Sustainable Travel, War on Plastic

Why Bother With Plastic Free Travel?

February 16, 2017

Peaceful and beautiful.

Saturday morning was the last I spent at my parent’s house, after three months of living there. They live by the water and I have been getting up early some mornings to go for kayak on the lake. It ain’t a half bad way to start the day.

I was paddling down my favourite creek, whilst idly thinking about how much I was going to miss living in the area. That week had been a neighbourhood dump week. People collect old furniture, appliances, toys – anything they don’t need or want and dump it outside their homes for the council to pick up. It’s pretty standard practice across Australia and quite fun if you’re a bit of a scavenger. One man’s trash is another’s treasure, as the adage goes.

It's a fair argument. Why bother with plastic free travel, when it feels like people are littering left, right and centre?

There is a street that lies parallel to my favourite creek and the people on that street had thoughtfully dumped their rubbish right next to the water. This meant that the creek was littered with old stuffed toys, jewellery cases and Christmas decorations that had blown into the water – not to mention the normal amount of rubbish, such as plastic bottles and crisp packets that you can find there on any given day.

I ended my last kayak on the lake in a huff, having fished out all the rubbish I could reach with my paddle, to throw in my own bin once I got home.

“Why am I even bothering with this?” I couldn’t help but wonder, because you see, it is an endless cycle. You can pick up all the rubbish you want, but someone will surely come along and mindlessly trash the place once you’re done. You can clean up a beach, but plastic is already rooted in the ocean and more is guaranteed to wash up onto the shore. You can resolve to take three pieces of rubbish from wherever you go, but it’s never enough.

Picking up rubbish along the way.

The sad truth of the matter is that taking care of the planet is not a priority for most people. I’ve seen some actually go out of their way to litter. I remember having a conversation with a good friend, many years ago. He’d just finished a packet of chips and had meticulously folded the packet up into squares.

He then proceeded to stuff the packet in between the slats of the bench we were sat upon, despite the fact that there was a bin about three metres away. The way he was trying to force that thing into the bench was taking way more effort than throwing it into the bin ever could.

Related: How to travel responsibly, without blowing your money

I gazed at him, in open wonder, before telling him to get off his toosh and put that rubbish where it belonged. It boggles the mind.

In all honesty, the more I travel, the more I find the situation to be hopeless. There is rubbish everywhere. We are choking the planet with it. And I don’t doubt that we’ve gone past the point of no return, where cleaning up the planet for good is concerned.

Yet, I do strongly believe in the sound of one hand clapping. History has proved time and time again that the actions of one person alone can make a difference. Luckily, there are plenty of people worldwide, who are passionate about preserving the beauty of this planet, each in their own, unique way. The people advocating environmental clean ups. Conservationists worldwide looking after animals all shapes and sizes, from the White Rhino, to Australia’s own Regent Honeyeater bird. Those of the zero-waste movement who encourage others to strive towards having as minimal environmental impact as possible. This is all admirable stuff.

Rubbish collected from Man of War Bay in Dorset, UK.

I spent a really long time feeling overwhelmed, when faced with the problem of “saving the planet”. What could I do? I eventually decided to settle on limiting my use of plastic – a feat which was way harder than I initially thought, but not entirely outside of the realms of impossibility, as I’m also beginning to realise.

I recently ran a series on my blog for the new year, highlighting simple ways in which any traveller can reduce their environmental impact. The reception was really quite good – encouraging or what?! So, I’ve decided to make the series ongoing. I’m not doing nearly as much travel this year as I did last year (which is not a bad thing, believe me) but I have enough ideas to post something on the topic at least once a month.

To sum up this post, I’d like to return to my original question – why bother with plastic free travel? Particularly when it seems that no one around you cares or can be bothered themselves.

Well, quite simply, the earth is beautiful and worth saving.

Isn’t that reason enough?

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6 Comments

  • Reply Ali May February 17, 2017 at 9:06 am

    I whole heartedly agree with you! I also find it so disappointing to see rubbish everywhere, and disrespectful people. Those take-away coffee cups, they look recyclable, but they are not! They’ve all got plastic lining, so that’s just another massive thing to clog up our oceans and waste areas. I read something last year from Greenpeace that said “every bit of plastic that has ever been made, still exists somewhere”. That sentence chills me to the bone. Think about that for a moment… then look around you.

    How can we continue to allow plastics in our lives, when it never ever goes away?

    • Reply LC February 18, 2017 at 8:33 am

      Thanks for your comment, Ali. I agree – that is such a frightening sentiment.
      Those coffee cups are awful! I don’t drink the stuff myself, but don’t see why it wouldn’t be hard to carry your own reusable cup around (I travel with one anyway, for drinks on planes and the like).
      It’s not hard to cut down your use of the stuff (although it is difficult to eliminate it completely). I have to say, I’m feeling more encouraged than ever in Melbourne – there are bulk goods stores around everywhere, which is aces.

  • Reply Travelling Tom February 19, 2017 at 10:23 am

    I think big companies have a lot to answer for in this regard. Here in Spain, it’s almost impossible to buy any vegetables that do not come in plastic packaging. There’s no need for mushrooms, green beans to be packaged up in plastic. Why can’t I choose the amount I need and put into a brown paper bag? It really annoys me, it’s just creating unnecessary waste! Unfortunately, I think if governments don’t tighten legislation regarding this, then the problem won’t go away. As you say, this is not an issue for a lot of people, so unless they’re encouraged to change their habits they won’t.

    The best you can hope for is that taking action yourself encourages someone else to do likewise. At least that way you’ve made a difference, however small!

    • Reply LC February 19, 2017 at 10:39 am

      Oh, I know what you mean! That frustrated me in those Tesco and Sainsbury metro shops in London – they have avocados wrapped in plastic and bananas in bags. NATURE HAS ALREADY WRAPPED THESE FRUITS FOR US, THEY DO NOT NEED TO BE FURTHER WRAPPED IN PLASTIC.
      And yes, it is a mixture of several issues. Governments won’t care, as long as people don’t care and people won’t change their habits (as you pointed out) unless they’re encouraged or told to. So, what do we do? We march on, I guess.

  • Reply Erica February 19, 2017 at 12:08 pm

    Another excellent post. Thank you for your continued dedication to our planet. I can attest to the power of your dedication – I’ve picked up several habits I learned from you over just the past few months. That being said, I’m so glad you’re continuing the series. You may be just one person, but your words and actions are definitely inspiring others.

    • Reply LC February 19, 2017 at 1:17 pm

      Thank you Erica, you are so lovely! I’m glad that they’ve helped. The whole experiment has been a bit trial and error, so it was good to get some solid hacks out of it. And snaps to you too – I SAW THAT YOU WERE PICKING UP TRASH THROUGH THE POWER OF SOCIAL MEDIA.

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