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.

#BringYourOwnBag

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.

Cutlery

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!

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.

Cheers!

[Read about other useful tools here.]

Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle

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!

razor

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.

LORD

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.  🙂

How Refusing Plastic on Tuesday Helps Save our Planet

I’m thrilled that we have Annemieke of Plastic Free Tuesday back for another guest blog! Today she shares the story of why she started her plastic-free Tuesday habit, how it helps the environment, and tips for for joining the Plastic Free Tuesday movement.


A few years ago I stumbled upon a TED video in which plastic-free pioneer Beth Terry tells about her plastic-free life. I was intrigued. During the years that followed I increasingly often read and heard about how plastic kills animals and ruins the planet. After seeing yet another photo series of bird stomachs filled with plastic, I decided to do something about it. Because I strongly believe that “we should be the change you want to see in the world,” my goal was to reduce my own plastic consumption and waste. Like Beth Terry, I decided to document my journey towards less plastic. So, in April 2013 I started writing on my Dutch weblog Plasticminimalism.

Tiny steps towards a smaller plastic footprint

Because at that time I had no idea how much plastic I consumed, I began (again inspired by Beth Terry) with weekly tallies of the plastic our two persons household threw away. I put any plastic waste in a separate garbage bag. Every week I took the big black garbage bag with plastic waste, turned it upside down and divided it into categories such as veggies, legumes, and nuts. I would then take pictures of each category, identify key problem areas, and decide which product or category to tackle in the week ahead.

During the week I would try find plastic-free alternatives for each and every product or product group. For example, my goals after the first tally included using reusable bags for all my veggies and fruits as well as buying bananas at the organic supermarket rather than at the mainstream grocery store. Over the course of ten months all these small steps contributed to a great reduction of our plastic footprint. I believe that key to my success was that I only took a little step at a time. Only when I felt that I had created a new habit, I would plan the next step.

Plastic-Free Tuesday = one day no plastic consumption, no plastic waste

Over the course of ten months all these small steps contributed to a great reduction of our plastic footprint. We barely bought or threw away any plastic. Nonetheless, news about plastic pollution kept appearing on television and in the newspapers. I started wondering how I could get more people aware of the problem of plastic pollution.

Suddenly, the concept of Plastic-Free Tuesday came to my mind. Inspired by the success of Meatless Monday, I thought this would be an easy way for people to test what it is like to skip plastic. I discussed the idea with some close friends and then launched the concept on my Dutch blog. Soon my close friend Marlies joined, and in the following months, Gerda and others got on board too.

On Plastic-Free Tuesday we skip plastic to reduce our plastic footprint. That means we don’t buy anything that is made of plastic or contains plastic. We also don’t use anything made of plastic that we have to throw away after using it. So no bananas wrapped in plastic, no plastic bags, no take-away coffee in plastic cups, and so on.

Tips for your first Plastic-Free Tuesday

Before you go for a Tuesday without buying or throwing away any plastic, I would highly recommend to first document the plastic you use throughout a Tuesday. Collect all the plastic you buy or throw away during the day and take pictures of it. If you have a camera on your telephone you could easily take pictures throughout the day, for example of that plastic wrapping around the sandwich you bought for lunch (and the plastic bag you got with it!). You will be surprised how much plastic waste you create. This will definitely be an eye-opener. It will also help you plan your first Plastic-Free Tuesday. Here are five tips to get you started.

Make sure to never leave the house without extra bag(s). I have a couple of shopping bags hanging next to the door. This works fine for me. I always carry a few wherever I go. Other people put an extra bag in their purse, backpack, or in the car.

Get some reusable bags for veggies and fruit. Countless small plastic bags are used for fresh produce. Put your items in your own bags. Stick the price tag on the bag. If you buy only one or two items, simply put the price tag straight on the products. No bags needed! My favorite are Re-Sacks, but you can also try find a local alternative or make your own.

Think beyond the regular grocery stores. Those are filled with plastic. Once you pay attention, you will be amazed by the amounts of plastic in your supermarket. For more plastic-free options, check out local markets and specialized stores such as tea shops and bakeries.

#BringYourOwn bottle, jar, or mug for water, coffee, and tea. For health and environmental reasons, choose one made of glass or stainless steel. A budget option is to reuse a glass bottle you got at the grocery store (for example those for fresh juice or pasta sauce). Living plastic-free doesn’t have to be expensive.

Be creative. Forgot your bag? No problem. Ask for or look for an empty cardboard box to put your products in. Or just simply carry the items in your hands. If you do shopping by car, put the items back in the shopping cart and unload it straight into your car.

Yes, you can make a difference!

While some argue that on a global scale, this won’t make any difference, I strongly disagree. First of all, this argument does not make sense if you reflect on the core of our plastic problem. Where does the plastic come from? How come birds are building nests made of plastic? How did the plastic get into the living environment of the bird in the first place?

