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We know travel has a significant environmental footprint and much of that footprint is created by transportation. However, it is possible to reduce the environmental footprint of traveling, starting with the plane ride. Airlines such as JetBlue and Virgin Atlantic are getting in on the action by bringing more eco-friendly jet fuel to the skies, while United has been testing out compostable cutlery and recycling programs.
For passengers, if you’re concerned about the impact satisfying your wanderlust might be having on the environment, there are also more than a few simple and easy ways that you can help reduce your impact when you fly. These nine tips will help you lessen your environmental impact when flying off to your next destination.
1. Use Public Transport to Get To and From the Airport
While this option might not be available to everyone, if you have the chance to use public transportation to reach the airport it’s a great way to start your trip by reducing your carbon footprint. If you live in a metropolitan area, chances are high that you have a public transportation option available, whether it’s via city bus or subway.
2. Purchase Carbon Offsets
If you fly as much as some of us here at TPG do, the amount of carbon your travel creates each year might be a point of concern. The good news is that most airlines offer the option to purchase carbon offsets for your flights. Purchasing carbon offsets is easy and probably costs less than you might think. Most carbon offset calculators will give you an estimate of around $10 for a round-trip transcontinental trip in the United States, say from New York’s JFK to Los Angeles.
3. Stop Printing Your Boarding Pass
With the ubiquity of smartphones, the need for a paper boarding pass has gone the way of the dinosaur at this point. Airline mobile app offers you the ability to simply use your phone both at TSA as well as at the gate when it comes time to board. If you’re in the habit of printing your boarding pass at home, not only will you reduce waste, but your own costs will go down by not having to stock up on paper and ink. If you’re interested in what other perks and features you can expect from your airline’s mobile app check out our guide.
4. Get a Sturdy TSA 3-1-1 Bag
While most of us are use to grabbing a plastic zip-top bag for liquids, investing in a slightly more durable option is a good idea, especially for frequent flyers. While you might be able to get a few runs out of a single zip-top bag, having something truly reusable over time is a better option. There are plenty of options out there that are clear and will meet the TSA requirements for a 3-1-1 bag for security.
5. Pack Reusable Toiletry Containers
While it might be convenient to grab those travel size bottles of shampoo, conditioner, lotion and other essential items for your travel, small plastic bottles produce a lot of waste. Some states are even moving to ban single-use bottles in hotels. Small reusable plastic or glass containers that you can refill at home are a great way to reduce your single-use plastic consumption. This also means you can still use your favorite brands while on the road.
6. Bring You Own Water Bottle …
Plastic water bottles generate a tremendous amount of waste worldwide each year. There is a simple solution to this problem: get a reusable, refillable water bottle. Just recently, San Francisco banned the sale of water sold in plastic bottles at SFO. The airport has also installed a number of bottle refill stations throughout the airport, something you can find in most major airports these days. Having a water bottle that you can refill at a station once past security will not only reduce your use of plastics, but will save you money as well. With prices ranging from $7-20 for a reusable water bottle, you will recover that cost in no time when you can stop paying airport prices for bottled water.
7. … And Your Own Snacks
If you’re planning to snack on your flight, think about packing your own items in reusable containers. Not only will you be able to enjoy the snack of your choice — you’re packing it after all — but you will also cut down on the amount of packaging waste generated by those subpar turkey sandwiches. Bringing your own snacks also allows you to choose healthier options than what you might find onboard — a double win.
8. Invest in Reusable Utensils
These days, many airlines and the travel industry in general are already putting programs in place to help reduce the amount of single-use plastic items. Packing items like reusable utensils for those snacks you already packed — don’t worry, titanium is very light — or your own reusable straw can be a great way to avoid having to use single-use plastic versions. Not only will you be able to use these items in flight, but once you get to your final destination these items will allow you to avoid those single use plastics for your entire trip.
9. Go the Extra Mile and Recycle Your Onboard Waste
If you’re flying in a class of service with amenity kits, all that plastic the kits come in generates a lot of landfill waste. So, collect and recycle packaging to lessen your impact. Check out this video with Jason DiVenere on what he does to reduce waste from those amenity kits.
While we should all be thinking long term about how our travel impacts the earth, it’s easy to take steps right now to help lessen that impact. If you’re looking for tips on how to make your trip greener in between flights, check out our guide on How to Be More Eco-Friendly While Traveling.
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Featured photo by Getty Images
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