Plastic Free Life On The Road

Those of you who follow us on Facebook will know that we recently took part in Plastic Free July; a month long challenge which encourages participants to refuse single use plastics. We were unsure as to how difficult this challenge would be while on the road, but we thought it was worth a shot! We see so much plastic on the side of highways, in campsites, and on beaches and it drives me a little bit insane. The more we thought about the challenge the more I realised how much of today’s products come exclusively in plastic: whether it’s cherry tomatoes and berries, dairy products, or toilet paper. The month wasn’t without its difficulties and there was definitely some unexpected plastic, but overall I think we managed to reduce our plastic usage by about 95%. Now that the challenge is over we have relaxed some things, but there are also lots of newly formed habits that we won’t be letting go of! Here’s some super simple steps to living a less plasticy life! 

1. Remember your reusable grocery bags.

This is the easiest way to avoid plastic. Single use grocery bags are horrible for the environment. They never fully break down but they do fall apart into tiny pieces that animals end up eating. We’ve been using our own grocery bags for quite a while but we used to forget to bring them quite often. During July our plastic usage was at the forefront of our minds and we always remembered our bags. If you do forget why not just put your groceries loose in your trolley and pack them directly into your van? It’s one benefit of having your kitchen on wheels! 

2. Avoid plastic produce bags.

Have you ever questioned why you put your bananas into a plastic bag only to take them out again when you get home? There are lots of reusable produce bag options available but we just went without. For small things like green beans we used the paper mushroom bags. We also avoided all prepackaged produce. It turns out this is often the cheaper option-loose mushrooms are so much cheaper, but for some reason I used to always buy them prepackaged without even thinking about it! 

plastic free

What a plastic free cart looks like

3. Take the time for a dine in coffee.

It’s estimated that in Australia over 1 billion takeaway coffee cups are disposed of every year. These cups are plastic lined and don’t biodegrade and few recycling plants are able to process them. We travel slowly and are rarely in a rush to get anywhere. Going out for coffee is a treat for us so we choose to dine in and avoid plastic that way. If you’re someone that has a takeaway coffee every morning or like your coffee on the go, invest in a keep cup. Lots of coffee shops offer a discount if your use your own cup! It doesn’t have to be an official keep cup either- a cheap travel mug works just the same.

4. No straws please!

Our oceans are filled with single use plastic straws. Sometimes the plastic straws even come wrapped in plastic! I don’t know about you, but my arms are strong enough to lift my glass all the way to my mouth. Lots of bars and restaurants are getting involved by only giving straws by request but if you want to be sure to avoid plastic just let them know you don’t want a straw (explaining your reason might even get them on board!) 

plastic free

source:ukonserve.com

5. Use a refillable water tank 

Last year when we travelled in California we bought big single use water jugs from the supermarket. Now we have a 23 litre water tank that we refill. We use the Wikicamps app to find places with potable water(you usually find it near dump points) or fill it up whenever we’re in a caravan park. Not only does this avoid lots of plastic waste, but it’s saved us a ton of money! 

6. Buy meat at the butcher/deli

Meat is one of slightly more difficult things to buy plastic free. Prepackaged meat in the supermarket comes in plastic trays . You can bring your own containers and ask the butcher to fill them, or just ask them to use as little plastic as possible. The same goes for bread-buy it in a bakery. 

7. Don’t get downhearted 

There were times during July when I felt like our efforts where completely futile. When we were in beautiful places completely littered with rubbish. When we were served unexpected plastic. When I really wanted bread and there were no plastic free options. It’s important to remember that every little step you take does make a difference. Small changes add up to make big impacts. Plastic free July and the War on Waste documentaries are what pushed Coles and Woolworths to #banthebag. Your choices as a consumer do matter. Equally, it’s not your fault that the world is so full of plastic. Don’t beat yourself up if you have to buy something in plastic. We didn’t give up dairy even though we couldn’t find non plastic options. We recently needed some car maintenance products which all came in plastic- we just couldn’t avoid it. The fact that you’re even reading this post shows that you care-which is more that can be said for a lot of people. 

plastic free

Sometimes despite our best efforts we still accumuluated plastic

Is plastic free living more expensive?

The answer to this one isn’t exactly straight forward. Some of the products we usually buy in plastic were more expensive-such as peanut butter in glass or pasta in cardboard boxes. However, over all our groceries were cheaper in July because we couldn’t buy any expensive processed foods. Our diets were also really healthy and mostly plant based! Buying food in bulk stores can also help you to save money and reduce your waste, while also supporting local business-win win!

