Happy Earth Day!
In honor of our planet (and future travel on the horizon!!) we are bringing 7 easy ways to make your travel greener. Whether it is a layover, a family vacation, or a wild weekend after getting vaxed and waxed, there is always room for improving our eco-consciousness. These green travel tips are tiny adjustments to your travel planning that will reduce your carbon footprint in a big way. And they can produce huge results if we all agree to do better.
I’m not trying to tell you what to do, I’m just trying to make you a better global citizen. Read on.
Note: Some of the product links included in this post are affiliate links. Meaning you pay the same, but I earn a small commission to keep this site going. If you’d rather get a similar product elsewhere, that’s none of my business. You do you, boo 😉
7 Eco-Friendly Tips to Travel Greener
1. DIY Recycling
This green travel tip is specifically for on the airplane.
Every airline is different when it comes to recycling. My airline, for example, in a strike of asinine tomfoolery, has decided not to recycle paper products. (Only the largest quantity of recyclable materials we receive, but no, sure that’s fine.)
If you care about the planet and doing your part, then ask the crew what items can be recycled on the plane. If they don’t recycle paper, consider holding onto your newspaper and gossip mags until you deplane, then disposing of them in the appropriate bin in your destination airport. Same for plastic bottles or cans.
Feel free to decline a plastic cup of ice with your beverage. Maybe bring a travel cup and pour it into that. The policy on giving ice in your personal cup will vary, and many FAs will tell you they can not do it. But some airlines may allow this and an FA would be happy to toss a few cubes into your to-go cup. You could also consider asking for a paper coffee cup with ice in lieu of the normal plastic cup. Still wasteful, but at least it would be biodegradable.
Every dollar you spend is a vote for the kind of world
you want to live in.
This next travel tip to go greener is also airport-centered.
Because of the stringent liquid restrictions at the airport, people often carry the misconception that they cannot bring any food or drink with them. But this simply isn’t true. Skip the double-bagged greasy French fries, the plastic wrapped sandwiches, and the pre-packaged salads and opt to bring something from home instead. Between the packaging and the cutlery, these airport buys can be SO wasteful—and that goes for on-the-plane purchases, too! Bring some fruit in your own container that you plan to wash and reuse later. Some carrots and celery with hummus for dipping. A good old fashioned PB&J in one of these nifty stasher bags I’ll be telling you about shortly. Any food item you can get from the airport you can also bring from home. It will not only be healthier and save you money, but you’ll also be doing your part to produce less waste.
Of course I understand that not everything can be planned and this solution is not always practical. If you cannot avoid buying food in the airport, then try to select something with as little packaging as possible. Fresh fruit, baked goods, for example. Skip the bag for your purchase and hold onto those plastic utensils (if they’re not too gross) for later use.
3. Throw it in the bag
Somehow when traveling there is always a need for a bag. Shopping bag, a hiking backpack, a beach bag, a small snack bag. Do us and the wildlife of the world all favor and bring your own bag on vaca.
Short on space? Get a layover-approved foldable backpack.
- Check out this one from Amazon
- Or this one from Hangloose Hammocks Hawaii via Etsy. These brightly colored bags are handmade, fair trade, and, according to reviewers, incredibly durable. Plus they fit in the palm of your hand!
A wet bag is essential for any beach vacation. Nobody wants their wet swimsuit or sweaty post-hike socks crammed in with the rest of the clothes in their suitcase. Don’t be a jerk and use the plastic laundry bags from the hotel. Instead, come prepared with a cute and convenient wet/dry bag like this one.
Made of parachute silk and said to hold 8 coconuts. That's right, EIGHT!
Only Josie Grossie throws her wet swimsuit directly in her suitcase.
I am accepting early birthday gifts.
Reusable shopping bags & totes are the best way to gather your souvenirs or throw a picnic together. Why not use this RiDiCuLoUsLy adorable one from Airportag?!
Stasher Bags. My bestie Rachel told me about these little wonder bags and they are now officially flight crew required items. Not only do these babies reduce waste, but they are also dishwasher, microwave, freezer, and OVEN safe! Seriously! Stasher bags are nontoxic including the dye in the colored bags—free of BPA, BPS, lead, latex, and phthalates. They also happen to be on SALE right now for Earth Day. Check out all the options at Stasherbag.com.
