“Take only memories, leave nothing but footprints.” This popular quote by Chief Seattle often shows up on Pinterest, splashed across images of beautiful landscapes. The message especially resonates with those of us who love to travel. Though Chief Seattle was delivering his message of taking care of the planet way back in the mid-1800s, it seems we are still struggling to get his message right. That said, if we’re willing to make some changes, we just might be able to turn things around. What can you do as a traveler? Check out the following list of 13 easy ways to recycle and reuse while traveling.
Learn to recycle better
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At a recycling event, I learned that cartons are recycled and reused for other purposes like paper, building supplies and even everyday items like wallets. Of course, before these products can be recycled, they need to be delivered to the proper facility. That’s where traveling smart comes in. Taking the time to make sure you place your recyclable materials into the proper container is key. Whether you’re at the airport or in a new city, take time to look for recycle bins instead of just tossing your items in the trash. Tip: Leave the caps and lids on containers. If they become separated, they can jam the machines.
Read and return books
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Did you know many airports now have stores where you can buy a book and return it for a fifty percent refund? It’s true! The stores are owned by Paradies Lagardére, and you can buy a book at any location and return it within six months to another location and get half of your money back. You must keep your receipt, of course, so put it in a safe place. Also, visit your local library and check out magazines, videos and even video games. Better yet, download your reading material to view online.
Bring your own headphones
I’m still surprised the airlines offer headphones. There is nothing like having my own set so I can listen to my podcasts and favorite music whenever I choose, and I’m not adding to the landfill by using disposable earbuds.
Eliminate plastic water bottles
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Carrying your own water bottle when traveling is easier than ever today. You can purchase a collapsible bottle that will fit in a pocket of your backpack, and refill it at a water fountain or refilling station at the airport or other facilities while traveling.
Stop using plastic eating utensils
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Think about how many forks you’ve used in your lifetime. The statistics are mind-boggling: More than 100 million pieces of plastic utensils are used by Americans every day, and more than 500 million straws are thrown away each day in the United States. These pieces of plastic can take up to 1,000 years to decompose, and while they’re breaking down, they leak harmful substances into our planet and are harmful to wildlife. For under $10, you can buy a set of utensils with a travel case that you can take with you when you’re on the road. When you don’t have a choice, make sure your plastic ends up in a recycle bin. If there isn’t a bin, let someone know how important having one is to the future of our planet. Share this article with them!
Say no thanks to the bag
We are often so busy when we’re running from one flight to the next that we don’t stop and think about the little things. When is the last time you bought so much at the airport that you needed a bag? Ever? Take the snack, book, or souvenir and stick it in your backpack and say no thanks to the bag. Also, many European countries and U.S. cities have banned plastic bags altogether, so pack a tote.
Reuse your TSA toiletry bag
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That plastic bag you’ve been using for toiletries for two months now has a hole in it, so you toss it in the trash and grab another one, which will also be ready for the trash before you know it. Why not just buy a TSA-approved toiletry bag? For under $10 you can have a sturdy bag you won’t have to replace every 3 months.
Reuse your luggage tags
Yes, the airport has those bowls full of luggage tags to put on your luggage. Instead of replacing them every time that flimsy string breaks, pick up a luggage tag that will last and eliminate replacing it over and over again. Saves you the hassle of filling out your name, address and phone number over and over again, too!
Ditch the plastic laundry bag
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I’m seeing fewer plastic laundry bags in hotels, but it really takes all of us to convince the hotels they don’t need to provide them. You can purchase a canvas bag for under $10 and just toss it in with your laundry when you get home. How easy is that? If you travel a lot, just think of the plastic bags that will go unused, and hopefully, one day, be eliminated. That’s the way to recycle and reuse!
Say no to new sheets
Let your housekeeping staff know you don’t need fresh sheets and towels every day. Cleaning them is a waste of water. I don’t change my sheets every day at home, and I certainly don’t need it done when I’m traveling.
Screenshot that boarding pass
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Printing your boarding pass is so yesterday. Why use an extra sheet of paper when you don’t really need it? The moment you have your boarding pass on your phone, take a screenshot.
Properly dispose of batteries
As travelers, we use a lot of batteries. We have to charge our cameras, external charging devices, flashlights and, of course, our mobile phones. According to the EPA, Americans buy, use, and throw away billions of batteries each year. What happens to those used batteries we toss in the trash? They end up in landfill. Not only does this add to the massive amount of waste in landfills, but as the casing on the batteries corrodes, the chemicals seep into the soil and possibly into our water supply. The best way to learn how and where to dispose of batteries properly is to search online for the requirements of your state or city.
Travel with companies who care about the environment
Last year I traveled with the tour company G Adventures who made sure we had boxed water to refill the reusable water bottles we were asked to bring. Ask the companies you travel with to do the same. You never know; perhaps boxed water never occurred to them.
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