<< As I have discussed in a previous post, I am an interior designer working in the aviation industry, so my job inevitably involves travel. In the past 10 months I have taken extensive trips to Mexico, Hong Kong, and Chicago. On each trip I have found myself noticing all the plastic waste that comes along with traveling, so I have gathered some tips for reducing waste production while traveling >>
What To Bring
One of the first tips I have for reducing your waste overall is to be prepared. Planning is key! A lot of people immediately go to thinking about what to bring for the actual trip itself, once you have reached the destination. The steps it takes to get there is often forgotten.
Buy carbon offsets. What the heck are those? Carbon offsets essentially neutralize or cancel out your emissions used in your travel.
To be 1000% honest, when I heard about this I was annoyed. I thought, why am I the one responsible for this? The more I thought about it, the more I realized it's kind of like tipping at a restaurant in the United States. Technically, you don't have to. But it would be rude to your server (or in this case, Mother Earth) if you didn't. The way our world is currently set up and more specifically in this situation - the way that airlines are set up, doesn't make a whole lot of sense in the aspect of environmentalism.
Airbus is currently developing E-Fan X, a program working towards achieving zero-emission flights.
In the meantime:
How to calculate your carbon offset? ClimateCare.org provides a calculator along with a great amount of information on this topic if you'd like to learn more. TerraPass, Native Energy, Climate Action Reserve, The Conservation Fund, Redwood Forest Fund, Carbon Fund, and Cool Effect are also good sources!
For the drive/flight/train ride:
Snacks (that don't come wrapped in plastic)! You can bring food through TSA as long as it isn't liquid. Bulk trail mix is my BFF...Clif bars and I on the other hand...have a toxic relationship. Still trying to break it off, but the struggle is real, ya'll. I'm not perfect, but I'm tryin!
To Go Ware - Bamboo fork, spoon, knife + throw in a reusable straw if you so desire. Pro tip: You don't actually have to go out and buy a fancy bamboo set...just grab a fork, spoon, and knife from home. Easy as that! But also, if you're getting on a plane - TSA may not allow you bring metal silverware onboard. Does anyone have any personal experience with this? I always have my bamboo set, so I've never dealt with attempting to bring metal. LMK!
Your reusable water bottle - As I stated above, you can't bring liquid through security, but once you're through, find yourself a water fountain and fill up! After you get on the plane the water provided is typically poured out of a plastic water bottle and into another plastic cup. Woof! No, thanks, I bring my own.
If you're an avid coffee or tea drinker, you'll be needing your handy dandy reusable mug as well. Hydro Flask, anyone?
To Go Box/Tiffin in case you stop to grab some food and don't have time to finish it before your departure.
I'm lucky enough to live close to friends and family that have allowed me to borrow suitcases on all of my trips, I don't actually have my own suitcase. If that isn't the case for you, I recommend checking out these options:
1. Secondhand first, always. Goodwill chick 4lyfe.
Another option - have you heard of Bunz?! It's super popular in Canada and is starting to pick up traction here in the United States. It's a trading app.
Here's how it works: Download the app and add any items you have lying around your house that you don't use anymore or never used in the first place. The more the better, because these items can then be traded with people in your area and the more items you have listed the more options they will have to choose from. This is user based, so the more people that use it the more choice you will have. Get on there and see if people in your area have started using it! If not, you can be the first and help spread the word!!
2. If you are in the unfortunate position of having to buy something completely new, these are some great options:
United By Blue, in similarity to 4Ocean, removes one pound of trash from the ocean for every product sold. They give a full report detailing their impact and are a Certified B Corp, which basically gives them credibility for ACTUALLY being a sustainable company. They have to follow rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.
Everlane is a fair trade production company and my favorite thing about them is their full, radical transparency. They are definitely a company to look to when it comes to being transparent - they go as far as telling you the cost of material, labor, and transportation of your item.
Orvis is the most costly bag I have listed, which is why I want to address this here: Most of these bags are pretty costly. The zero waste movement is all about using less, consuming less, producing less. I shop secondhand and borrow wherever/whenever I can. As I said above, secondhand is going to be your best route if you are wanting to be as sustainable as possible.
