Leave Only Your Footprints: Must-Have Reusables For The Beach

footprints in sand on a beach
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We all love to enjoy a day out at the beach, don’t we? But it is incredibly sad and infuriating when images of litter-strewn beaches fill the news after a hot summer’s day. There really is no excuse. Every beach will have a bin somewhere, most beaches also provide toilet facilities and there are often cafes who could provide you with a bin liner if you forget your own. The trouble is, a lot of people just don’t seem to care. They seem to think that it’s somebody else’s job to clean up after them, that this will happen before the tide takes the litter and that they can just simply walk away from it all. This is NOT the case. If you visit a place like the beach, the only person responsible for your mess is YOU. If you are leaving litter on the beach but shocked by images such as The Great Pacific Garbage Patch then you have your priorities all wrong. The damage us humans cause is clear to see and the saddest part is that if we all just cared a little more, we could make a huge difference. “Leave only your footprints” has become a popular quote but how many of you can hand on heart say that this is true of your actions? I get it, the day at the beach can be busy and hectic, kids grab snacks and run off, items get blown away, the tide sneaks up on you and takes some rubbish, you don’t have time to do one final sweep at the end because you are in a rush… These are all things that do happen but also all things that can be easily avoided. Here are my must-have reusables for the beach which will help you to leave no trace behind.

Pack a Picnic

The best way to ensure that you aren’t creating more waste is to pack your own picnic. By doing this you will have complete and utter control over the reusables you take plus you won’t have to purchase food and drink in disposable packaging from a cafe. Here are some reusable options to help you to work towards being zero waste:

Picnic Bag

By investing in a picnic bag you will always have somewhere to pack your food into and you won’t be reaching for those plastic bags for life. Choose one that has a waterproof liner, one that can have freezer blocks placed inside and that can be easily wiped clean.

Reusable Sandwich Bags

These material bags are available to purchase from most online eco stores and are a fantastic way to take sandwiches with you without the need for clingfilm. The ones we have are made from cotton and have a waterproof liner to keep your food dry and fresh. We have one per family member which means that all our sandwich preferences can be separated. With a simple velcro fastening, they can be easily opened and resealed; even small hands can get into them. Once used, pack them back up, take them home and gently wash in warm water. Then dry them out, store them away and reuse them time and time again.

reusable sandwich bags

Snack Pots and Bags

Instead of taking packets to the beach with you, empty the contents into reusable snack pots or stasher bags. It doesn’t matter if the pots are stainless steel, plastic or silicone, all you are looking for is something that will last and will do the job. By packing snacks such as crisps into reusable items like these you won’t be risking having any packets being blown away. By putting fruit into them, you won’t need to take a plastic punnet with you, plus if you cut it all up, you won’t need to mess around with peelings, skin or those annoying stickers that get placed onto certain types. Snack pots and stasher bags are also airtight which means you will also be keeping your food fresh all day long.

snack triad

Reusable Cutlery

When you bring your own picnic there is no reason to bring plastic cutlery. It is a horrible invention that creates so much waste. You can either bring your usual metal cutlery or invest in some eco-friendly bamboo options.

bamboo cutlery set

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Reusable Water Bottles

By taking your own drinks you won’t need to purchase any in plastic bottles or cans. There are so many amazing reusable water bottles on the market now allowing you to choose a style you like, size, lid variations, whether it is insulated or not, plus you can choose kids ones, as well as adult ones. For a day at the beach, your best option would be to take insulated vacuum bottles which will keep your drinks cold. Of course, if you don’t have this type, you can take freezer packs and place them inside a bag with your bottles. We all call these water bottles but there is no reason that they cannot be used for other drinks, you just need to ensure that you wash them thoroughly after use. One of our favourites is our Dopper water bottle which has a lid that doubles up as a cup.

Dopper reusable water bottle with cup lid


If you need to use cups for little people, bring some from home too. Most of us have a set of plastic ones to prevent breakages and these can be easily packed in with your picnic. If you want a hot drink whilst you are at the beach, take a reusable coffee/tea cup with you for the cafe to fill. There are many options available now but I love my collapsible one from Net Zero as it can fit into a small space. Alternatively, you could take your own hot drink in a flask.


Say no to plastic straws and invest in a reusable one either made from bamboo, silicone or metal. These often come with their own cleaning brush and some even have their own storage pouch or compartment to keep them clean. This one pictured folds down to be stored in the keyring which can be clipped onto a bag.

the metal straw pulled out, the case and the brush to clean it with

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Dirty nappies left on a beach have to be one the most disgusting sights. The thing that baffles me the most is those people who also bag it up, as if putting it into a plastic bag and then leaving it makes it better? Here are 2 options that are completely zero waste.

