7 Essentials for Travelling with Less Plastic

Annemieke from Plastic-Free Tuesday is back as a guest blogger today! As most of us in Dahab travel at some point during the year, we appreciate her tips for travelling with less plastic. Read on.

Summer means travelling! While visiting and exploring new places is fun, it often comes with a lot of plastic. Plane trips are especially notorious for producing plastic waste. But you don’t have to give up travelling to live with less plastic. Here are 7 essential tools to help you keep your plastic footprint small while travelling.


I always stuff at least one reusable shopping bag in my daypack. I love to buy fresh fruit and sample local delicacies that I find in bakeries, groceries, and markets. Bringing my own bag is a small effort, yet saves many plastic bags. It also signals to local people that I care about their surroundings and that I try to not add to their waste piles.

#BYOB helps you REFUSE plastic bags!

#BYOB helps you REFUSE plastic bags!

Stainless steel water bottle

When I first saw the Klean Kanteen Reflect bottle, it was love at first sight. I had other reusable bottles before, but they would always deteriorate in one way or another. The Reflect bottle is not just beautiful, it is also very sturdy, which makes it perfect for travelling. We’ve been together for about three years and it doesn’t leak or anything. If I travel by plane, I make sure to empty it before security and then fill it up again before boarding.

A refillable water bottle is a must!

             A refillable water bottle is a must!

Food container

Because it’s generally hard to find healthy, plastic-free food at train stations and airports, I usually bring my own meals. I have never had any problems taking my food through security checks at airports, but I am always prepared to show the security guys my food and I always make sure it has no noticeable liquids in it. Good, home-made food can really be a lifesaver on long-haul flights where only plastic-packaged, not so tasty food is served.


Previously I always brought a spork when travelling. A spoon is a hybrid of a spoon, fork, and knife. But after three broken spoons I gave up on it. I didn’t like the plastic anyway. Some brands sell titanium spoons. These are a bit expensive, so I now simply carry a regular spoon, knife, and fork from home. We have second-hand cutlery, so no big deal if I would somehow lose it.

Snack or sandwich bag

A while ago I purchased a lovely snack-bag at Etsy. I use it for bringing along hard-boiled eggs, nuts, cherry tomatoes and other to-go veggies, and sandwiches. When buying a sandwich bag, make sure to avoid material such as nylon and Velcro, because that is plastic too! Of course you can also make your own, just type something like “how to make your own reusable sandwich bag” in Google to find instructions.

Easy to carry in a purse or backpack!

          Easy to carry in a purse or backpack!

Produce bags

Because some food items don’t easily fit in my snackbag, I also carry around a couple of produce bags. Of course you can also use a food container, but these bags weight much less and easily fit in a daypack. Also, sometimes shops (pretend to) don’t know how to tare the scale. In such cases, it’s better to have a lightweight bag than a stainless steel container. I use the produce bags for all kinds of things, for example when buying snacks such as peanuts and strawberries.

Lightweight bags are great for buying your snacks in!

        Lightweight bags are great for buying your                                         snacks in!

Reusable shoe bags

One of my new year resolutions for 2015 was getting reusable travel bags for shoes. I often found myself using plastic bags, but in the beginning of this year I bought a reusable bag. Soon I realized that I could also simply put my shoes in a reusable cotton shopping bag. Before I pack my shoes, I make sure that they are more or less dry. I haven’t been in a situation in which my shoes were wet, but I could imagine that I would then simply wear the wet pair and pack the dry pair, assuming that not all of my shoes are wet.

Hope these tips help to keep your plastic footprint small while travelling. I would love to hear your plastic-free solutions during vacation time. Please leave a comment below and join the conversation. Happy Plastic-Free Tuesday!

Dahab Defender: Dive Urge

Dahab Defenders 3It’s been awhile since we’ve nominated a Dahab Defender, but that doesn’t mean that people aren’t out there doing some amazing things. Just that we here at Don’t Mess with Dahab have been a little busy with other projects. Now that summer is here, we hope to have more time to devote to this project. So let’s kick off this summer with our newest Dahab Defender: Dive Urge ~ Dive Resort, Hotel, and Restaurant!

Last week, I had the chance to chat with the owners, English/Egyptian couple Lynne and Helal. We were joined by two of their three children. This is truly a family-run enterprise and each of them is a Dahab Defender in their own right. Together they have created a truly eco-friendly dive center. As Lynne and her son, Samah, gave me a tour of the compound, I was in awe of all the simple yet effective practices that they have put into place to care for the environment.

