How to adventure with less waste
Adventures bring us back into connection with nature and hopefully inspire us to do our bit to protect it. But how can you be more mindful when chosing how to explore and what can you do to have more sustainable advenures?
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. And so here is my advice on how to have more sustainable adventures.
Buy Quality Gear
Support ethical brands that care about sustainable adventures and 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!
Support Brands that have a Circular Economy Ethos
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.
Buy Secondhand or Borrow and 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.
I had some epic sustainable adventures on the River Wye with Treadlighter Libby a while back in an origami canoe we borrowed from the Yes Tribe.
Cut Single Use Plastic Out of Your Wash Kit
Some tips for your washkit are below, I haven’t listed brands as there are a lot of options out there now. What are you already useing on your trips and what can you improve to have more sustainable adventures?:
- 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 (my personal preference is Wild – refillable)
- Refills (this is another option for trips where weight isn’t an issue. I buy some products in bulk and then decant it)
Make Your Own Snacks
This avoids unnecessary food wrappers, one of the main polluters of our waterways.
Lots of recipes out there but I like the Ultimate Energy Bites by Deliciously Ella. The ingredients I buy at a local unpackaged store and there are many popping up around the country if you search your local area. 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.
Food 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?
Do be wary of bioplastics and compostable packaging unless it truly is ‘home compostable’ and you are going to put it in a homecompost bin. Otherwise it just contaminates recycling and is rarely in conditions that enable it to actually compost.
I found Outdoor Food super helpful when I enquired about plastic clever expedition food.
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.
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.
I have also created a toolkit to help you to find solutions for your waste and do engage your community. Its for paddle cleanups but applies accross the board really. You can find that here: