Some of us end up flying quite a bit and the whole experience–from entering the airport to the final touchdown–is a veritable minefield of surreptitious waste. The good news is that a lot of this waste can be easily avoided with just a few handy tips. So here are my simple hacks to ensure you do your part as you hit the skies.

  • Zero printouts. At most airports, you can access your e-ticket and boarding pass on your phone. There is absolutely no need to carry printouts of your tickets, which often includes lengthy fine print! Strict no-no.
  • Travel carry-on only. This is by far the biggest challenge when traveling zero waste, but it will make the rest of your trip so much easier and help you avoid those pesky baggage tags. Plus, no more waiting at baggage claim after your flight, paying baggage fees or lugging around heavy suitcases.
  • Carry a travel mug. Grabbing your kick-starter coffee or tea along with a meal on the go is a real toughie, but if you plan well this should be as smooth and simple as honey. I carry my travel mug in my hand baggage and once I have gone through security I walk to the nearest Starbucks and request for my beverage of choice to be put in my mug. Almost all accompanying eats can be picked up with a Tupperware or cloth napkin and you can start your munching as you sip your brew.
  • Carry an empty bottle or your glass through check-in. There will be plenty of sources of good drinking water before you board, so it’s a good idea to fill up from these along with the added bonus of saving money on bottled water. Plus hydrating yourself before and during a flight is essential, so drink your fill and replenish your bottle before boarding.
  • Bring your own snacks. The flight itself is a zero-wasters nightmare. But if you’ve managed to eat before you boarded and have your water with you, you should be sorted. For additional munchies, I always keep a couple of fresh fruits in my hand baggage. (apples work the best: totally non-messy, no residue and super healthy!) and an assortment of nuts and seeds that you can stock up on at your friendly neighborhood store. My super easy zero waste nut and seed snacks will be the subject of another post. If you’re still grubby, I suggest you dream of a gorgeous and happy meal you had recently, and lull yourself to a nap full of delicious dreams.
  • Plan ahead. What else could contribute to waste in-flight? Study your own travel patterns to unearth answers. Will you need headphones for watching movies or listing to music? Will you be feeling colder than others? I always throw a jacket in my hand bag– you may or may not get a blanket on the flight, and most in-flight blankets come with a plastic cover–waste alert!

Like with any periodic activity, the secret to zero waste flying lies in trying to understand your own behavior during the entire process and then prepping and planning to ensure you don’t create any waste.

To conclude: Don’t underestimate the power of your hand baggage. What you pack in it is going to take you a long way towards a zero waste take-off.

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