Bring Your Own Sustainable Habits to Your Overseas Family Holidays – Part 1

If we could predict how our ingrained daily sustainable habits would work in another country, travelling would be a breeze. For our latest family holiday to Japan, I learned a stack of good stuff to help you plan a more sustainable holiday by reducing unnecessary waste and help to maintain some of the good sustainable habits you’ve established at home. 

This is a three part series where I share how you can bring your own sustainable habits to your overseas family holiday. Each part of the series focusses on the most common areas of home living:-

This is your essential list of useful, reusable and low tox products to take with you when travelling overseas as a family.

Some links in this article are my genuine partnership recommendations. I may receive a commission for your successful purchases. 


BYO shopping bags

We found that both paper and plastic shopping bags are standard in Japan. Plastic bags are routinely handed out for food and groceries, whereas paper bags are reserved for gift-boxed or non-food items. 

Learning the phrase “No bags thanks” is one way to avoid receiving plastic bags. Otherwise, the easiest way is to pull out your foldable shopping bags before the transaction finished so the cashier knows your intention. Sometimes we were greeted with the phrase “eco!” when we had them on the ready.

Japan is stepping forward in it’s plastic bag reduction. In July 2020, a month before the Tokyo Olympic games, retailers will charge for plastic bag use. This is a small but important step forward in Japan’s effort to reduce plastic bag consumption. 

Choose Minimally Packaged Products

On a per-capita basis, Japan is the second-largest generator of plastic packaging waste. The USA is the largest. (Source: UN Environment Report Single Use Plastics 2018 , pg 5)

Packaged products will vary with each country you visit, but in Japan’s winter season, I could only buy a small selection of fruit and vegetables without packaging. It is slightly trickier to get around this one when travelling. 

The critical thing here is to minimise your consumption to essential needs to help curb the national and global issue.

Cooking and Eating

There’s a myriad of choice for eating out when travelling the cities of Japan. But eating out 3 meals a day for 3 weeks is exhausting, so using reusables is perfect.

We primarily stayed in accommodation with a kitchenette, which gave us the flexibility to pack our own food for the day’s outing. 

The handiest reusables for travelling are:

  • Disposable cutlery and paper napkins are a freely offered packaged product. Politely refuse so you can use your own reusable cutlery (including a knife), good pair of chopsticks and napkins.
  • Stainless steel lunchbox for its durability and tight seal
  • Refillable water bottle (These are all bundled as the Good to Go Takeaway Bundle)
  • Muslin cloth or tenugui for wiping up liquid spills and hand cleaning. Both cloth styles dry quickly and are super useful.
  • Reusable coffee cup and thermos. These two items are a go together essential in Japan. Takeaway coffee on the go is not good cultural practice. In Japan, there’s an unspoken rule about not walking and eating at the same time.

Eat your take-from-home meals on the Shinkansen, long rapid train rides (with meal trays) or stand and eat somewhere off to the side of the main pedestrian thoroughfare. Rubbish bins are limited in public spaces. Reducing your rubbish and taking your reusables is an excellent solution.

How to Bring Your Own

Taking your everyday sustainable habits with you when travelling will help you feel more empowered in a country that (from a tourist perspective) does it differently to you. Travelling is about stepping out of your comfort zone but also knowing you can still follow the same eco-friendly principles you’ve already established as much as possible.

This is such a comprehensive list of useful suggestions and tips for bringing your realistic, sustainable habits on holidays in regards to shopping, cooking and eating. Above all, enjoy experiencing your travels and celebrate your little sustainability wins along the way!

For further sustainable holiday tips, click through to Part 2 – Bathing, hygiene and laundering and Part 3 – Clothing and Water use, in the series.

Some links in this article are my genuine partnership recommendations. I may receive a commission for your successful purchases. 

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