Future Women, January 2018 (link)
It’s time to rethink how we tread (lightly) across the globe.
How is it that when you board a flight, there seems to be a direct correlation between someone’s cabin status and the lack of baggage they’re carting? First class seem to stroll across the airbridge with nothing but an iPad mini enveloped in a monogrammed leather sleeve. Business class carry thin laptops and tiny wheelie bags. And it’s not uncommon to see rear cabins bursting with bulky bags of a questionable overhead compartment size. There are theories that the wealthy pack light because everything they need is on the other side – second homes, outfit fixers, international wardrobes etc. Truly though, breezing through an airport, knowing that you’ve packed succinctly and smartly pertains to a celestial smugness, and there is nothing more horrifying than being shamed into checking your carry-on because you tried to cheat the system. Alas, here’s the not so smug part – those iPad carrying flat-bedders? They’re harming the environment the most, as first class suites leave the largest footprint on the earth. So, there.
In the age of the digital nomad, it’s actually easier to travel smarter and lighter than it ever has been before. What if we rethought the privilege of air travel on a more woke scale and considered the damage our habits, choices, weighty bags and their contents are doing to the planet? It is possible to still enjoy a glass of champagne at take-off, if we just make the right choices.
Even if you travel across the sea once a year, your carbon footprint could equal that of your entire household. Feel like being shocked? Download personal carbon footprint tracker app Oroeco and see how you fare. Neutralising the guilt is perhaps the easiest (yet least effective) approach – most of the major airlines offer an option to offset flight miles by donating a small amount of money towards environmental projects. Further than that, it’s worth doing an extra little bit of research into which airline you fly with. As we all know, not all airlines are created equal. Qantas has one of the most vocal environmental impact schemes, having been certified carbon neutral under the NCOS Carbon Neutral Program since 2010, thanks to it’s customer offset program; Emirates boast newer planes, which are less impactful to the planet; and Virgin Australia has multiple schemes in place, like donating food waste to OzHarvest, upcycling crew uniforms and trialling sustainable aviation fuel options. Other ways you can adjust your impact in the air is by limiting your stopovers (landing and taking off burns the most dead dinosaurs) and flying in economy when you can, but packing like you’re in first. Regardless, flying will always have an impact so it is more sustainable to spend a long period of time in the destination, making the flight less wasteful.
Image credit: Instagram @renttherunway
For decades, savvy travellers of the world have been dishing out advice on how to master the perfect suitcase edit. In The White Album, Joan Didion famously lists her trusty suitcase contents as two skirts, two jerseys or leotards, one pullover sweater, two pairs of shoes, stockings, bra, nightgown, robe, slippers, cigarettes and bourbon. Lose the last two, switch out anything needing dry cleaning for natural fabric-made items purchased from ethical brands, and you have one perfectly edited (globally conscious) suitcase. However, in Instagrammable times where a skirt and a leotard might not lend themselves to true #aestheticgoals for say, a formal dinner, wedding or meetings, consider taking advantage of the recent rise of luxury rentals (no longer a dirty word). Borrow that current-season Miu Miu dress, Prada coat or Loewe bag before you jet, ensuring a designer wardrobe greets you at your hotel room on arrival. Chic start-up Rent The Runway has stores on both sides of the coast in the states, in Paris there are a number of boutiques that offer current season rentals (Une Robe Un Soir, comes highly recommended), Front Row offers next-day delivery to your hotel in London or if you need it now Oprent offers a huge range of designers and same-day delivery; and for those in Europe try Drexcode.
As for the other essentials, less is more. Invest in refillable bottles to take with you and avoid the temptation to use hotel toiletries, as those tiny bottles add up to a lot of waste. Where possible, and this is particularly important if you’re visiting fragile or untouched environments, opt for biodegradable toiletries such as microbead-free cleansers, safe-for-the-earth shampoo, conditioner and soaps, sunscreen that is non-toxic to marine life like fish, coral and algae (non-biodegradable sunscreens have actually been banned in Hawaii, believe it or not), and plastic-free cottonbuds. Stop using cleansing wipes; look up the UK’s fatberg contents if you need another reason. Small steps like this help to leave your destination as you found it.
Ever since the United Nations announced 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, conscious hospitality has been a huge buzzword within the travel industry – almost to the point where hotels without some kind of program in place (beyond asking you to not throw your towels on the floor) are being left behind. One of the biggest shouters of conscious accommodation is actually AirBnB, which this year launched an initiative to support “healthy tourism”. Aiming to drive local tourism in cities around the world, it in-turn reducing the damage done to culturally-sensitive destinations while also attempting to bring the economic benefits of tourism to destinations needing the growth. Of course, a share economy and offering people the option of seeking out environmentally-friendly accommodation by a simple keyword search is a no-brainer for a greener option. For those who prefer a turn-down service and chic pillow top, questions are essential. Does the hotel have any sustainable initiatives in place, such as solar, wind, energy efficient bulbs or water saving methods? Does the restaurant support farm-to-table or local produce? Does the hotel partner with a program like Clean the World (used in Kimpton Hotels, among others) which collects unused soap and redistributes it to those in impoverished countries? You might feel like a bit of a brat for asking, but think of it like an airline upgrade – if you don’t ask, the change won’t happen.