Simple Plastic Free Travel Advice by Plant-Based Kate

Hi all, my name is Kate and I'm a traveller, yoga lover and vlogger at Plant-Based Kate! I post my adventures on my YouTube Channel from my current home base in beautiful India. Prior to residing in India, I travelled across Southeast Asia and became increasingly aware of the environmental damage that single-use plastic has on the local community and the planet.

We are all able to see visibly the destruction our plastic waste has on a society, though it really becomes evident, once we travel outside of our own city. Although a lack of education around such issues is a contributing factor, as well as the larger companies who mass produce everything in plastic, tourism also plays a role in the amount of plastic that we carelessly leave behind when we travel.

Sustainable tourism is something I am so passionate about, so if you wish to learn more, please check out my easy-to-follow advice below.

Southeast Asia has a growing problem with single-use plastic

One of the main things that really got to me on my travels across Southeast Asia was the amount of single-use plastic being used daily; tossed away by both locals and tourists! I really struggled with the immense amount of one-time waste that was scattered across the beach areas and coastal towns. Plastic was washing up on the sand, beside the footpath and could be seen floating on the ocean surface. In certain locations, it just felt like it was everywhere!

Together, we need to be the change and reduce the amount of single-use plastic we consume, both when we are at home, and when we are travelling. This post is more about the latter and what you can do as an individual to travel plastic-free! Just knowing that you are doing what you can to create less of a negative impact on the environment is very rewarding and will spread a positive movement across the industry. One person really can make a difference and lead by example.

It’s not about being perfect, sometimes it’s impossible to avoid plastic (which makes me super sad) so it’s about doing what you can when you can. It is easy to make small changes and sacrifices that will be sustainable in the long term. To be a more mindful traveller, here are a few things that I do and the items that I use when I am on the road to care for the earth.

Reusable Cutlery & Straw

Most places you go will offer you endless plastic cutlery or chopsticks that are wrapped in plastic so having some reusable cutlery in your bag is key! I got my set from To-go Ware (straw not included) and it’s one of the best things I have ever bought. Also, most cafes or restaurants will ALWAYS give you a plastic straw, so be sure to ask for no straw when you are ordering drinks. Fresh coconut water served in a plastic bag with a plastic straw? No thank you.

Mason Jar & Container

Reusable containers and glass mason jars are super handy for when you need to take snacks on the go, making overnight oats for breakfast or for when you are out exploring during the day. You need one of these when travelling. If you are getting takeout or eating street food (which often comes in plastic bags, not containers), you will always have a container to give them to fill up instead of having to use plastic ones.

Whilst it is becoming more popular for cafes or restaurants to use Eco-friendly takeaway products, much of the local street food and snacks will still come in plastic bags, so containers are a great solution. They also help to keep your food fresh and safe for the journey.

Bonus tip: Take your container out with you for dinner before a travel day and order something to take away for lunch. Then, you know that you are going to have a delicious lunch the next day and won’t have to spontaneously buy food wrapped in plastic. If you drink lots of coffee, then I would definitely recommend taking a Keep Cup or ask for your takeaway without a plastic lid as these can't often be recycled.

Reusable Water Bottle

If you only take one thing with you that is going to help you reduce your single-use plastic usage whilst exploring the world, it should be a Reusable Drink Bottle. It can be a bit disheartening having to buy so many individual plastic bottles. As travellers, we often use bottled water for brushing our teeth in Southeast Asia. If you want to reduce your single-use plastics you can buy a large gallon of water from the 7/11, local market or similar and bring it with you to your accommodation.

The large bottles are refillable and it’s 10 x cheaper to fill up a bottle then it is to buy a brand new one. Check if your hotel or hostel staff is able to help you out or ask if they have a refillable water station in the lobby area. Avoiding plastic cups and bottled water at our home base when we travel sends a positive message that tourism is advocating for such sustainable changes as refillable water.