This month, we have been taking part in Plastic Free July. Responsible travel is quite a challenge, and one of our goals is not adding to the waste problem some countries – or indeed, the Earth – have. Of course, we would also love to be able to enjoy gorgeous, protected beaches in marine parks without encountering more rubbish than we can carry.
While we can’t always control the waste that’s been generated in the production or transport of the items we use or consume, we will do our very best to refuse single-use plastics wherever possible. Having become more aware of the problems with plastic in the last year, we have been making gradual changes to our life style. While at home, shopping for items that were either in easily recyclable packaging (such as glass, cardboard or tins) or had no packaging at all had become second nature, travel has posed some extra challenges…
The most important thing is being prepared: we don’t leave the house without a water bottle, an extra bag and a re-usable coffee cup or travel mug. This has meant that we are carrying a lot of extra weight, but our travel cups, stainless steel lunch boxes (not to mention the water bottles) and our bamboo sporks have already been essential for plastic free meals on the go. No-one has refused to serve food or drink in our own containers even if servers outside of Northern Europe have been puzzled at times.
Our cosmetics bag, on the other hand, has gotten smaller: we now travel with solid shampoo and conditioner, home-made deodorant, bamboo toothbrushes, an old-fashioned safety razor (made for him, used by her), coconut oil for moisturizing, as well as a bar of soap and a moon cup (Niina’s, obviously). Our toothpaste still comes in a plastic tube.
Perhaps the biggest concern we had was how to avoid buying bottled water when travelling, especially where the tap water isn’t safe to drink. Turns out we needn’t have worried – as expected, clean, delicious water is available everywhere in Sweden (where we spent the first week of July) and tap water in Panama and Costa Rica is generally potable. The exception was Bocas Del Toro province in Panama: the area suffers from a fresh water shortage, so rain water is collected and made available either for free or for a small charge.
In preparation for plastic free travel, we stocked up on snacks in bulk stores in Finland before boarding a ferry to Stockholm…
…but it was unnecessary, as plastic free options were abundant in the very first Swedish market we entered. We enjoyed oat milk lattes and vegan raw balls.
From Sweden to Panama to Costa Rica, we have managed to feed ourselves without the use of plastic most of the time. It hasn’t always been possible to meet our ambitious aim of eating 100% local and plant-based food, however.
We do have some failures on the plastic front. Sometimes through not having refused the plastic before the damage was done, sometimes through choice, we have generated more rubbish than we would have at home. In addition, we flew long distance, which is such an environmental failure in itself, that sipping wine from our travel mugs rather than the plastic cups on offer did seem a bit silly. Still, each refused cup is one less in the landfill.
An unexpected detail to consider has been having our laundry done. We learned from first time, though, and have since requested that our laundry be returned to us in our own bag, and our example even inspired the lovely girl at dance camp launderette to initiate Plastic Free July there in the future.
While trying to avoid unnecessary packaging is difficult in Central America, and more often than not people don’t even understand why, there are signs of attitudes shifting…
…and we will continue trying to source local, fresh produce in nature’s own packaging when possible. The below haul of ginger, lime, tomato, onion, scotch bonnet, potatoes, starfruit, pineapple, coconut, mango, bananas, coconut oil and beans were from a street corner stall, the local shop, as well as a guy driving around selling his produce.
Our plastic free July will not end here, but we will try to follow this suggestion for the rest of our travels:
No deje nada mas que sus huellas – Leave nothing but footprints