Exactly. It’s because you and me are supporting the use of unnecessary plastic in our society by constantly accepting and buying it and then disposing of it. If you and me would not buy any plastic, there would not be any (or at least a lot less) plastic.

Secondly, you are not alone! Over the course of the past year or so, people around me noticed my plastic behavior and started to change their behavior too. Amongst the first to do so were my husband, family, and friends. And in turn, they too inspire others to change habits and are creating awareness about the plastic problem.

So please join us next Plastic-Free Tuesday! Living with less plastic isn’t as daunting as it may sound. Take small steps at a time. For example, start #BringYourOwnBag on your first Plastic-Free Tuesday. Once you’re used to doing that, get yourself a reusable water bottle. And so on.

Small steps matter. Together we can make a difference. Please share your plastic-free story on social media using #PlasticFreeTuesday. For more tips and inspiration, visit our website, like our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter or Instagram and join the conversation!

PFT Logo w Name semiwide

One Old Bed Sheet = Less Plastic Packaging

If you have an old sheet and a pair of scissors, you’ve got the tools you need to reduce the amount of plastic packaging you use in your kitchen and bathroom!

cut up old sheet (2)

This was an old bed sheet. It was a well-loved sheet, passed on to me by my first roommate in Cairo 15 years ago. She had inherited it from a friend who had left Egypt the year before. It was a lovely sheet – so soft and comfortable – and we enjoyed it as a bed sheet for years. Eventually it ripped, but I still refused to throw it out. I used it as a dust cover on the many storage boxes in my house (I have no cupboards to speak of). And then I read a suggestion in Beth Terry’s book How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too. She recommends cutting up old sheets to use as paper towels in the kitchen. This, of course, eliminates the need to purchase paper towels packaged in plastic. So I grabbed my scissors and cut this old sheet into squares – some large, some small. You may be amazed at the variety of uses you can get out of one old sheet. Here’s how we use them in our house:

    • As a replacement for facial tissue, I use the small squares as handkerchiefs.

    • As a replacement for cotton swabs, I use the sheet to clean out my ears.

    • As a replacement for paper kitchen towels, I use the larger squares to:

      • drain oil from fried food

      • dry homemade pasta on

      • dry washed salad greens

      • wipe up spills

    • As a replacement for plastic wrap, I dampen the cloth squares and use them to wrap dough in as it rests.

One old bet sheet has gone a long way in my house! And has seriously reduced the amount of plastic I use. I no longer buy kitchen towels (in plastic packaging) or plastic wrap.

There are many other creative and practical ways to reuse and repurpose old sheets – from making yarn to dresses to rugs. This list of 20 Ways to Reuse Old Bed Sheets is a good place to start if you’re looking for ideas.

Have you repurposed old bed sheets? Do you have any tips to share? What other uses are there around the house for cut-up old bed sheets?

Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle

* This post was originally published here on Plastic Free Tuesday. *

Popcorn: A Perfect (almost) Plastic-free Snack

We all have our own preferences when it comes to the snacks we love. Popcorn is one of my favorites, satisfying my craving for salty crunchiness. It’s also a great alternative to all the snacks available on the market. You know, all those snacks packaged in plastic – potato chips, nuts, energy bars, cookies, and cakes. Besides the issue of the plastic packaging, the nutritional value of these “foods” is also questionable. I’m not a big fan of snacks on most days, so it is easy for me to REFUSE these packaged snacks. When I do feel the need for a snack, one of the foods I reach for is popcorn.

If you bring your own bag, you can purchase popcorn completely plastic-free from the bulk bags at 1,000 Items (Alf Sunf) in Assalah Square. This past weekend, I paid LE 10 for a kilo of popcorn. Make sure you buy from the bag that says “POPCORN” because corn feed for chickens is also available.

popcorn in bulk

Bring your own bag or reuse a plastic one you already have.

To pop the popcorn on my stove, I cover the bottom of a pan with about a tablespoon of cold vegetable oil or ghee (clarified butter). I then pour the kernels in, just enough to make one layer.

The oil, unfortunately, comes in a plastic bottle so when I purchase oil I always buy the largest bottle possible. (Crystal Sunflower Oil, 3 Liters) This at least reduces the amount of plastic that will need to be recycled. 

oil

Plastic-Saving Tip: Buy the largest bottle available.

The ghee comes in a glass jar that can be reused or recycled, but it does have a small amount of plastic on the lid. I prefer the ghee not only because it’s less plastic, but it’s tastier too!

ghee

Less plastic and better tasting – ghee

I cover the pan and put in on medium heat. As the oil heats, I shake the pan gently every once in awhile to make sure all kernels are covered evenly in oil. I continue to do this as the kernels pop. Once the popping has stopped, I remove the pan from the stove and pour the popcorn into a large bowl, sprinkle some salt on top, and start munching. I don’t measure anything so if you need more precise instructions, read these.

popped

What is your favorite snack food? Does it come packaged in plastic? Do you make it yourself? Do you have any recipes to share?

Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle