Flying is a luxury. You step into a can of compressed air that hurls itself across the country and four hours later you're three time zones and 2,000 miles away.
We must respect our ability to do so and take precaution to lessen our impact. It may sound silly considering the fossil fuels that go into jet travel, but for some of us it’s unavoidable due to our occupations. (That is, until solar planes become a viable option.) So that being said, here are some ways to lessen your impact while flying.
- Firstly, always consider if you really need to fly. Can you drive? Take a train? For most people air travel will be their biggest contributor to greenhouse gas over the year. Here's a great Guardian article on the ins and outs of air travel & sustainability.
- Book a daytime flight. The contrails reflect sunlight and are believed to reduce warming caused by emissions.
- Check this list of the most fuel efficient airline carriers.
- Consider buying a carbon credit to help offset the carbon cost of you flight. Though a lot of people poo-poo this concept the industry is improving and becoming more standardized and credible (you can read about that here).
THE NIGHT BEFORE
- Go paperless by checking in and paying your baggage fee online, then save your receipt digitally.
- Make sure you’ve packed a MESS KIT with reusable spork/utensils, cloth napkins (I pack two or more), tiffin, and mason jars (I pack one large and one small).
- Make yourself a lunch to-go. It will be healthier, tastier, and SO. MUCH. CHEAPER.
- Make sure you have travel-sized portions of your toiletries and that you’ve packed items like lighters in your checked baggage. (I put these in my keyboard case since I have to check it anyway.) Review the carry-on rules of your airline to be sure. Having to buy new stuff because security makes you throw it out not only stinks but is wasteful.
- Tag your own luggage with reusable tags instead of taking the free airport ones.
- Pack less and carry-on only if possible. You’ll eliminate checked baggage tags and focus more on enjoying your trip instead of lugging a bunch of stuff around.
- Carpool to the airport or use public transportation.
- Download your airline's app or use an e-passbook for your boarding pass.
- Drink lots of (non-bottled) water! It’s important to stay hydrated while traveling.
- If you’re itching for a pre-boarding coffee, find a place that will take a reusable cup. In my experience the cafes that accommodate this are of higher quality. If the barista gives you a weird look say you’re allergic to the BPA/wax lining on coffee cups.
ON THE PLANE
- Refuse napkins, straws, and freebies from the airline food truck. BE VIGILANT! If you decide to get a drink, hand them your reusable cup and make it very clear you do not need a straw, napkin, or anything else.
- Enjoy your delicious homemade lunch while everyone eats peanuts and stares at you covetously.
- Take a napkin with you when using the restroom so you can dry your hands, or just air dry them.
- Make your own wet wipe for sanitizing your seat. I do this because airlines don’t always clean the seats in between flights (yuck). Spray DIY hand sanitizer on your spare napkin and wipe down hi-traffic germ areas like the armrests, seat-back pocket, seatbelt, and fold-down tray.
OFF THE PLANE
- Refill your mason jar with water. Most airports now have nifty filtered water stations where you can refill for free.
- Look for bulk! You'd be surprised what you'll find. I found an awesome bulk candy shop (below) in Atlanta that sold me candy in my mason.
With a little planning, the only trash you'll make is the stickers for your checked baggage. Which of these tips had never occurred to you before? Leave your response in the comments.