As Lynne explained, their logo, a hand cradling several starfish, sums up the philosophy that they have built their business on – caring for the sea and surrounding environment. When Dive Urge opened over 15 years ago, Lynne and Helal knew that they wanted to do things differently than other dive centers. The first decision they made was limiting the ratio of divers to guides to 4:1. (Most dive centers do 8:1.) This helps ensure that a guide is able to care for each guest and helps lessen the impact on the marine environment. But they didn’t stop there.

Waste Reduction and Management

Dive Urge sorts their trash – plastic, glass, and metal – for recycling. They provide bins both inside their compound and also along the boardwalk so that people walking by can also use them.


To cut down on the waste that needs recycling, there is a water dispenser in the central room that all guests pass through. Guests are provided with bottled water but are also strongly encouraged to refill these bottles from the dispenser.


Besides water bottles, guests are also provided reusable cotton bags for their personal use during their stay. They are encouraged to use these instead of accepting the plastic bags from the shops.


It’s not just the guests who use cotton bags! The staff at Food Urge, the restaurant, also bring reusable cotton bags with them with they go shopping for veggies. The restaurant also sorts their trash and any appropriate food waste is given to the family goats. Goats eat everything!😉

Dive Urge also organizes desert safaris and mountain dinners. To reduce the waste produced on these excursions, they have ditched the disposable plastic cups and have switched to providing reusable cups and utensils. Not only is that a lot less trash, the reusable cups don’t get blown away in the wind. That’s important in our very breezy town!

Energy and Water Consumption

Tips for guests on how to be responsible travelers can be found in each room. Guests are encouraged to reduce their energy consumption by turning off the lights and air conditioning when no one is in the room. Management also reserves the right to switch off the A.C. if left on while guests are away. Guests are also encouraged to take short showers, unplug electrical devices that aren’t in use, and to set their air-conditioning to 24 – 27 °.


To further conserve resources, Dive Urge does not clean and launder the rooms every day. Guests must ask for cleaning services. This saves a lot of energy and water!

The rinse pool at the dive center has recently been made shallower, allowing them to use less water for each rinse. After the equipment has been rinsed, the water is used for the grass in the garden.

On top of all of this, Dive Urge also cleans the sea every time that they dive. The guides will always collect any trash that they can (without it interfering in their guests’ safety). Lynne and her family also clean litter from the beach and the streets on a nearly daily basis. What super role models for new divers and local residents!

Because of their dedication to the environment and the needs of local people, you can now find Dive Urge on ResponsibleTravel.com, an excellent website focused on small holiday companies that give something back to their communities.

It is obvious that Dive Urge does an outstanding job protecting our local environment and teaching others to do the same. Please, if you pass by the dive center, stop in and tell them what a great job they are doing! Share their story with other owners or managers you may know. It might just be the inspiration and ideas that others are looking for.

A very big THANK YOU to Lynne and Helal for all their hard work and dedication!!

Tools to Help You Refuse

One of my favorite tools that helps me to refuse disposable plastic is a simple stainless steel cup. They are light, inexpensive, durable, and best of all – available locally. My husband found the ones pictured below in a shop for household goods in Assalah Square. The cups (which, yes, unfortunately come packaged in plastic) cost LE 5 each. But that little bit of plastic is a lot less waste than all the disposable plastic cups you would use instead.

stainless steel cups

I throw one in my purse or backpack when I go out and then I never have to worry about being served a drink in a plastic cup. They are great for both cold and hot drinks. I bring them on camping trips, desert safaris, and mountain dinners. I bring them to restaurants and cafeterias. I bring them along on picnics and even to parties. No matter where I bring them, someone always comments and asks where the cups can be purchased. We bought ours at Alf Sunf (1,000 Items) several years ago, and although I can’t tell you for certain which shop my husband bought these new ones from, they are definitely available in Dahab. Take a look at your favorite household goods shop and ask. It shouldn’t take too long to find them.

If you’re looking for an easy way to reduce your individual plastic footprint, invest in a reusable stainless steel cup.

If you organize mountain dinners or desert safaris, invest in enough cups for all of your guests and stop serving drinks in plastic cups.


[Read about other useful tools here.]

Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle

Five Tips for Introducing Plastic-Free Tuesday to Others

Once again, we are pleased to have Annemieke from Plastic-Free Tuesday blogging for us today. Today she shares tips on how to talk to friends, family, and strangers about the practice of skipping plastic one day a week. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the amount of plastic we use and aren’t sure how to start eliminating it from your life, starting with one plastic-free day a week is a great idea! So if you’ve already begun this practice, read on to learn how to convince others to join you. If you’re still new to Plastic-Free Tuesday, be sure to read the 7 Tips to Get Started with Plastic-Free Tuesdays.

