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Responsible Tourism : reducing plastics

At Explore we are actively trying to reduce our plastics consumption, both in our offices and on our trips, by making a number of easy lifestyle changes. Here’s how we’re doing it, and how you can do it too.
We all try to recycle our plastic goods, but what lengths do we go to in order to reduce our consumption in the first place? Plastic is one of the world’s most useful materials of modern times, able to change shape, colour and texture and take on an almost inexhaustible number of forms. Unfortunately it’s plastic’s popularity that is the reason why it poses such a problem: we use 20 times more plastic than we did 50 years ago, a number that is growing each year.

Here are a few ways we’re reducing plastics around the office.


1. Swap plastic milk bottles for glass

As a nation of tea drinkers, lots of us grew up enjoying delicious fresh milk delivered a few days a week by the friendly neighbourhood milkman. Sadly convenience gradually took over and soon more and more people started buying milk in the supermarket. Though plastic milk bottles are widely recycled (even the tops!), we wanted to reduce our overall consumption of plastics and so recently switched back to a daily delivery service at our Farnborough offices – a small step that goes a long way to reducing our use of plastic bottles.

2. Create your own start-up kit to make lunches easier (and cheaper!)

While eating out offers convenience and variation, it’s pretty costly to do every day. Takeaway lunches also contribute to the plastics problem, with many parts of the packaging unrecyclable. Instead of eating out, stock up your kitchen cupboards with food containers like bento boxes and lunch bags. Get a collection together (choose glass and you can even store, microwave and eat from one vessel, or pick bamboo as a sustainable option) and make lunches at home from leftover meals. We’re giving all staff at our offices their own start-up kit of bottles and cups to get their collection off to a flying start.

3. Make sure reusable bags are always to hand

We’ve all been there: you get to the checkout after doing your shopping and you’ve left your bags at home. Since the plastic bag cost came in a few years ago numbers have dropped, but there are ways to reduce usage further. Keep a stack of hemp bags in the back of the car at all times, and consider keeping a smaller reusable carrier in your bag or coat pocket. We’ve installed a plastic bag depository in our reception area so when staff leave for lunch they can grab a bag, use it to get whatever shopping they need, and return it when they’ve finished.

4. Purchase a reusable coffee cup

Did you know that most takeaway coffee cups are single use, and therefore can’t be recycled? As many as 2.5 billion coffee cups are thrown away each year: very few can be recycled as it’s difficult to separate their plastic coating and cardboard in order to recycle the card part of the cup. Consider purchasing a permanent takeaway cup which you can take home and wash – lots of coffee shops will offer you a discount on your coffee if you take your own cup in. We’ve given all of our staff their own reusable cups for when they go to Starbucks or Costa, to help reduce the amount of takeaway cups in our bins.

5. Ban all plastic cutlery and plates

With the advent of dishwashers it’s never been easier to clean the dishes, so why do we rely on convenience cutlery and crockery when we’re out and about? If you’ve got your start-up lunch box set there’s no need for throwaway plastic cutlery and plates, but for events when you just don’t have enough crockery to go round you may need to think of a better option. We have a lot of events at Explore, so when we need to provide crockery and cutlery we look to more sustainable choices. We’ve recently made the switch to palm leaf plates, which are made from massive palm leaves in India that would otherwise be burned. Pressed into shape using heat pressure, they can be composted and even reused. We’ve also started using recyclable birch wood cutlery, which decomposes in a matter of months.

6. Use filtration bottles on holiday

When travelling to far-flung destinations, one of the biggest concerns is drinking clean, fresh water. While many companies recommend bottled water, we also ask people to consider taking a filtration bottle on holiday. Filtration bottles can eliminate over 99.9% of bacteria, viruses, chlorine, fluoride and heavy metals such as lead, meaning you can drink safe, healthy water without contributing to landfill problems in countries where recycling facilities are limited or non-existent. Plus, wherever you travel where you are able to drink the water, we’ll always let you know.
What steps will you take to help the fight against plastics?

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