Plastic is not fantastic: Reducing our impact on expedition life

Plastic is not fantastic: Reducing our impact on expedition life

Although spending time outdoors often goes hand-in-hand with increasing awareness about nature and the environment, unfortunately we can unwittingly have a negative impact in favour of cutting down weight and convenience on expedition. Here are 10 of my tried and tested suggestions for reducing our impact and creating more sustainable adventures:

  1. Use a shampoo bar.

    I use Lush Seanik bar for my hair, body, clothes… pretty much everything. I’ve used a lot of different bars and this one is the best by far. The others either leave my hair feeling like straw or a grease-bucket, or make my skin feel like it is shrink-wrapped on. Even better, is that the Seanik bar is made from all natural ingredients, so you won’t damage the environment using it to wash yourself out in nature.

  2. Treat your water.

    I always treat water over buying a bottle. Boiling is the surest way to make your water safe, but using chlorine tablets or drops like Aquaprove are faster and reliable. I prefer these systems to bottles that also filter but that is also an option.

  3. Buy water bottles that last.

    It is worth investing in a good, widemouth water bottle. These ones by Camelbak are perfect as they have a wide top for filling and washing, but a screw-top for drinking, which comes in handy on those unpaved, bouncy mountain roads! I have tried using bladders for my water, but the tubes are difficult to keep clean, the main compartments are prone to punctures and they just generally do not last as long. I do use a small aluminium bottle for day-to-day use, but on expedition I like to see what is going in to my bottle!

  4. Opt for glass for fizzy drinks.

    If you get fed up of warm water with a hint of chlorine (why, would you?!) and need a treat, A lot of the countries I have travelled in sell fizzy drinks in glass bottles, which are then collected, sterilised and re-filled. Look for these over plastic bottles to reduce your impact.

  5. Buy food with a real skin not a plastic one!

    Visit local markets to buy fresh fruit and veg (that can be peeled or washed in treated water) and take a little linen bag for your shopping.

No food storage, no problem. My last team made fresh bread every day during our community phase.

No food storage, no problem. My last team made fresh bread every day during our community phase.

6. Use a bamboo toothbrush.

It seems small but it is estimated that 6.8billion people use disposable plastic toothbrushes around the world. Even if you only replace them once a year that is a staggering amount of plastic.

7. Women, Invest in a Mooncup!

They are easy to clean, you only need one, and they save carrying around a huge bag of sanitary products that are difficult to dispose of once used… Gross! As well as being more practical for expedition life, Mooncups also reduce your impact on the environment so it’s win, win. I suggest starting to use one a few months before you go away, so you get used to it in normal life first. I know some people use them alongside underwear like Thinx, which could be handy for extra confidence on those long journeys!

8. Buy a Titanium Spork (or just take a normal metal spoon from home!).

On my last expedition more than half the plastic sporks broke, so although they are reusable, they inevitably end up in the landfill. A normal spoon from home is actually all you need, as lets face it, when does anyone use the knife end of their spork anyway?!

9. Ditch the wet wipes! Just bring a very lightweight flannel.

Add a little water to it in your tent in the evening, rub down, rinse it out and hang it up. It will be dry by the morning and if it’s not then just clip it to your bag.

10. While we are at it, cut down on your anti-bacterial hand gel.

Don’t get me wrong, it is very useful and you should still take some, but team up with others in your group to bring a larger bottle and also bring a cut-off from your soap in a re-sealable tin with the end of an old bamboo toothbrush for a nailbrush. Washing your hands properly is the best protection against bacteria, especially after seeing the amount of people who just rub hand gel onto filthy hands and then magically think they are clean!

Although recycling can feel like we are doing our bit, even in the UK it often ends up in landfills and/or the ocean. The best way to have an impact is to

refuse and reuse products made out of unsustainable materials!

Preparing to cook on an open fire in South Africa.

Preparing to cook on an open fire in South Africa.