Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Flying Zero Waste


I love slow journeys.  By bike is my favourite, closely followed by train travel, depending of course on the distance. But sometimes it is just a lot more practical to fly. I often get asked about it. Flying has a huge environmental impact, there is no question about that. I think when it comes to Zero Waste and environmental footprint, you should start changing things which are (relatively) easy to start with. Buying package free, swapping a plastic bag for a tote bag and bringing reusable mug instead of your usual paper cup is a good place to start. Tackle one thing at the time. Flying home to see your family doesn’t fall into the category of easy choices. 
I am conscious about how many flights I take and I opt for other modes of transport where I can, but at this moment in time, I am not really prepared to stop flying altogether for the same reasons. What I try to do instead, is to have as small impact as possible. What it means in reality is that I will try and not produce any rubbish whilst I’m on a flight.

If you have ever been on a low-cost flight, you know the usual drill. The Flight Steward comes and offers you drinks. If you ask for a tea, it comes in a paper cup with a single-use plastic lid, together with a plastic stirrer. Milk is packaged in a small plastic disposable pack. To top it all off, you will also receive a napkin and a plastic cup to put your rubbish into. If you order a sandwich or a meal, you will get disposable utensils and the whole thing will be served in a plastic sleeve. All of this waste is then collected into a black bin bag which goes straight into an incinerator or worse landfill (depending on the local arrangements). So this is the real price of a cup of tea 30 000 feet in the air. With most passengers buying something whilst they are travelling, the amount of trash that one plane produces is huge. With thousands of commercial flights a day all over the world, we can start to see the scale of the problem. Coming up with a more sustainable fuel and flying arrangements will take time and effort which most of us will not be able to effect but not producing trash is something that is achievable and it can make our flying journeys just that little bit more environmentally friendly. 

                                     Trusty Zero Waste tools ready to go 

The solution as always, is to come prepared. I will carry food, water bottle, stainless steel spork, cotton produce bag and a reusable flask.

It is really important to stay hydrated when you are flying. You can’t take liquids through the security but don’t worry, you can still get water without buying plastic bottles! I take my empty Kleen Kanteen through the baggage check and fill it up straight after. Some airports have water fountains (Birmingham for example) which is brilliant. If there are no water fountains, I get it refilled in a coffee shop. Most places will have no problems with that.

If you are flying on a longer flight, you will probably need to eat something. I always bring food me, usually a sandwich, fruit and some snacks, usually in my stainless-steel tin. You can take food through security as long as there is no liquid. I have never had an issue with any food that I tried to bring through the security check. If you don’t have the time to pre-pack, you can buy something in the numerous food outlets and put it straight into your containers. 

                          A good brew makes waiting around a lot more pleasurable 

I am total tea head. I drink at least 5 cups of tea a day. There is something soothing about having a brew whilst you are travelling, whether it is by car, train or on the plane and so I will always have one. I ask for a tea bag only and refuse everything extra that comes with it. As long as your reusable mug has a lid, you should have no issues. I will also take the tea bag with me and compost it at home. If you like to have an alcoholic drink, opt for something in a can or glass, bring your own stainless steel glass and take the empties off the plane to recycle. Most airports will have recycling bins as soon as you get off so you will not need to carry it for too long. 

Sometimes even if you do all you can to stop producing plastic rubbish you have no option. I usually only have a hand luggage and don’t travel with any liquids as everything that I need like shampoo and toothpaste come in solid form. However, I now have a plastic zip lock bag which I have at home and reuse when I need it if I ever take things like mascara with me. Once the bag eventually gives up, I will make sure that I recycle it.

There is something quite satisfying these days when the Flight Stewards sweep the isle, bin bag in hand, asking for any rubbish. Nope, no rubbish here thank you!


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