Holidays are a time to spend with friends and family, unfortunately though, not all loved ones live close by, which means that this season a lot of people will be on the move trying to make their way home or to visit relatives. How can this be done in a less wasteful way possible?
How to get around
In a perfect world, cars, trains and planes would all be zero waste and carbon neutral, and traveling would be completely guilt free. Unfortunately we’re not quite there yet.
According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), aviation for example, contributes to about 2% of the world's global carbon emissions, and, with the number of passengers expected to double by 2037, this percentage will only rise. Certain steps are being made to limit waste while flying, a number of airlines for example have started phasing out plastic and single-use items on board, making more sustainable choices and pledging to becoming completely plastic-free in the foreseeable future.
As consumers we should accept that although not all industries are perfect, there are still small actions that we as individuals can take that will still make a difference. Whenever possible, especially if traveling domestic, search for land alternatives, such as trains and ferries, but, if planes are your only option, don’t worry, there are still certain things you can do to limit your impact.
For example, whenever possible, book a direct flight to your destination. Most fuel is emitted during takeoff and landing, so by avoiding a second or a third connecting flight, you will be cutting down on emissions. Pack reusable items that you know you are going to need on the plane. Make sure you have a reusable bottle (remember to empty it before you go through security and fill it back up at a drink fountain once you are ready to board), a reusable cup (if you decide you would like something other than water from the beverage cart) that can be used both for hot and for cold drinks, and reusable utensils for meals. Avoid buying over priced pre-packaged snacks by preparing lightweight, zero waste alternatives that can be easily stored in reusable multipurpose bags you can use for your entire trip. Also, download your ticket on your phone and keep it ready at all times. There’s no need to waste paper by printing out your boarding pass, so make sure you tell everyone at the check-in counter in order to avoid receipts or useless paper.
Finally, you can balance out the impact your trip is having by offsetting your emissions. Various airlines have in fact set up schemes that allow passengers to invest in environmental projects around the world in order to balance out their carbon footprints. Check your airlines’ website to find out more about it.
What to pack
Pack lightly and efficiently. For example, choose items that can be used for more than one thing. Castille soap for example can not only be used for personal care, but also as a detergent or for washing up clothes. If you are staying with family and friends you probably won’t need to bring a lot of toiletries, but if you do, or if you are staying in a hotel, aim to bring solid beauty products. For example choose solid soap, shampoo bars, soap, and deodorant packed in a tin travel case. Not only are they package free, they will also last longer, are not spill-proof, and will 100% make your life easier when going through security if all you have is a carry on bag. Avoid plastic in your dental hygiene as well by switching to toothpaste tabs and to bamboo toothbrushes that come with their very own travel case.
Leave your home waste free
If you live alone, while you’re on holiday, your home will be on “holiday” too…so make sure you plan your last meals properly. What we mean by this is make sure in the last week/last couple of days before you leave, you take care of any food or items that will perish during your time away. You could freeze vegetables or other items that could be turned into a meal once you get back, or you could give leftovers to friends or neighbors that are staying home. Whatever you do, please do your best not to waste any food that is left behind. Turn down the heating system to a minimum. We don’t want pipes to freeze and to get damaged with the low temperatures, but warming up an empty home makes absolutely no sense. 50 degrees is the recommended temperature to set your thermostat at in order not only to conserve energy, but to save money too.
Lastly, unplug all your outlets before you leave. Your Television and your lamps may be switched ‘off’, but as long as they are plugged in they are consuming energy that they do not need to be consuming if nobody’s home.
You may not have completely zero waste holiday travels, but don’t worry, it takes time to perfect everything and to achieve a completely zero waste trip. Everyone can improve and everyone can have slip here and there, but don’t get discouraged, we will all get there eventually! One step at a time!
Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Holidays!