How To Fly More Sustainably, Reduce Your Carbon & Travel Responsibly

February 18, 2020

How to Fly Sustainably

It’s no secret that air travel isn’t doing the planet any favors. Each year, air travel contributes roughly one gigaton of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and the average 747 burns about a gallon of fuel every second. While cutting out flying entirely would be commendable, for most of us that’s not a realistic option. Fortunately, there are easy changes you can make to fly more consciously—and bonus, most will make your life easier in the process.

Choose direct

The first impactful shift you can make is choosing direct flights wherever possible, as most fuel is burned during takeoff.

Offset your emissions

If you’re financially able, consider offsetting your flights. A UN agreement that goes into effect in 2021 will require international airlines to annually offset the average of the total carbon emissions from 2019 and 2020, which is a great step! Until then (and even after, because you’ll never regret putting money towards environmental conservation), look into Gold Standard verified companies to offset your emissions for you. Some airlines give you the option to offset when buying your ticket, but what’s cool about choosing your own outlet is you can decide what projects to put your purchase towards. Not sure where to start? Check out MyClimate or Atmosfair.

Pack light

When it’s time to whip out your suitcase, don’t underestimate the power of packing light. The more a plane weighs, the more fuel it needs. The art of packing is a tough one to master, but once you get it down it is a win-win on all fronts. An easy to lift carry-on means less fuel is wasted, less of your money is spent (so long checked-bag fees), less muscles are strained hauling bags through the airport, and no time is wasted at baggage claim. My best advice for packing lightly is to stick to staples, pick things that you can easily pair together for maximum outfit potential, and keep shoe options to a minimum (even though that’s hard).

Go electronic

Before you head out the door for your flight, download your boarding pass on your phone instead of printing it out once you get there. This way, you can save the paper that will probably end up crumpled in the bottom of your bag by the time you board anyway.

Prepare Reusables & Essentials

When it comes to the airport, the aim is to come prepared so you don’t cave into single-use plastics, overpriced snacks, bottled water, and temptations at the terminal. With a few key essentials in tow, it’s unlikely you’ll feel the need to slip. We’ll cover some nonessentials too, because a travel day can absolutely be a self-care day if you make it one.

If you didn’t know, humidity in an airplane cabin is usually below 20%. That means hydration is of high importance, so make sure you pack an empty reusable water bottle. Once you’re through security, you can easily fill it up at a water fountain. This is a quick and easy move that both saves you money and keeps plastic out of the landfills. The bonus is you’ll also have something refillable and portable wherever you’re headed, making your conservation hustle even more impactful while you’re away.

I’m a fan of this bottle by bkr, because it’s fairly lightweight and a great size for traveling—but you definitely don’t have to invest in anything new to sip plastic-free at 35,000 feet. An upcycled kombucha bottle will do the trick just as well, and won’t cost you a dime. 

To take your beverage game up a notch, try bringing along a reusable tea bag like this one. You can fill it with things like loose leaf rose, hibiscus, or peppermint to make your own cold brew infusions. Keep in mind that for a really strong glass it’ll need time to steep, but you’ll be able get a nice hint of flavor pretty immediately. If you get flight anxiety, opt for lavender to help keep your nerves at bay.

If you’re a water purist and want to make sure you’re drinking purely filtered water, grab a GoPure pod. It’s a portable water purifier that will effectively pull out toxins like heavy metals and fluoride from your bottle, so you can sip on clean water no matter where you are, sans waste.

Silicone Snack Bag

Snacks are always essential in my book, especially if you’ve got a long flight ahead or get hit with some unexpected delays. Stasher bags are perfect for on-the-go snacking. They’re incredibly light and easily tuck into a handbag, plus they’re simple to clean and have infinite uses. Fill one with some fresh or dried fruit, nuts to keep you satiated, or even a pastry situation. A cotton produce bag is another great alternative that won’t take up a lot of space and can fit a myriad of different things. Consider packing a cloth napkin as well for drying your hands, or really for any of your napkin needs.

For keeping your skin hydrated and glowing in such a dry environment, a travel-friendly glass bottle of rose water is your best friend. Not only does a quick spritz while you’re stepping off a plane make you feel instantly refreshed, but it also doubles as a soothing face toner, light fragrance and room spray.

To really give your face the first-class treatment, slap on a hydrating face mask before your flight. This green papaya and lime mask is a nice pick for air travel, as it soaks into your skin like a moisturizer and doesn’t weigh you down—so you get all of the dewy benefits with zero goopy residue.

For longer flights, an eye mask is awesome to have on hand to help you get some quality shut eye. If you don’t already own one, check out this mask made from upcycled Parisian tablecloths, or this handmade organic cotton option. A bandana or scarf could also work in a pinch.

Finally, if you have a fear of flying or just want something compact and effective to help you relax, lavender oil is great to have on hand. Mix a few drops of it with a little carrier oil and massage your feet with the blend before you head to the airport. The soles of the feet are key absorption points, so you’ll benefit from lavender’s calming properties immediately. Put a drop or two on your temples before you take off, or smell it straight from the bottle when you feel anxious. It’s an extremely versatile oil, so do your research to see how else you can make it work for you.

What are your airport essentials? How do you cut back on waste while traveling?

Also by Jenna: 13 Ways To Fight Food Waste

Related: 6 Essential Stress-Free Travel Tips

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Photo: Samantha Gades via Unsplash; Packaging Free; Hôtel Vêtements

Jenna Scott is a musician, longtime vegan, certified yoga teacher, wellness enthusiast and environmental advocate based out of Nashville, Tennessee. She’s committed to and passionate about educating others on low waste living, slow fashion, natural healing, a good DIY, and keeping it simple in a complicated world.


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