The Plastic-Free Formula: Traveling in Asia

By Paul Hellier

I love Asian culture, the food, and the people. If there's one thing that bothers me while traveling in Asia, it's plastic. Mention plastic, and the response is always the same, “too much!"

I do what I can as an individual, and my dream is to crack this issue and reduce the scourge. Asia needs it. We all need it. Read more about the problem here.

I eat a lot of street food when I travel. I wander and watch what I am hungry for and buy food from someone not serving on plastic. Many street food vendors in Vietnam serve food on a plate with steel cutlery and wooden chopsticks, then wash up afterwards. It can take a bit of time to find a street vendor like this, so start your food adventure early to avoid those hungry episodes on the road.

Generally, you can sit down and have Phở (soup), Cơm tấm, (broken rice), or fresh spring rolls on a washable plate. Banh Mi (Baguette sandwich) always comes with a bag, but if you're quick you can say “No” in Vietnamese ‘Không’, and you'll be understood.

Coffee in a single-use cup is a tough one to crack. There are thousands of small Vietnamese coffee shops, chain cafés, and street vendors. The best formula to be plastic free on a trip overseas is to carry a reusable cup that has a handle and attach it to your bag with a carabiner. It will come in handy when venues serve sit-down coffee in plastic cups. 

My best travel tips: Ask for glass, carry your own cup, and support the small vendors who wash the dishes.

Paul Hellier is the founder of Fair Food Forager. This piece originally appeared here