Duh. Single use bottles are SO freaking bad for the planet that every single one of you knows this already. And yet, sometimes we still opt for that plastic water bottle out of convenience or a lack of preparedness, don’t we?
Listen, things happen and I’m not advocating dehydration if you have forgotten your reusable bottle. But can we just agree to try to do better? Double walled, insulated bottles will refresh you with sip after cool sip, instead of drinking sun-baked plastic water soup. You might try a Klean Kanteen for its earth-friendly, non-toxic, long-lasting qualities. If this seems too bulky for you to carry around while traveling (not rolling my eyes, I swear.) then try a collapsible water bottle instead. Maybe this BPA free option from Amazon.
5. Use Public Transportation
This obviously is not possible everywhere, but where possible, try to use public transport to reduce your carbon footprint. I love a rideshare as much as the next person, but all the additional cars on the road, carting us around like royalty, add up to hefty increases in traffic and pollution. Walk or bike when possible (and earn an extra scoop of gelato, amirite?) and for further distances try taking the metro or a bus. Not only will you be reducing your carbon footprint while traveling, but you’ll be immersing yourself in the populace and culture of a place. As a bonus, put the phone away and look out the window or at the people around you. Crazy idea, right?
6. Stop buying plastic tchotchkes
I was today years old when I learned how to spell the word tchotchkes, but I have been encountering junky souvenirs for decades. To clarify, I am not mad at you supporting local merchants. On the contrary, I wholeheartedly encourage you to throw some of those dollars toward local artisans, tailors, weavers, builders, and businesses that support those local producers. What I am arguing against is spending your money on junk. You know, the brightly (toxicly) painted plastic figurines, made in China, that are supposed to remind you of your trip to Mexico? I don’t want to presume, so if plastic junk is your schtick, then keep on keeping on. But often the allure of these travel “souvenirs” wears off quickly once the trip is over and they end up with everything else—in landfills. It is your dollars and your demand that keep these items being produced. So if you’d rather live in a world where quality work and craftsmanship are rewarded, tradition is respected, and people paid a fair wage for their labor, then consider spending said dollars elsewhere. Locally made artworks, clothing, jewelry and other keepsake items, Food stuffs like herbs, dried fruits, olive oil, handmade tortillas or your favorite local candy, useful items like bowls, rugs and other textiles—all of these (and a million other options) are better than buying something that says the name of the place but has little to do with its culture and people.
And while you’re at it, when you’re not buying useless tchotchkes and instead are purchasing well-made items abroad, go ahead and pay full price. You can afford it and it is probably priced far less than what it’s worth.
7. Vote with your dollars
This is arguably the most important thing you can do to travel greener. And it is often the hardest.
I once heard the expression “Every dollar you spend is a vote for the kind of world you want to live in.”
This has stuck with me ever since, inducing guilt when I lower my values to capture a lower price, and encouraging me to open my wallet to do the right thing more often.
Look into the airline you are planning to fly with. What steps are they taking to mitigate the damage that the commercial aviation industry is causing our planet? How are they holding themselves accountable? Do they recycle? Have an impressive emissions goal laid out? Donate to environmental causes?
Do this also for hotel chains, if you plan to stay in one. Do this same research for the tour companies you plan to use. A lot more local tour companies are employing more eco-conscious practices. This tip is hard because it sometimes involves forgoing the best price for the best values. And believe me, I’m frugal. But the only way to ensure that more large corporations, more hotels, more tour companies, more businesses in general start doing their share is to vote with your dollars. The truth of the matter is large industries—agriculture, pharma, and yes, aviation—do far more damage to our planet than you or I can mitigate with the 3 Rs. And until we hold them responsible, we’re fighting a monstrous uphill battle.
And there you have it. Seven easy ways to go greener when traveling. Use these little tricks on your next layover or post-vax vacation and feel good knowing you are getting your fill of this wild, wonderous planet and still helping to preserve it.
None of us is perfect, but all of us can try. And with a little preparation it’s not so hard.
What are your favorite green practices on the go? Any eco-conscious travel tips you’d like to share with the class? FAs—do you have any specific tricks for reducing waste at work? Leave them in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you!
Hope you’re all enjoying (in a very conscious way) this lovely Earth Day and that you’re staying safe and healthy.
Here’s to greener pastures and greener travel, too!