On Plastic-Free Tuesday, hundreds of people around the globe refuse to buy plastic and do not throw any plastic away. This means, for example, that you #BringYourOwnCup for to-go coffee on the way to work, buy unpackaged veggies at the local farmers market, have your own reusable water bottle, and of course #BringYourOwnBag when you go grocery shopping.

Since the launch of Plastic-Free Tuesday in spring 2014, thousands of people have shown their support. It would be fantastic if even more people would join the movement and cut down on plastic consumption and plastic waste. To help you spread the word, here are five tips to introduce Plastic-Free Tuesday to others. Will you help us convince people to try a day without plastic?

  • Lead by Example

Don’t preach, but lead by example. Simply don’t buy any plastic on Tuesday and don’t throw any plastic away. Instead, bring your own shopping bag when you go shopping, get a reusable cup for coffee at work, and only buy those veggies and fruits that are not wrapped in plastic. So choose, for example, plastic-free pineapple instead of plastic papaya. Be flexible. If you can’t find what you’re looking for plastic-free, try another shop or check out the local market. If you need more tips for plastic-free living, check out this guide by Don’t Mess With Dahab.

Plastic-free pineapple vs plastic papaya… easy

  • Ask for a plastic-free alternative referring to Plastic-Free Tuesday

I love this strategy. I use it frequently on Tuesdays.

A few weeks ago, for example, I was looking to buy some nails to put together my pallet compost bin. In the store, I asked for packaging free nails. The sales person showed me a plastic box that was way too big and had way too many nails. I told him I couldn’t buy it, because it was Plastic-Free Tuesday. Surprised, he apologized: “I didn’t know there is such a day. You’re the first one to mention it.” We talked a bit about plastic and then, he suddenly remembered that the shop does sell screws in bulk. I bought a handful.

Mentioning Plastic-Free Tuesday as if it is the most normal thing in the world is a great conversation starter.

  • Share your plastic-free activities on social media

Be a Force for Good. Share pictures of your reusable cup, favorite tote bag, strawless cocktail, jars, and lunch bags on your social media. Pictures are an easy way to draw attention to the problems of plastic consumption. Focusing on the solutions rather than problems is especially powerful.

Sometimes I question the effect of my plastic-free campaigning, wondering why I spend so much time on an issue no one seems to care about. But frequently, people tell me that what I share online has made them pay more attention to their plastic consumption.

In fact, people have told me that they have started to bring a reusable bag when grocery shopping and that they got themselves a lunchbox and reusable water bottle. Most of these people I meet very infrequently in real live. The influence has really been through social media.

So keep sharing your plastic-free solutions on social media! Make sure to use #PlasticFreeTuesday.

  • Hang Plastic-Free Tuesday posters at work, school, libraries, and shops

To get people to reflect on the vast amounts of plastic consumption and waste in our society, we have created posters that challenge the audience to try live a day without plastic. To reach as many people as possible, the posters are available in ten different languages, including Arabic!

You can download the posters by surfing to our website and clicking on “download posters.” If you put up a poster, please take a picture and share it with us. Leave a comment on the website or share your poster experience on social media, using #PlasticFreeTuesday.

Picture 2


  • Buy plastic-free gifts

Often people comment positively on my plastic-free tools. I frequently hear things like “nice bottle!” and “those reusable bags look such much nice then plastic, where did you get them?”. Following a similar comment, I bought a family member a reusable snack bag. The person, in turn, showed it to others who then also started to reconsider their own habit of using plastic-bags for snacks.

Help us spread the word!

Only with your help can the plastic-free movement grow bigger. Please support us by introducing Plastic-Free Tuesday to others. Remember to be kind and avoid preaching. I would love to hear if and how you discuss your plastic-free habits with others. Any tips on how to go about bringing up this topic in conversations with family, friends, and shops are very welcome. Wish you a happy #PlasticFreeTuesday!

Help Keep Our Playgrounds Litter-Free!

Lately, we’ve been spending time at one of the playgrounds in the city. Most of the public playgrounds leave a lot to be desired, but this one is relatively nice and provides plenty of shade. Sadly, I rarely see children playing there (unless they’re with me) but the playground gets a lot of foot traffic as it’s on the edge of the city across the street from the resorts. Many local workers and residents walk from the hotels up to the city, taking a path that goes through the playground. That would be one explanation for the abundance of litter. Another would be the lack of adequate rubbish bins.

Today, I finally remembered a bag and cleaned up most of the aluminium cans. These can be recycled. In fact, they can be sold for LE 2.5 per kilo. I don’t have a good scale to weigh them, but I probably collected around 2 kilos today. I will give my bag of cans to a young Bedouin friend who will be happy to take the bag to sell the cans and buy some snacks with the profits. (On my next visit, I will collect the recyclable plastic bottles.)

