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!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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 °.

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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!!

What’s in my bag?

veggie bag

WHAT’S IN MY BAG?!

1 kilo of pomegranates, 1 kilo of oranges, 1/2 kilo of dates, 1/2 kilo of carrots, 1/2 kilo of cucumbers, 1 kilo of onions, 1 head of lettuce.

ZERO PLASTIC!

What can *you* fit inside one reusable bag?

For tips on using your own reusable bags at the green grocers here in Dahab, read Bags, Bags, Everywhere! You can also find out where to purchase cotton bags in Dahab

Incredible, edible eggs!

eggs

You can REUSE plastic bags for buying eggs.

I love eggs – scrambled, fried, in a quiche – and I use many in baking – waffles, cookies, cakes, and muffins. Needless to say, I buy a lot of eggs! So you may be wondering what those eggs are doing in a plastic bag. Well, it is the same plastic bag I have been REUSING to buy my eggs in for the last few years.

We are lucky here in Dahab. Eggs arrive here in our supermarkets plastic-free! But then the supermarkets give us small plastic bags for carrying the eggs. This doesn’t protect the eggs as much as a cardboard container would. I’m sure we’ve all ended up with cracked or broken eggs in the process of getting them home from the supermarket. We need to take extra care to get our eggs home in one piece. This usually means carrying them by themselves or carefully placing the bag of eggs on top of the other items in your cotton bag. Since customers are expected to bag their own eggs, it is easy to REFUSE the plastic bags provided and use your own, whether that’s a cotton bag or a plastic bag that you are REUSING.

TIP: Bring a reusable container or cotton bag to carry eggs in. Don’t worry about the size of the bag. If all you have is a large cotton bag, use it. Just tie the bag in a knot so the eggs are snug and don’t roll around.

TIP: Reuse the same plastic bag each time you purchase eggs. When you get home, give the bags a rinse if necessary and put them right back in your cotton bag. That way you’ll always have a small plastic bag to REUSE for eggs whenever you are at the supermarket.

Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle

Bags, bags, everywhere!

Use cotton bags to buy produce, too.

Use cotton bags to buy produce, too.

How many of us remembered to carry our reusable bags this past week? It takes practice, doesn’t it? Maybe you still need to find or purchase some bags. Maybe you have bags to use but still need to find a way to remember to bring them with you to the store. Don’t give up! And give yourself a high five if you remembered, even once, to REFUSE a disposable plastic bag. 🙂

We are offered plastic bags at many other places besides the supermarkets, so we have to remember to bring reusable bags not only to the grocery store but also, for example, to the green grocer – where most of us do our shopping for fruits and vegetables. And this is where A LOT of plastic bags are used here in Dahab, especially when customers use a different plastic bag for each veggie.

Most of us select and bag the veggies ourselves so there is no battle involved with the grocer in having to REFUSE the plastic bags. We just have to bring our own and not reach automatically for the plastic bags hanging on the wall.

TIP: If you have plastic bags at home – or acquire new plastic bags – you can REUSE them. Shake or rinse them out and bring them back to the green grocer with you next time.

TIP: If you forget your reusable bags, try to use less plastic bags by using a single bag for as many vegetables as you can. It’s okay to put your tomatoes and cucumbers in the same bag. The eggplant won’t mind riding along with the oranges. If there’s still room in your bag, go ahead and put the next veggie on top. We always put the heavier fruits and veggies in our bag first so they are on the bottom and not squashing anything underneath.

People have asked me how I deal with weighing the fruits and veggies. To be honest, when we first started using our cotton bags, we would put the veggies in the bag before we weighed them and I did not mind the extra weight being added to the total. What’s an extra 50 grams when we’re paying only LE 3 for a kilo of tomatoes? Especially if you’re weighing on a non-digital scale that doesn’t give you an exact weight anyway. Nowadays, more of the green grocers do have digital scales so you can measure a more precise amount. So now, my hubby (who usually selects and weighs our veggies since he’s the one who cooks) carries the produce in his hands to the scale, weighs it, and then puts them in the cotton bag. (My job, if I’m with him, is to stand there with the bag!) If this is too difficult (which it definitely can be if you are buying large quantities or are by yourself), then you have two choices: weigh the veggies with the bag and don’t worry about paying for the added grams OR weigh your bag when it’s empty and then subtract this from the total weight of the bag and veggies. So if your bag weighs 50 grams and you want to purchase a half-kilo of cucumbers, fill the bag with cucumbers until the total weight is 550 grams. Then simply report to the grocer that you have a ½ kilo of cucumbers.

TIP: When reporting to the green grocer what you have bagged, be prepared to show him what is in your cotton bags, especially if you’ve managed to put more than one item in a bag. Since the cotton bags aren’t see-through like the plastic, sometimes the green grocer wants to check that what you are telling him is what is actually in the bag. Don’t be offended. Just open your bag so he can peek inside.

TIP: Take your cotton bags to a green grocer or deli that has digital scales. Ask to weigh your bag and then write – directly on the bag, in permanent marker – how much the bag weighs. That way you won’t forget and you won’t have to weigh it each time. This is especially useful if you have many reusable bags, all of different sizes and weights. And something I need to remember to do with my own variety of cotton bags!

We shop mostly in and around Is-souq it-tujari in Asala and have never encountered a grocer who had problems with us using our own cotton bags. Like with supermarkets, if you visit the same green grocer frequently enough, he’ll get to know you and your plastic-free habits.

Do you already use cotton or reusable bags for your fruits and veggies? If so, have you ever shopped somewhere that had a problem with it? What tips do you have for other Dahabians wanting to switch to cotton bags for produce? Where else do you use your cotton bags for shopping?

Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle