5 Zero Waste Tips to Enjoy the Beach More Sustainably
Plastic and holidays at the beach, for many of us, have gone hand in hand for practically as long as we can remember. From the little plastic shovel and bucket we've used to build sand castles, to the (not so) trusty inflatable seahorse that we mounted through the waves for usually about as long as our holiday lasted before we either lost interest or it simply got punctured beyond repair, to the cling film Mum wrapped our sandwich in and the ice cream wrapper from that well-deserved cooling treat... And of course the water bottles, the tub of sunscreen, and the other various bits and pieces.
And if we didn't bring a picnic, grabbing something for lunch from the nearest beach-front snack bar can be awfully tempting. It's quick, delicious and it offers some of that instant gratification that really spells H O L I D A Y S !
Though by now few of us are unaware of the consequences of the millions of tonnes of plastic trash generated by oblivious beach-goers around the world. And while I'm not suggesting we shouldn't be allowed to have fun and to enjoy beach-related activities (including eating!) that shouldn't stop us from trying to adopt a few little habits that can help us cut down on the waste we produce.
Here are a few zero waste & eco-conscious ideas to help you think of even more!
Choose more durable and sustainable options for your beach accessories
Whatever games or accessories you or your kids enjoy using at the beach, chances are there exists somewhere a more sustainable option than those cheap plastic things that don't last longer than a season. For instance, building sand castles - if it requires any tools at all - doesn't need to be done using a set of bright pink accessories featuring the latest Disney characters. Yes, kids love these, but in my opinion they also love creating memories around objects by using them again and again and recognising them as their "holiday things". Much like having durable Christmas ornaments can bring them joy each and every year, the same can be said about beach related gear. So why not think outside the box and look for good quality gardening tools instead of flimsy beach ones? Sometimes, they also come in bright, beautiful colours but they are made of metal instead of plastic. Since they serve almost exactly the same purpose (digging, raking, etc.) and exist in kid size, why not opt for those instead? A little extra TLC might be required to compensate for the the effects of the sea water on them but it's still worth it in the long run. Kitchen tools are another good options! Even silicone molds may last you much longer than typical sand molds because they are build to withstand very high temperatures!
As for beach games, snorkeling gear and the likes, it's often quite difficult to find these plastic free so make sure you choose the best quality you can afford or...
We often think about it when it comes to clothing or certain types of tools and technology, but we sometimes completely forget it's even an option for other everyday items! And as buying second hand is always much less expensive, it's a good way to avoid spending fortunes on quality items. The trick is to not necessarily wait for the week before your holidays to look for what you know you're going to need for years to come. Beach toys and games, quality inflatable items, even very durable coolers should be on your radar because...
Your cooler should be your new best friend!
And that doesn't mean you are only going to eat boring sandwiches that you made because you're not allowing yourself to have any fun! Make it super special and try to either choose some of your absolute favorites or bring things that are real treats and that you wouldn't normally eat or drink. It could be the most amazing dip with some homemade crackers, some deliciously summery fruit (hello fresh coconut, ice-cold grapes and watermelon!), an amazing sandwich or salad, some decadent wraps or spring rolls, some treats from the bulk store (it is now often possible to find sweets, biscuits, chips and the likes in bulk bins)! As for drinks, you could bring some homemade iced tea and lemonade, some home-pressed fruit juices or, if that's a bit much, why not buy some delicious drinks that come in a glass bottle? Kombucha, fruit juices and even sodas are available in resealable glass bottles that you can either re-use or recycle. But none of that means that you can't eat out if that's your jazz, provided that you...
Upgrade your beach meal manners
Picnics are great and many people love them, but sometimes that's just not what you really want from a supposedly relaxing holiday where the last thing you were hoping to do was prepare tons of food for the family to bring to the beach. That is perfectly acceptable! There are, however, a few things that you can do to avoid the single use cutlery and the plastic container your portion of fries comes with. For starters, if you're not bringing your own lunch, make sure to at least pack some reusable items such as a water bottle (and other empty cups and bottles), a couple of jars/tupperware/other food containers or anything else you might need. That way, when you're ordering a portion of fries or whatever else that might be, ask if it can be put in your container instead. Opt for drinks from a tap (even sodas can sometimes be served that way if you're lucky) to put in your own cup/jar. If that's not an option, go for foods that will be served in paper or cardboard instead of plastic such as a (vegan!) ice cream cone, a wrap with a paper wrapper or choose a place that serves fries or pizza in a cardboard box. Even better: go ahead and really treat yourself by going to an actual beach side restaurant where you can sit down and eat with regular dishware!
You may have heard this tip a good couple of times by now but I'm adding it here because it truly makes a huge difference. Taking a spare bag (and perhaps a glove, you never know what you may find!) to pick up some litter on the beach can really be helpful to all the ocean-dwelling creatures. It may feel very counter-intuitive at first because most of us have learned to stay away from other people's trash from a very young age but this is probably another one of those things we should unlearn for the greater good. Of course that doesn't mean you have to turn your beach vacation into a full-time cleaning operation, but picking up what's directly around you will cost you very little effort and might even spark conversations, giving you the opportunity to educate others by explaining why it's so important not only to try and clean up the beach, but more broadly to reduce the overall amount of waste we generate, whether on holiday or at home.
What about you? Do you have any tips for a more sustainable holiday? Share them with us in the comments or over on Instagram!