You love international travel. You also love the planet. And therein lies a bit of a conundrum, because most international trips involve air travel. And air travel produces a lot of CO2, the main culprit in global warming. In fact, the global airline industry emits 480 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere each year. So how do you rectify your two loves? If you’re flying, you’re adding a significant amount of planet-warming gases to the atmosphere- there’s no way around it. But there are some ways to reduce your carbon footprint and make your international travel more eco-friendly. Here are five of them.
1. Take a Reusable Cup or Water Bottle
Right now, there are enough single-use plastic bottles floating in the ocean to qualify as an eight continent. That’s not so good. Reusable cups and refillable water bottles are the perfect easy way to avoid single-use plastic bottles. They’re also a great way to remind you to stay hydrated during your trip! An insulated bottle or tumbler can help keep your drink ice cold or boiling hot, whichever you prefer. The bottle must be empty when you go through security at the airport, but you can fill it up once you get past the checkpoint!
Ask any ocean you happen to be on speaking terms with – they’ll tell you: single-use plastic is the enemy. Reusable containers are how you fight that enemy. No more plane peanuts for you! For bonus points, you can use the containers to bring home that new favorite snack you discovered during your travels. If you’re travelling by air, be conscious of what foods are considered “liquids” by the TSA (butter, salsa, salad dressing, hummus, etc.), and the 3.4 oz (100 ml) limit for a liquid-filled container. Side note: if the new favorite food you discovered on your travels was butter, you really need to get out more.
Unless you’re a caveman or a zombie, you probably already eat with reusable cutlery at home. Why not use it when you travel, too. There are so many substances they make cutlery out of to choose from: stainless steel, bamboo, titanium, ebony, tungsten… the list goes on and on, but the point is: they’re not plastic, and you’ll be saving the planet, one fork at a time.
4. Bring Travel Toiletries
Imagine how many tiny plastic bottles of shampoo a hotel throws away every day. Rough scientific estimates place the number at somewhere around a sh*t-ton. Don’t contribute to that sh*t-ton! Help reduce it by packing your own travel toiletries. Refillable bottles for body wash, shampoo, and conditioner are available at most supermarkets. Don’t forget to put the containers in a plastic baggie – that you’re reusing, of course! - so you don’t end up with a shampoo explosion inside your bag! (We’ve all been there. It’s like a giant blew his nose inside your suitcase… not fun.)
There are a lot of laborious, complicated, self-sacrificing ways to go about reducing your carbon footprint. And you should consider them all. But, while you’re considering those, consider also that there are also some others that are much simpler. For example: there are many organizations out there who sponsor planet-saving projects that make it possible for you to purchase an offset by supporting their work, essentially “paying off” your carbon footprint! (To get you started, here are a few: Terrapass, Carbonfund, and Co2nsensus. There are many more, so don’t be afraid to do some deep digging on Google.) Terrapass calculates that a round-trip flight from LAX to JFK and back emits about 3,000 lbs. of CO2, which costs about $15 to offset. That money goes towards one of the organization’s projects, which include wind farms, landfill gas capture, and water restoration. Look at you, saving the planet!