When we travel, planning ahead in order to reduce single-use plastic footprint can be challenging.
Especially for athletes lugging around large windsurf or SUP boards and other gear. Nonetheless, being a conscious consumer is possible. Here are 5 tips to help you reduce your carbon footprint when you’re on-the-go.
Consider your alternatives to single-use plastic bottles when regular tap water is not potable:
Large drums of water and camping water filters. While the large drums of water usually come in a plastic container, these containers are used over-and-over again. In fact, when you buy the drum you pay a deposit on the container, which is given back to you when you return the drum. This is one of the best options for large events — for people to refill their own bottles.
Another option is the personal water filter device. My favourite is the MSR Guardian filter that is the only one on the market to filter out protozoa. It’s got a very efficient pump system that allows you to fill up your water bottle very quickly. You can also get iodine purification drops to filter your water further.
2) Re-useable items.
Bring your reusable water bottle, grocery bag, coffee mug, lunchbox & utensil kit.
Remembering to bring these items with you isn’t too difficult and a big difference when it comes to reducing waste.
While plastic bottles are recyclable in many places, they’re often not in developing countries, where they end up in landfill or end up flying away, and into our oceans. In addition to this, recycling plastic is extremely resource intensive, and unnecessary when we can simply intercept the problem with re-usable bottles — widely available and much better looking!
Plastic grocery bags usually go straight to landfill as they are too thin to be recycled. In fact, many people think they are recyclable and put them in the recycling system which damages the recycling machines. Check out this short video to see the process. Having your own re-usable bag is lightweight and can be stuffed into any backpack – ready to use.
Coffee cups: here again, there’s a wide misconception that since they’re made of paper they’re easy to recycle. Well check again! The inside of the cup is lined with a plastic film to avoid leakage, which makes coffee cups much harder to recycle.
Finally, there are two extra steps we can take to intercept single-use packaging: using a utensil kit and a lunchbox. The utensil kit is very lightweight. Mine includes chopsticks, a spoon, a knife and a fork — helpful to have when your friends don’t come prepared!
Lastly, the lunchbox. A plastic Tupperware works fine, but since I’m concerned with plastic leaching chemicals, I prefer a metal lunchbox. Metal lunchboxes cannot be placed in the microwave however, in which case glass is a good alternative.
3) Visit the local market.
Markets are the best place to find cheap, local fresh food that’s not wrapped in plastic.
The first thing I do when visiting a new place is to check out the market. I love to discover local fruit, veggies, nuts, fish etc. Not only is it the cheapest place to buy food, it’s also a place to shop for unpackaged food.
Last year I spent two months in Peru, which had amazing options at the market: from goldenberries to cheap quinoa, to delicious jungle fruit— the variety was astonishing. I carried mini cotton pouches with me for food like nuts, grains, dried fruit and produce to avoid plastic bags.
4) Wear eco-friendly sunscreen.
We all know it’s important to protect ourselves from the sun, especially when we’re on the water. What not everyone realizes is that there are two types of sunscreen that can protect our skin from UV rays: Chemical vs. Physical barriers. Studies show that chemical-based sunscreen contributes to killing reefs and marine life. In fact, as of 2018, Hawai’i has banned the use of chemical-based sunscreens due to severe reef dieback.
Chemical sunscreen is the regular form of sunscreen you find at the supermarket— it’s usually see-through and smells strong. Physical sunblock is more natural, and is made with Zinc or Titanium Oxide or both and serves as a physical sun barrier on your skin. Zinc and titanium Oxides are both naturally occurring minerals. There’s a reason that surfers wear zinc stick: it provides a physical barrier that protects the skin for a really long time without stinging your eyes!
5) Consider Organising a beach clean-up at the next big event you attend before or after the race!
Group motivation is a fun way to encourage environmental action!