I recently read that, on average, travelers go through about 30 plastic water bottles on a two-week vacation. Based on personal experience, I'd have to (shamefully) admit that figure seems about right. At home, I usually have a reusable water bottle proverbially chained to my hip, but when on surf trips to areas without clean water (i.e. Mexico, Nicaragua and certain places in the Caribbean), I find myself buying plastic water bottles to avoid any and all gastrointestinal bugs. Now consider all the other unnecessary plastic that gets used by traveling surfers and adventurers: toothbrushes, to-go utensils, takeaway containers and single-use plastic bags from grocery stores.
Cutting down on single-use plastics is an important goal we should all share–you’ve undoubtedly heard all those facts about how shards of plastic end up in the fish we consume and how it ultimately takes about 1000 years for plastic to completely break down. But minimizing plastic usage in developing countries while traveling can arguably be even more imperative. Often times the developing countries we flock to in search of empty, idyllic waves don’t have the sophisticated waste-management systems needed to handle visitors’ excess plastic consumption–many of it sitting on the side of the road, or worse, the shorelines, instead of trash bins.
It really doesn't take enormous effort to cut down on single-use plastic while traveling, just a little preplanning. I recently went on a surf trip to the Dominican Republic and got the chance to use The Anti-Plastic Bundle–a neat little travel kit offered by the Changing Tides Foundation. CTF is a non-profit organization whose goal is to encourage travelers to reduce the amount of waste left behind in the places we explore (they also have on-the-ground environmental and humanitarian initiatives to help the communities they visit while traveling).
The pack itself costs $60 and consists of a reusable bag (good for carrying groceries), a bamboo utensil set, a glass straw, Kala cloths (rad, reusable beeswax cloths that you can use to store food instead of saran wrap or plastic bags), and a reusable stainless steel cup (which, for me, came in handy for to-go, pre-dawn coffee missions and visits to the ice cream parlor).
Sure, the pack isn’t going to solve the fact that our oceans are littered with an obscene amount of plastic, but it’s a good first step in making sure you’re not contributing to the problem. You can buy each of these items separately, but I enjoyed getting the bundle. Through the CTF website, you can also buy a bamboo toothbrush, reusable water bottles, organic sunscreen made with biodegradable packaging, and, my favorite item on their site, a $25 mini water filtration system that weighs 2 ounces and can filter up to 100,000 gallons (which lets you get back to using that reusable water bottle while traveling to places without clean water). If you’re looking to travel on a smaller plastic footprint, I’d highly recommend starting here.