If you do find reducing your plastic usage too difficult I would definitely encourage you to try to pick up plastic litter when you see it. Nobody likes to see litter but often we complain about it and forget that we can actually do something about it! We particularly try to pick up litter when we see it near waterways, because plastic can do so much damage when it enters the water. Good luck!

Buying a car in Australia

If you’re planning on traveling in Australia for anymore than a month or two it might be most cost effective for you to buy a vehicle instead of renting. Camper van rental prices in Australia are very high, particularly if you’re travelling one way. When we started to look at the cost of renting a campervan for a few months we quickly realized it would make more sense to just buy one. So that’s what we did!
There’s a whole host of backpacker vehicles out there, from vans to four wheel drives to sedans. But the process of buying a car in a new country can be a bit daunting! So here are our top tips for buying a car in Australia.


Gumtree is your best friend

Gumtree is a nationwide buy and sell website. Just search for backpacker cars and you’ll find a huge amount of cars kitted out for travel. People often sell their cars with stoves, tents, camping chairs and lots of other travel accessories included. Our four wheel drive came with a roof rack, Jerry cans, a stove, camping chairs and lots of cooking equipment. The price of backpacker cars varies, with vans and 4x4s costing a fair bit more than station wagons. Our 1997 Pajero cost us $3,500.

Buying a car in Australia

Our 4×4 already had a bed in the back!

Registration is important

Registration (or rego as it’s unaffectionately called) is what legally allows you drive on the road. It’s a fee you pay every 3,6, or 12 months that includes third party insurance. If a car’s rego expires and isn’t renewed within a certain frame of time it needs to undergo a safety inspection to be re-registered. These safety inspections tend to be very strict and for this reason buying an unregistered car is a pretty big risk-you have no idea how many things you’ll need to fix! Because of this unregistered cars sell for just a few hundred dollars.

Buying a car in Australia

There’s nothing like the open road!

Registration varies from state to state

Unfortunately, registration is not a nationwide program. Each state has its own rules and regulations about registration. This can be annoying for travellers driving one way-trying to sell a car that’s been registered in a different state can be difficult! That’s because if someone wants to re-register if in that state they will usually need to get it inspected.

When we bought our Mitsubishi Pajero it was registered in the state of Victoria. We could have transferred the Victorian rego into our names but we would need to have a Victorian license number to put on the forms. The other option was to visit a Victorian department of transport in person and register it there. Because we weren’t travelling for a while we decided to just re-register it to the state of Western Australia.

Buying a car in Australia

To register the car in our state we needed to undergo a safety inspection. This didn’t bother us much as we’ll be travelling for a year and we don’t want to have any major problems with the car anyway! It is a bit expensive though, as each inspection costs around $80. We failed the first inspection because of a few small issues but passed the second one with flying colours šŸ˜‰ we then got new license plates and paid the registration fee for 12 months. The cost of registration varies based on your car and state-WA is apparently the cheapest state and has the added bonus of being able to renew your rego online. Some states require you to undergo yearly safety inspections. Read more about each state’s requirements in the links below.

Western Australia

Victoria

New South Wales

South Australia

Tasmania

Northern Territory

ACT

Ask the right questions

Obviously no matter where you are in the world it’s important to ask the right questions when you buy a car. Ask to see the service history, ask what issues the previous owners had, ask what the fuel economy is like. Check what kind of thread the tyres have-especially if you’re travelling for a short time, tyres are an expensive thing to replace! If you’ll be travelling to hot desert areas it’s important to ask if the engine has issues with overheating. When you test drive the car check the windscreen wipers, cruise control, and listen for any unusual noises.

What to do once you’ve bought your car!

Once you’ve bought your car you have two weeks to transfer the registration from the previous owner’s name to yours. You can download the registration transfer forms from the relevant state’s website or visit the department of transport and register there. Once you’ve registered you have nothing else to worry about! Just be sure to renew your rego before it expires!

Be aware of the local driving laws- speed limits can differ from state to state! Try not to drive late at night in rural areas as you run a serious risk of hitting a kangaroo or other wildlife, which can seriously damage your car. Remember that by taking care of your car you increase your chance of selling it. I’ve heard of travelers reselling their cars for a profit at the end of their trips!

Have you ever bought a car in a foreign country? What was your experience? Be sure to let us know in the comments!

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