Playground Cans

::Please help keep our playgrounds clean::

+ If you finish a drink and there is no rubbish bin around, hold on to the can until you find one or until you get home. Don’t throw the can or bottle on the ground.

+ Sort your trash at home and keep a bag for cans. Pick up cans you see on the street and bring them home. Call Hemaya to collect your trash and recyclables from your house. Read about the benefits of recycling aluminium here.


+ Skip the sodas altogether! Buy a refillable bottle or jug and make your own drinks. They’ll be better for your health and cost less money. Read some suggestions here.

The playful children (and adults!) of Dahab thank you!

Straw-less at Sababa

Now that summer temperatures have arrived, we’ve been happily spending more time in the sea. When it’s a calm day, you’ll find us at lagoona, our favorite swimming spot. But when Dahab’s wind is blowing, we head to the bay, where we always find a comfy spot at Sababa.

Sababa_No Straw

As I’ve mentioned before on the blog, a fresh lemon juice is my refreshment of choice when I’m ordering from a cafeteria on the shore. Juice is always served with a plastic straw here in Dahab (sometimes two). I do not mind at all drinking my juice from the glass and, since I’ve started my less-plastic journey, I always ask waiters to not give me a straw. But even when asked in Arabic so there would be no misunderstanding, my juice often came served with a straw. Last year, I purchased some stainless steel straws. Not because I won’t drink without a straw but because I thought these reusable ones would make good props for when I am requesting my straw-less drinks. Having these reusable straws definitely helped and less plastic straws were wasted, but it was still no guarantee that the waiter would remember by the time he made it to the kitchen.

When it comes to getting my no-straw request filled, being a regular customer is the main thing that helps. So does walking yourself back to the kitchen with the stainless steel straws and giving them directly to a member of staff.  ;-) That’s what Nadim did at Sababa after he realized he had forgotten the “no straw” request with our order of lemon juices. It only took a couple more “no straw” requests and now, when we order our juice, Mohamed checks with us that we have our reusable straws! He remembers before we can even ask.🙂 Mohamed has even washed and returned my straw to me when I forgot to remove it from the empty glass. (Shokran, Mohamed!)

My advice to skip the plastic straw is easier said than done. But most of us have our favorite places that we return to often. So start there. Don’t get discouraged if your request is not fulfilled on the first, or second, or even third time. Make friends with one of the waiters and continue to politely make your request.

If you are an owner or manager of a restaurant, please consider not putting a straw into every drink. Wait until a customer specifically requests one and then bring them a straw. Or bring them a glass with their soda instead of a straw. Many customers will not miss sipping through this plastic!

Do you know of any cafeterias here in Dahab that don’t provide straws? Have you attempted a “no straw” request at a local restaurant? We’d love to hear about your experiences!

Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle

Shaving with Less Plastic

Here’s an easy way to shrink your plastic footprint: give up disposable and cartridge razors! Or give up shaving altogether, if that’s an option for you. But it’s not an option for most men today. Even those men with beards need to shave their necks and faces sometimes. So if you’re still using plastic disposable razors, stop. That’s a lot of unnecessary plastic waste. Even the razors with replaceable blade cartridges, like the ones made by Gillette, involve bits of plastic, which adds up to quite a bit of waste over time. And those cartridges are not cheap!


Make the switch to safety razors. The one shown above was purchased many years ago in a shop in Dahab. The razors and blades are inexpensive and easy to find. It is easy to unscrew the handle and replace the blades when necessary.


Despite the initial bit of plastic packaging, the razor should last you a lifetime so this plastic waste is less than it would be if you were disposing of razors or cartridges on a regular basis.

LORD is a famous brand of razors and blades manufactured here in Egypt. The brand is known worldwide for its quality; razors and blades can be purchased through various online retailers across the globe. According on one Australian website:

The origins of Lord safety razor blades date back to 1930 when the first blades mechanized factory in the Middle East region was established in Egypt. In 1978 a joint-venture was formed with the former Wilkinson Sword UK boosting the improvement and the modernization of the blade manufacturing system and quality controls.

Today Lord is considered as one of the six major market players in the blade industry and continues to produce top class double edge blades under its own Lord brand name as well as under other registered brand names.

You can find these LORD razors at Dr. Ekramy Pharmacy, next to Dr. Amira’s vet office in Assala Square. They cost only LE 7! (Make sure you buy the metal razors. LORD also make ones with plastic handles.) A set of 10 replacement blades costs LE 2. 5. That’s less than ten pounds (€ 1.25) for a razor and blades that will last you years (depending on how often you shave)! Even if you’re not too fussed about the environmental impacts, you are sure to like that price.  :-)