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10 Ways to Fly Greener


Article by Mary Picard 

Air travel is an amazing convenience, but it also a huge source of pollution: jet fuel exhaust, trash from passenger flights, chemicals and waste from cleaning products. Our footprint, carbon, plastic and chemical, is huge when we fly. Just about every piece of plastic you have ever used, still exists:  water bottles, toothbrushes, drinking straws and shopping bags, etc.  You name it, it’s still out there in a landfill or in the sea. Unless things don’t change, our plastic trail will be out there for hundreds of years to come. Many of us are trying to reduce the amount of pollution we create, and the good news is, it doesn’t take long to realize that just a few simple steps dramatically reduces the amount of pollution we produce.  Air travel is no exception –here are a few ways to reduce the amount of litter from your journey:

1. Bring your own reusable water bottle. 


Bring your own reusable water bottle. It has to be empty when you go through security, but fill it up before you get on the plane. One litre is enough to get through all but the longest flights and it means you can avoid using single-use bottles or disposable plastic cups offered by the airlines. If you are worried about the quality of local water, gate restaurants and bars usually have filtered water and will give you a fill-up.

water, bubbles
2. Bring your own headphones. 

They probably work better anyway, and will expose you to fewer germs than the ones you get on board. The headphones supplied by airlines usually come wrapped in plastic and  have to be cleaned after, adding both plastic litter and more chemicals to the footprint of your journey. Most airline entertainment systems now support the single prong audio cable – so just use your own.

3. Bring your own blanket. 

OK maybe don’t bring an actual blanket from home, but get in the habit of bringing a soft, comfortable hoody or a scarf/pashmina. Like earphones, most airline blankets come wrapped in more plastic and subjected to some sort of cleaning process– and who knows how clean they really are? How often do you use an airline blanket and find a hair or two that obviously didn’t come from you?  Yah, use your own.

4. Reuse your cup. 

Reuse your cup.  You don’t need a new plastic cup every time the beverage cart comes through. Just hang on to the first one you get and use it throughout the flight. Obviously, it may crack or you may even one to drink 2 beverages at once, but in general, its pretty easy to go through a 4 or 5 hour flight using just one cup.

tea, watercolour, reuse cup
5. Skip the cosmetics. 

OK, here we are mostly appealing to business class flyers who get toiletry kits with their seat – but all those convenience-sized lotions, colognes, and lip moisturizers? Just bring your own. You probably already do bring your own, and they work better, so just keep them accessible in your carry -on and prevent those little single use plastic tubes from being jettisoned into a landfill or the great blue as soon as you get off the plane.

6. Order a vegetarian meal before you fly.

Perhaps this one isn’t about plastic usage but it goes along the general idea that eating less meat is better for the planet because of greenhouse gases produced by animal agriculture.  Besides, going meatless reduces the risk of onboard food poisoning (which most often occurs because of spoiled meat or fish) with the added bonus of eating early, because special meals are usually served first.

salad, vegetarian, delicious

It might not quite look like this, but you can dream! 

7. Let your flight attendants know that reducing plastic use is an issue that matters to you. 

Well, you might not want to do this during the middle of food and bev service, but when you’re waiting in line for the loo and the flight attendants are looking a bit bored, this is a good topic of chit chat. Ask them for ideas to travel greener. Over time, this message gets passed up the chain of command. As more people convey their concerns, airlines will look for ways to make their customers happy.

8. Leverage your travel status. 


If you are a frequent flyer, airlines listen and work twice as hard to keep you happy as a high -value customer. Your opinion matters much more than those of us poor schmucks in the back. So again, when you get a chance to complete a survey or pass along feedback, let them know that you are concerned with needless plastic usage.

9. Leverage your social media status. 


Are you visible on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook? Snap a photo and share with the world when you see examples – both good and bad  - of a company practice that is worth commenting on. Airlines are paying attention to social media more than ever- so if you have lot of friends, follows or your own YouTube channel - your voice is important and airlines are watching.

10. Carbon offset your flight. 


More and more airlines provide an option for you to contribute a few dollars towards a carbon offset project they support. Usually run in conjunction with IATA and the UN, this is an excellent way to combat climate change. If your airline doesn’t offer this there are other organizations that offer carbon offset options to individuals. For more information, see our article on Carbon Offsetting.

traveller, waterfall, photographer

Enjoy those waterfalls just a little bit more; feeling more at ease with your environmental consciousness by flying the greener way. 

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