Cloth Nappies

Cloth nappies work in the same way as a disposable nappy but instead of throwing it away after one use, you wash it and reuse it. We started using cloth nappies with our second child over 2 years ago now and I would never go back to disposables. The fact that it takes one disposable nappy 500 years to breakdown, is now etched on my brain and I will always feel guilty for adding to that problem when I had my first child. Cloth nappies are very absorbent, they are comfortable for your baby, they do not contain any chemicals, they can be reused for multiple children plus they come in fun, pretty, funky designs! On the beach, your nappies can be proudly shown off, they can get wet/splashed (do not use them for swimming) and it doesn’t matter as you can just take them home in a wetbag for washing. For more info on cloth nappies check out my other cloth nappy blog posts here.

william walking through water wearing a cloth nappy

Reusable Swim Nappies

Single-use swim nappies are such a waste. They create waste, they waste your time going shopping for them all of the time and they cost you more money. By opting for a reusable swim nappy you will be saving around £12.41 a year, you won’t be sending any waste to landfill, your baby will be more comfortable and you will never run out! You will need just one swim nappy which will also make your bags lighter. And just like normal cloth nappies, you get an amazing choice of prints! For more information, I have this detailed blog post on reusable swim nappies here.

William stood on the break water at the beach in his reusable swim nappy

Period Products

When I recently saw images of the state of some of our beaches after some particularly hot days, I was left shocked but one photo left me completely speechless; a used tampon on the sand. Now, I am hoping that this isn’t a common occurrence? But honestly, what was going through that person’s mind when they left that behind? I completely get how tricky it can be to have a period when you want to go swimming but there are so many more options available to us now and this includes reusable, plastic-free ones that will not be left behind to damage our environment. Your best choice for swimwear and to still be able to enjoy swimming would be a reusable menstrual cup. This is a soft silicone cup which is folded and inserted into the vagina. When in place (a little lower than a tampon) it will retake its cup shape and sit comfortably against the vaginal walls. It can be left for 4-8 hours which should give you plenty of time at the beach without having to worry. You can read more on plastic-free period options here.

Ruby Cup


A wetbag is a reusable waterproof bag that can take items such as sustainable swimwear, wet or dirty clothes or cloth nappies and keep them from soiling other items inside your bag on the journey home. No need for plastic bags.

Reusable Baby Wipes

Did you know that the majority of baby wipes are made up of around 87% plastic? That means if any get swept away by the sea, they are going to float around for hundreds of years and could potentially be ingested by sea life. Baby wipes are so often lost under the sand and are usually used in abundance for cleaning up bums as well as mucky hands and faces. A reusable baby wipe is such an easy as well as eco-friendly option. Made from a cotton and bamboo mix they are soft, delicate, contain no chemicals or perfumes and work far more effectively. They can be placed in your wetbag after use and taken home to be washed and reused.

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Other Things To Do

  • Check your toys, buckets and spades for any weaknesses before packing them. If they break at the beach the chances are you will be leaving behind tiny plastic fragments. Only take those in good condition.
  • Pack the toys etc in a reusable, waterproof bag that you know you will bring home.
  • Take a couple of bin bags just in case. You may not leave a mess yourself but you may need to clean up after others.
  • Keep an eye on the tide and move your belongings away if it comes too close. The sea can be unpredictable and it only takes one large wave to drag items out.
  • Teach your children that it isn’t ok to leave rubbish behind. Set an example by picking up anything you see, they will follow your lead.
  • If any of your beach equipment breaks, take it home. Nobody else should have to deal with it after you’ve gone.
  • ALWAYS do a sweep of the area you have been sat in before you leave to ensure that you only leave your footprints behind.

Making simple sustainable swaps by choosing reusables over single-use will help us all to keep our beaches clean and, remember, that if everybody took these steps we would make a huge difference to the state of our environment.

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17 thoughts on “Leave Only Your Footprints: Must-Have Reusables For The Beach

  1. Littering drives me mad! If you have carried food and drink to the beach surely you’d have something to carry any litter away with you…? I love what you have shared there are some really lovely alternatives available. No excuses really – other than peoples laziness.

  2. Fantastic ideas, we have had a bit of this up here in the highlands which is so heart breaking to watch. These are awesome thing everyone could do.

  3. Great post. I really need to get one of those collapsible cups. They looks super handy for space saving!

  4. Absolutely love these ideas! If everyone implemented just one of these, it would make such a difference!

  5. Great article, I hate to see the beaches full of litter. You have pointed out some great ideas on how to be more environmentally friendly

  6. some great ideas, its about time everyone started looking after what we have got and make the world a better an cleaner place

  7. Lots of great ideas! I’m thinking of getting some reusable nappies for my 13 month old. Do the sandwich bags keep the sandwiches fresh? Are they airtight?

  8. This is an amazing roundup and some of these reuseables are things I’d never have thought of! Thanks, Emma. I’ll keep these points in mind the next time we head for the beach!

  9. Oooh thank you so much for these ideas. Planning lots of beach visits over the coming weeks. Fingers crossed for the weather!

  10. Thanks for all of these great ideas. There really is no excuse for littering at all. There are so many really super products on the market now which will not only save the planet, but save money in the long term. (For example sandwich bags instead of foil or cling film.)

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