When I do purchase something new I try to do as much research as possible to ensure I am spending my money exactly how I want to, especially when I am investing in something that is going to take a decent chunk out of my wallet. If we have the luxury of spending money on a new bag, we owe it to ourselves and the planet to buy something that isn't made in a factory with unfair working conditions, something that won't fall apart after a few uses. I won't say that voting with your dollar will save the world, but I absolutely whole-heartedly believe it makes a difference. I would much rather be giving my money to a company like Orvis who commits 5% of it's pre-tax profits to protecting nature than companies like Amazon or Walmart who have CEO's reaping the benefits of their company's insanely high income while the majority of their workforce is met with poverty level income.
Lo & Sons offers both a Recycled Poly Collection and an Organic Canvas collection of bags. In 2018, only 15% of their products were made with eco-friendly materials, but their goal is to double that number by 2020. They are a small, family-owned company, so it is not currently a Certified B Corp, but they are working towards it. It's easy to dog on the companies that "aren't there yet," but I really respect that they are putting their challenges out there and addressing these issues publicly. Transparency is so important and many companies don't offer these plans to the public.
The Catalina Deluxe: $107.95
Once You're There
Remember the 5 R's:
1. Refuse: Going to a festival? A convention? Do you really need another plastic promotional product? If you're in dire need of a pen with somebody's logo on it, take it. If you don't...don't! That single use shampoo bottle in your hotel room won't be needed - we've already brought our own. Planning is key, remember!
2. Reduce: If you have the privilege of reading this, you are likely just that: Privileged. Many of us have an inflated sense of what we need. How many pieces of clothing do you have in your closet that have never been worn? Or maybe just a few times? How many things do you have in your life you don't really need? I know I currently have a panini maker sitting on top of my fridge that has only ever made one sandwich, ugh. You'll be seeing that on Bunz in the near future...
3. Reuse: A lot of people think zero waste and think, “Mason Jars! I need mason jars!”, and let me tell you - I love a good mason jar, but I would never ever ever tell someone they should go buy one. And here’s why: I typically eat pasta at least once a week. Ya know what I get my sauce out of? A jar. Rethink your world, a lot of this stuff is already in front of you. Your world is different than mine, so you likely will not be reusing exactly the way I do and that’s the beauty of zero waste. It isn't perfect and everyone's version looks a little different, but everyone's end goal is the same - Save our Mother!
4. Recycle: I say “recycle” with caution and want you to picture me pointing two giant fingers back up to my first three points. Should you have refused what you are about to recycle? Did you really need it? Can you reuse it? Repair it?
Have you ever come in fourth place to something? It’s feels so...blah. That’s how I feel about recycling. It’s an option, but it’s your fourth option. It takes a ton of energy and currently most recycling typically ends up in the landfill anyways due to contamination or lack of proper facilities. Not all plastic is created equal, and no, the recycling plant will not accept your food-covered recycling. You don’t want to take the time to scrub that off, do you think they do? I may burst someone’s bubble here: It’s about money to them, not saving the planet. As frustrating as it is, keep that in mind. It always, always, always ties back to money.
5. Rot: This is the point where we are either composting or throwing something into a landfill. Either a big yay or a big ouch. To learn more about why composting is of utmost importance and landfills are toxic and destructive, check out my post dedicated solely to composting.
Oh, so you're really here because wanted to hear about Hong Kong? Well, thank you for reading on - it was mind opening, thought provoking, and life altering in the best ways. I was there for work, so I wasn't able to explore quite as much as I would have liked, but here's a glimpse:
I had the great pleasure of visiting the Big Buddha
Saw their trash and recycling systems + environmental awareness first hand
Got to try lots of yummy food
Spent a day in Macau
And of course, attended a drag show.
(Featuring the one and only Kandy Zyanide AKA the Ariana Grande of Thailand)
I work for a completion center that accepts multiple different types of projects, some just maintenance & whatnot, while others are start to finish (kind of like building a house from the ground up, but a plane instead).
When I imagined myself traveling internationally, I never thought of Asia for some reason. I'm so happy I was able to go under the circumstances that I did, because otherwise I don't know that I would have gone on my own & now that seems absolutely ridiculous. I think it's just so far removed from American culture, I mean you are literally halfway around the world. 16 hour flight - and that's only if you're going direct. HK has been experiencing protests since the week I left back in May of 2019. China is trying to take control of their democracy. This began just weeks after I visited and my heart is with HK. While now may not be the best time to visit, I would strongly recommend taking a trip to Hong Kong (and Macau!) at some point in your life time if the opportunity arises.
As always, thank you for reading. If you want to hear any more travel tips, comment below!