July 17, 2012

10 Steps to Greener Flying

Everywhere I travel, tiny life. Single-serving sugar, single-serving cream, single pat of butter. The microwave Cordon Bleu hobby kit. Shampoo-conditioner combos, sample-packaged mouthwash, tiny bars of soap. The people I meet on each flight? They're single-serving friends.
- Fight Club

Today's post: how to be more environmentally friendly when flying. Suggestions are in a 10 top list format, although not necessarily in order of impact.
  1. Don't fly or fly less often 
    1. For most of us, flying is the biggest single contributor to our annual greenhouse gas emissions. One flight equals about 15% of our annual personal emissions. especially if flying multiple times a year. Cutting out one flight a year goes a long way towards being more 'green'. Plus, you might discover something really awesome closer to home.
  2. But sometimes flying is better than driving
    1. Driving solo in a car can produce more emissions than taking a flight, especially if over a long distance. Here's a calculator to help you determine which method of travel may be the best choice for you.
  3. Opt for direct flights over connecting flights
    1. In addition to saving time and being more convenient, taking a direct flight also produces fewer emissions than having a connection.  Takeoff and landing produce about 50% of the emissions of a flight so avoiding an additional stop makes a big difference on the emissions of a trip.  Also, a direct flight means fewer air miles because of the more direct flight path.
  4. Just say no to free food and drink
    1. As tempting as it can be to take full advantage of all the freebies on a flight in hopes of getting back part of the hundreds of dollars you paid for the flight and baggage fees, fight the urge to consume as many 8 ounces servings of soda and peanuts as possible on the flight.  It's tempting to fall into the trap of "it's free, I'm taking all I can" - the same mentality that can put placid adults into a frenzy over a free XXXL t-shirt at a sporting event.
    2. Most of the freebies on a flight are highly processed food and beverage items, in single serving containers that are often made of plastic and will likely not be recycled.  It's estimated that about 20 percent of the recyclable items in the flight industry are actually recycled.
  5. Take a water bottle
    1. To help stay hydrated, save some money, and reduce your footprint take a water bottle with you and fill up in the airport.  Remember it has to be empty to go through security but you can easily refill at a water fountain on the other side of the TSA vanguard.
  6. Take snacks and food with you
    1. Pack food to take with you. This will help to avoid the single-serving snack temptation, be more healthy, and save you some money if you can skip the terminal eateries.
    2. Some favorites of my favorite items to take, all of which are OK to take through security, are:
      1. Oranges
      2. Raisins
      3. Almonds
      4. Loaf of bread (freshly baked the morning of the flight)
      5. Apples
      6. Bananas
  7. Take public transport to / from the airport
    1. Public transit instead of a car or cab is a more eco-friendly way to travel, and helping to support public transit increases the likelihood of expanded routes and dollars for public transit in the future.
    2. Some cities also have options like Car2Go here in San Diego, which is an electric fleet of vehicles shared among customers.  Other cities, like perennial bicycle power Portland, have bicycle resources so you can cruise to and from the airport on two wheels.
  8. Pack lighter
    1. Everything put on a flight increases the amount of fuel needed to haul it.  If you can cut out 5 pounds, or take one bag instead of two, you can help to reduce the amount of fuel needed for a flight.  Having fewer, or smaller, bags will also make it easier to navigate the airport.
  9. Take a coffee mug
    1. This mostly applies if you drink coffee or other warm beverages. As with a water bottle suggestion, reusing and avoiding waste makes sense.  You can even double up a mug for both coffee and water to cut down on packing needs.  Highly recommend a stainless steel (double walled) option, with a really good lid.
  10. Give feedback to businesses and airports
    1. Let the businesses you interact with know your thoughts.  Whether it's a positive - thanks for recycling! - or a negative - can you please recycle? - companies are more likely to respond when they hear from their customers.  You can give feedback in person, via social media like Twitter and Facebook, send a letter to the corporate offices, or in any other way you can think of.  It's not complaining, it's giving businesses a chance to keep or increase your business with them.  That's something that businesses will nearly universally embrace.
Happy travels!

- John

Sweet home San Diego.

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