Eco Expeditioning – Part 1

Photo by Rasande Tyskar

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, it’s hard to miss the messages about reducing waste and living within our means, and we all know we should be doing more about it. It’s one thing to get your recycling bin out on time, however we really should be striving to reduce the amount of stuff we use in the first place. It might seem like an impossible task, but just spend a little time thinking about it, and you’ll be surprised how easy it can be.

As an expedition paddler, I strive to find food and products which are suitable for a long trip. Things need to be lightweight, robust, convenient, of a packable size and food needs to be calorie dense to sustain long days of activity. However, these criteria often go hand in hand with single use, individually packaged products, and I seem to accumulate as much trash as I had products in the first place; All of which needs to be transported onwards and disposed of responsibly at a later date.

Tips and Advice available at plasticfreejuly.org

As part of my Irish Odyssey, I intend to reduce the amount of single use items I take, reduce the amount of waste I produce and opt for sustainable, reusable alternatives where-ever possible. There are so many factors to consider, so I intend to tackle the issues in a series of posts, each addressing a different aspect of the kit I take.

First up is my wash kit. Hopefully this doesn’t seem like too much of a luxury; I think spending multiple days on the ocean and in a tent can take its toll on you. It’s important to keep yourself clean, not only if you want to stay well, but also because a build-up of salt, sand and dirt on your skin can cause some serious chafe-age. On top of this, I’m not sure whether you’ve smelled the inside of a dry cag (even on a good day), however those lovely people behind you in the queue for a post-exped fish n chip treat really aren’t going to appreciate any of your personal fermentation from the past few weeks. Have a wash first!

Updating my wash kit seemed to be the easiest thing to begin with and I am already thrilled with the results of my eco-friendly swaps. All the things I would usually take are either made from plastic or come in bulky plastic packaging, so it’s great to see how much I can eliminate. The following are the eco swaps I’ve made:

Bamboo Toothbrush

The first pro here is just how ultra-lightweight this brush is, and despite the soft bristles, it actually gives a better clean than my regular manual toothbrush. I think it is down to a combination of the toothpaste tabs (below) and the soft, charcoal infused, tapered bristle ends which get into all the nooks and crannies in your teeth, whilst still being super gentle.

Toothpaste Tablets

I bought a travel size of 30 tabs which came in a very compact reusable aluminium tin, which is a brilliant weight/space saver. They do require a soft bristled toothbrush (which the above brush is) however, the tabs still give an amazing clean – better than my regular toothpaste – and seemed to have banished the sensitivity I often get altogether. Refill packs (in a biodegradable packet) of 125 tabs are available

Natural Deoderant Creme

SUPER impressed with this, so far it’s the standout product of my switches and contains only natural ingredients and essential oils, so you’re not rubbing nasty chemicals or harmful metals into your skin. I was dubious at first as this is not an anti-perspirant, however even after a red-hot day’s rafting in a stinky dry cag, I was still fresh and feeling clean – in fact I was fresher than I would be with my regular roll-on, and I didn’t notice sweating any more than usual at all. The extra bonus of this was the minute travel size tin, which it came in, and I’m confident it will still last for ages as you only need a very small amount.

Solid Shampoo Bar

This is for those days when I have access to an actual tap (you should never use soap where it can drain into a watercourse and damage ecosystems). I have several of these and some are better quality than others. My favourite (Jason & the Argan Oil) comes from Lush and gives a great lather and super clean/soft/shiny hair. I happily use the bar as soap and for washing clothing too as the all-natural ingredients don’t cause any irritation. Lush bars are a bit more expensive than some others, but I find they last longer than bottled shampoo and cost a similar amount. They generally all come in plastic free packaging, and Lush also sell compact aluminium tins in which to store the bar.

Biodegradable Baby Wipes

Baby wipes are so useful when camping, it’s the only time I use them, but I seem to get through a ton of them every time. I always pack them out again, but many brands are made using plastic fibres to give them durability and they’re not recyclable. Instead I looked online and found lots of eco-friendly options. The Mum and You ones are made from 100% naturally derived fibres from sustainably managed forests, and are super gentle on my sensitive skin. Unfortunately, the packaging is plastic, but it seems that currently all brands are and at least it is recyclable. If you’re able to regularly access good washing facilities on your trips, another option is to take washable cotton wipes instead.

In making these changes, I’m starting to achieve my goal of reducing waste, however I’ve also noticed how much weight and hatch space I’m saving into the bargain. I thought by making a switch I’d end up having to compromise on some level, but I have to say I am completely blown away by the quality and effectiveness of all these products. I’m completely converted and won’t be changing back to my old products, at home or away, and I’d highly recommend you have a look for yourselves. The planet will thank you for it!

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