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!!

The Pearl of Dahab Roastery – for Plastic-Free Nuts, Spices, and More!

The Pearl of Dahab Roastery, located directly next to Ralph’s German Bakery in Asalah Square, is THE place to purchase plastic-free nuts and spices – as long as you remember to BYOB, or Bring Your Own Bag!

pearl of dahab

Actually, it doesn’t have to be a bag. It can be any reusable container you have on hand. We bring our own reusable plastic containers or repurposed empty tea tins.

Old tea tins being reused to purchase and store spices.

Old tea tins being reused to purchase and store spices.

This shop offers a range of dried goods in bulk:

  • NUTS – Almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts and a variety of peanuts including my favorites: peanuts covered in chocolate or honey and sesame.
  • SEEDS – Sesame and all the types of “lib” you could want, which you can also purchase in the recycled paper cones typically used to package snack seeds in Egypt.
  • SPICES – The dried and powered ginger and cinnamon are my favorites, but you can also get cumin, coriander, cardamon, nutmeg, sage, bay leaf, and more.
  • CANDY – I’ve actually never purchased candy, but the shop does carry jelly beans and other chewy candies.
Walnuts purchased in our own container.

Walnuts purchased in our own container.

Like all of the shops we use for our plastic-free shopping, it takes the shopkeepers a bit of time to get used to our request to use our own bags or containers. Unlike the street food shops where business is brisk, at the roastery you’ll have plenty of time to make your request and wait for your order. There’s no pushing or yelling here!

How To Make Your Own Sourdough – all plastic-free!

We’ve got another guest blog for you today from Annemieke of Plastic-Free Tuesday, which she launched in 2014 “to create more awareness about the adverse impacts of our plastic consumption.” Today she shares instructions for making sourdough. 


I love sourdough bread. It’s delicious. No other bread can beat the deep, distinct taste of sourdough bread. It’s Slow Food. Rather than being produced in a rush, as happens with most bread you find in bakeries and supermarkets nowadays, authentic sourdough bread takes days to make. And even after baking, the taste will continue to mature.

Besides the unique taste, sourdough bread is also beneficial for your health. Did you know that our bodies contain more bacteria than human cells? In fact, there are ten times more bacteria than human cells in our body! 100 trillion bacteria live in our intestines. In order to stay healthy, we must help the benign bacteria to thrive. Fermented foods such as sourdough bread feed these benign bacteria. Eating some fermented foods daily helps keep you healthy.

Real sourdough bread and #BYOB

You can of course try to buy sourdough bread at your local bakery or supermarket. I say “try”, because –at least in my home country, the Netherlands– it is not uncommon that bread sold as “sourdough” is made with regular yeast and only has some “sourdough powder” added to it. So if you do buy, please always inquire whether the bread contains yeast. If it does, it is not authentic sourdough bread.

If you happen to find real sourdough bread at your local bakery or supermarket, make sure to refuse the plastic or paper bag. Instead, just #BYOB. #BringYourOwnBag. While this feels awkward the first time you ask the shop assistant to put your bread in your own bag, very soon it will feel perfectly normal. I have never received negative comments on my reusable bags. People always say things like “so environmentally friendly,” “such nice material,” and “where can I buy these bags?”. #BYOB is a great conversation starter.

Making your own sourdough takes only 5 minutes!

If you can’t find real sourdough bread or simply enjoy making your own food, you can easily make it yourself. What you need is a high quality starter. Of course you could purchase this online or elsewhere, but in order to avoid any waste, best is to make the starter by yourself. All you need is water, flour (I use rye or buckwheat, but you could also use whole wheat flour), kitchen scale, boiled water, thermometer, and a jar.

For plastic-free flour in Dahab, you can buy your flour from the bulk bags, for example at 1,000 Items, using your own reusable bag or container. The shop carries all purpose and semolina flour. You can also purchase whole wheat flour in paper sacks from Chef’s.

Before you start, make sure to wash, rinse, and dry the jar thoroughly. Put the jar on a kitchen scale. Turn the scale on. Pour 100 gram flour in the jar. Be careful, you must be precise. Boil a little bit of water. Leave the water in a large bowl if it is chlorinated to allow the chlorine to evaporate. Blend the hot water with cold water until the temperature drops till 23-26 degrees Celsius (73.4-78.8 F). Add 100 gram of the water to the flour. Stir with a spoon until smooth. Put the lid on the jar, but don’t close it because air should be able to flow out if needed. Leave the jar outside the fridge. It takes about a week for the starter to be ready for baking. Make sure to stir the paste at least once a day with a clean spoon. I use a wooden one.

Sourdough 1

Feed it like a pet

After two or three days you will find bubbles in the jar and it will start to smell sour (yet fresh). In order to keep your sourdough alive, you must now feed it regularly. The first time you feed it, best is to add 300-400 grams of both water (23-26 degrees Celsius) and flour. After this, you should feed your sourdough every two days. Add water (23-26 degrees Celsius) and flour in a 1:1 ratio (i.e. as much water as flour) and stir. Once your sourdough is bubbling vigorously, it is ready to be used in bread and other delicacies. In my next blogs I will share how to use it to make pancakes and bread using your own home-made starter. Much more on fermented foods can be found in Sandor Katz’s “The Art of Fermentation.”

Sourdough 2

Tips on Reducing Plastic at the Supermarket

shopping bag

Lately, I’ve been blogging mostly about how to REDUCE plastic when shopping for food at supermarkets and green grocers. Here’s a quick summary of tips:

And if all else fails,

    • BUY THE LARGEST PACKAGE AVAILABLE. Skip the individual size packages. Instead buy the largest box or bottle possible. This cuts down on the amount of plastic needed for each product.

I will continue to share tips and practical advice on shopping for food with less plastic. I will also start to discuss how we can reduce the plastic involved with household cleaning and self-care products so visit again soon!

Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle