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Five ways to be more sustainable on your next flight

Five ways to be more sustainable on your next flight

Happy belated Earth Day my friends! I intended to have this post up on actual Earth Day, but clearly that went so well. I reposted something from The North Face a few days ago that read “Every Day Should Be Earth Day”, and I couldn’t agree more. So in the spirit of 365 days of mama earth and my inability to post things on time, here’s 5 of my favorite tips to become a more sustainable traveler.

“Every round trip plane ticket from NYC to London costs the Arctic 3 square meters of ice". Woof. That’s a statistic that will really stick with you, especially if you’re… how do you say, flight-prone like myself. 6 years ago, I gave up meat in an effort to reduce my carbon footprint. Since moving to New York, I’ve become even more serious about leading a more sustainable lifestyle. Yet, my frequent flying habits exist at odds with my otherwise environment-first beliefs. While I lack the willpower to give up flying all together, I can (and do!) make a conscious effort to make my travels as sustainable as possible.

These five tips below are my go-to and budget-friendly sustainable moves, ranging from obvious to lesser-known. While they may feel so insignificant, every little effort counts when it comes to environmental sustainability!


Bring a refillable water bottle. Just about every single airport I have visited has abundant water fountains that are A) perfectly safe to drink, and B) around every corner. Only occasionally do I have to hunt one down or maneuver my bottle awkwardly under the faucet. Most of the water fountains these days are fancy— you just stick your bottle under the dispenser and it automatically fills it up until it’s full. So not only is it easy, efficient, and eco-friendly— it’s also a HUGE money saver considering bottled water at the gates run upwards of $5 each. Just make sure your bottle is empty as you go through TSA/security lines!


Pack all your toiletries in reusable containers. The tiny travel sized toiletries are my pet peeves for two main reasons: they’re wasteful and they’re overpriced. Rather than spending money time after time on travel size shampoo, conditioner, face wash, soap, etc. I highly recommend spending the same amount of money and purchasing reusable toiletry containers. Once at home, you can fill them with your full-sized products, and then replenish them as needed over time. Better yet, reuse some containers you have lying around the house. I have been known to save containers from product samples and repackage them with my own products.


Go paperless. This means ditching the printed boarding pass and the paper luggage tags you get in the check-in counter. Instead, swap these items for more sustainable counterparts: the mobile boarding pass and the permanent luggage tag. After making the switch to mobile boarding passes a few years ago I have come to not only love the paperless option for it’s environmental friendliness, but also for the convenience. Never again will I lose my boarding pass in my bag or have to fumble with paper as I try to board my plane. As for the luggage tags… well, the non-paper variety are sustainable and chic. Better yet, lose the luggage tag all together (which brings us to #4)


Ditch the checked bags. Did you know that every extra pound on an aircraft amplifies CO2 pollution and fuel emissions? I remember someone comparing checked bags on an airplane to a person carrying a heavy backpack— it takes you much more energy to haul a 50 pound backpack up a hill than it does a 2 pound sack. The same principle applies to your 50 pound checked bag— the more weight you add to your plane, the more inefficiently fuel is burned to get you from point A to point B. Another reason to pack light!


Be picky about your flight itinerary. Fun fact: red eye flights lead to more emissions than their day-time flight counterparts. For scientific reasons that I never understood (and that are also probably responsible for me dropping out of high school physics on day 3 ), the dark night skies have a higher warming effect than their light daytime counterparts. If you like science or understand the concept of “contrails” as they pertain to aviation, this article will speak on your intelligence level. If you’re like me and cannot fathom scientific talk, just know that night flights are twice as polluting as day flights. Another (more obvious) fun fact: direct flights are far more environmentally friendly than ones with layovers. So fly direct when you can!


Consider which airline you’re flying. Just for fun, here’s a 2010 report on airline fuel efficiency rating. If you have the option to fly a carrier with a better efficiency rating, always strive to give them your business over airlines with less efficient ratings. As much as we love to hate those pesky budget airlines, they do a damn good job of championing fuel efficiency! Brb, taking back every mean thing I’ve ever said about Spirit Airlines…

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Well there ya have it! My top five ways to be a more sustainable, eco-minded traveler. If you’re looking to offset your flight emissions all together, I highly encourage you to look into carbon offsetting. The Points Guy has a great article on Carbon Offsetting basics for anyone interested.

Of course, I hardly scratched the surface with the tips above. If you’d like to read up on the other various ways you can be a more sustainable flyer (or traveler in general), check out some of these great articles:

Travel + Leisure

USA Today

Forbes (I really love all the tips here!)

What are some of your favorite ways to be more sustainable while you’re traveling? Have you tried any of my favorites? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy 365 days of Earth Day! ;)

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