive your time on this earth. My reusable mug often gets me discounts at coffee shops as well. 

6. Bring a re-usable shopping bag

tour guide and traveller in front of a mural
Don't forget to bring your own shopping bag! Photo by Krakow Urban Adventures

Reusable shopping bags today come in every shape, style and size, even one that can fit into your pocket. It’s such a convenience during an active travel day. It also comes in handy when you’ve bought a few extra things that just don’t fit in the suitcase. 

7. Find alternatives to plastic cutlery and dishes

Maybe it’s chopsticks, your travel spork or just your hands, but find any way you can to stop using hard plastic cutlery. It can take up to 1000 years to decompose! Bring some tupperware for your to-go food or leftovers. It’s easier to carry that way as well.

8. Return hotel keys

They have a life purpose of opening doors, even you if you’re a collector, let them live their destiny . Most hotels allow you to leave them in your room at check out as well, so it’s easy and convenient. 

9. Support businesses that align with your values

Urban Adventures is committed to supporting the local communities we live and work in. By 2021, all our tour itineraries will include at least one way of giving back to the community. Photo by Washington DC Urban Adventures

Like us, Urban Adventures! It’s all about supply and demand. If we as the traveller support and demand better practices they will only become more abundant to us. Visit restaurants with safe water refill options, visit accommodation that is making sustainable efforts and take tours from companies that care about responsible travel. Want to know what we’ve been doing to support the local communities that we work in around the world? Check out our Local Impact Map to discover more. There are apps like Green Globe, sustainable travel blogs like Travindy and websites like Responsible Travel that are full of great resources when planning an eco-friendly holiday. 

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