We are all more aware now of the impact of single use plastics and the desire to produce less plastic waste. We can’t carry on consuming it or producing it in the way we have done. The great thing about this pandemic is that it is so easy to do something about it and to make your actions and choices create a wave of change. I tried to use as little single use plastic as possible on the last Paddle Cleanup Expedition and I keep seeing posts in forums asking how we can reduce our impact so I thought I would share what I have learnt.
As for adventuring plastic free, I just want to expel that instantly. Plastic itself is not a bad material indeed many of our adventure safety gear and vital kit that helps us to do the adventures we do in this new ultra light world are made from plastic. It is not plastic itself that is our enemy, only the way we use it and the way we value it.
Here Are My Top Ten Tips For Adventuring With Less Plastic Waste:
Tip#1 Buy Good Quality Gear
Support ethical brands that are leading in the way in waste reduction and providing quality products that last. The more we support them, the more we provide validation for a different way of working. In time, this raises general consumer expectation and creates a more sustainable blueprint for our future. Brands like Patagonia, Finisterre and Craghoppers have a return and repair lifetime guarantee on their products so if it is damaged you can contact them and they will help you fix it, often for FREE!
Tip#2. Buy Gear That Is Not Made From Virgin Plastic.
Fourth Element, Ruby Moon, and GRN Sportswear all make performance wear from up-cycled fishing gear, and Riz Boardshorts are made from up cycled plastic bottles. Yes I admit that these products do not solve the microfibre problem but they do reduce the use of virgin materials and highlight the possibilities if we embrace a more circular solution.
For washing these products you can use a Guppy Friend Bag or a Cora Ball to reduce the release of microfibres into our waters. Planet Care have however produced a filter that you can attach to your washing machine that is far more effective. If you have a tumble drier at home another top tip is to keep the fluff, soak it in a little oil and use as fire lighters.
Tip#3 Buy/Sell Secondhand or Borrow / Share
How often have you had a whim to take up ‘X’ activity, bought all the kit and hardly used it only for it to sit around in cupboards. With the digital age now there is no excuse not to put this stuff back into the secondhand market or to use this resource to grab yourself a bargain. Search on gumtree, eBay and Freegle for second hand gear where possible. If your trip is short and a one off then try forums like Yes Tribe and Adventure Queens to see if there is someone local to you that you can borrow gear from.
Tip#4 Cut Single Use Plastic Out Of Your Wash Kit
This is becoming easier and easier as more products come onto the market. You can see my wash kit for Paddle Cleanup below and that of my fellow team mate and Plastic Free Ovingdean champion Jessie. We chose different options for our wash kits so there is a fine example of the variety out there now.
A quick list of tips are below, I haven’t listed brands as there are a lot of options out there at the moment and I haven’t tried them all yet:
- Metal or Metal and bamboo safety razor
- Moon cup or similar for the ladies (these take a bit of getting used to but once you do, you never look back. Also think of all the money you will save!)
- Flannel (no more wet wipes please!)
- Shampoo/conditioner bars are the way forward
- Bamboo toothbrush
- Toothpaste in a jar or tablets
- Soap or solid shower gel (for adventures I just cut off a smaller piece instead of taking the whole bar)
- Deodorant in a jar or in a stick in a cardboard tube
- Refills (this is another option for trips where weight isn’t an issue. I buy some products in bulk and then decant it)
Tip#5 Make Your Own Snacks
This avoids unnecessary food wrappers, one of the main polluters of our waterways. I made my own energy balls and granola bars for Paddle Pickup. Top tip: make the ‘balls’ into a brownie type slab in a tupperware for adventuring as otherwise the balls can turn into gunk.
Lots of recipes out there but I like the Ultimate Energy Bites by Deliciously Ella. The ingredients I buy at a local unpackaged store. In Brighton there are loads (HiSBE or Charlottes Cupboard are good ones) but there are many popping up around the country if you search your local area – for London based peeps try Unpackaged at Planet Organic. Alternatively, I go to a bulk buy shop which is super cheap, you can order stuff bulk online too. Admittedly some use non recyclable plastic but I buy the largest container I can so it lasts a long time.
You can always try dehydrated fruit and veg too. I haven’t tried it yet but after reading a blog by Cal Major – Paddle Against Plastic I am inspired to give this a try in the future.
Tip#6 Food Shop Wisely
It depends on the type of adventure you are doing and your dietary requirements as to the type of food you need to take with you, but my main advice is to shop wisely.
Try to support unpackaged stores, try to buy produce that is not wrapped in plastic and take your own bags and containers with you when you shop.
I noticed recently that Waitrose sell some pasta in paper, you can get pasta sauces in jars. Morrisons are encouraging customers to bring their own tupperware and Tesco is trialling this. Iceland Foods are seeking to remove plastic from their own brands and over 40 companies including major supermarkets have signed up to a PACT to reduce plastic packaging so hopefully this will get easier over time.
If you eat meat then chorizo often comes just in paper and is a great high energy protein. Eggs of course have their own biodegradable packaging! Why not make your own humous?
Tip#7 Buy Food In Compostable Packaging
I found Outdoor Food super helpful when I enquired about plastic clever expedition food. Recommended to me by the amazing Sian Sykes just before she set off to circumnavigate Wales. For expedition food, it was surprisingly tasty. It comes in compostable packaging and in my opinion is a winner for those trips that need a lighter weight alternative.
For snacks, try Snact who sell vegan, gluten free, natural energy bars in compostable packaging.
Disclaimer: I am not vegan – I strive to be for environmental reasons but I believe if I tell myself I can’t ever have meat and dairy I will want it more. I would say I am a reduceatarian / flexitarian – some call it a conscious eater but that isn’t a label I identify with.
Tip#8 Take Reuseables With You
If you are adventuring in places that you can restock then take reuse bags with you, take a refillable coffee cup, take your own cutlery with you. Take a refillable water bottle – I use Water to Go. The filters used in their BPA free water bottles are created based on technology originally developed for the NASA space programme, and their filter removes over 99.9% of all microbiological contaminants in water. That means that I can drink stream / river water, or otherwise undrinkable tap water. I drank tap water in India for 2 weeks with one of their filters and had no issues at all.
The image across the way is an affiliate link. If you are interested in buying one this just gives me a commission which will help me to keep this blog and site going. This is not why I have recommended them. You can also buy from them direct and use discount code CTR15.
Tip#9 Take ‘Leave No Trace’ To The Next Level
Not only do I take my waste home with me but I pick up whatever rubbish I can along the way. If it is plogging, paddling against plastic, diving or hiking I tend to pick up what I can carry.
It is interesting to save up all the single use plastic you use for a trip and document it then you can see where the problem areas are. You could maybe even write to / tweet those brands to ask them what they are doing about it. e.g. follow the example of Kids Against Plastic and send your crisp packets back using the #PACKETin.
For tips on what to do with the waste that you find see my blogs on what I did with the waste on Paddle Cleanup.
Tip#10 Talk about it
The more adventurers tell their followers about these tips and any others they are using, the more we can spread awareness. By spreading awareness we raise expectations and demand. More companies and product designers will then innovate to find sustainable solutions and governments will have to listen which helps keep this tide of change moving.