Sustainability in Traveling

Traveling in recent years has changed. Largely because of the COVID-19 pandemic, also because we are becoming more conscious about how our activities affect our planet.

For some years now, there have been aspects of travelling that I am more careful about, trying to enjoy the trip while caring about its sustainable aspects. Anyone who knows me a little, or has read a few posts of mine, will know that I am convinced that, when it comes to our environmental footprint on this planet, every action counts, no matter how small it may seem.

A couple of the things I do when travelling is to bring my own toiletries to avoid using hotel toiletries packed in mini, single use, plastic containers, and carry a reusable beverage container. The later has given way to an interesting experiment when I ask an airport seller or a flight attendant to pour a beverage in it. Generally, airport restaurants or vendors have no problem filling my container with coffee or other beverage, while not all airlines will accept doing this – I have gotten replies that go from a simple “we cannot do that” to “I’ll pour it in this plastic cup and then you can refill your container”.

I recently travelled to Chicago for the Sustainability in Packaging 2023 conference. Very adequately, I found some nice examples of how some aspects of travelling have improved recently.

I flew with Aeromexico, and it was great to see how they are doing much more than offering an additional, voluntary, carbon/offset fee when buying tickets. One thing I noticed since last year is that their flight attendants are some of the friendliest when you ask them to refill your reusable beverage container, whether it’s for water, juice, or coffee.  This flight was no exception. Further than that, a new discovery / which I loved on my flight to Chicago! – was that they are no longer using disposable plastic containers for food. Hot breakfast was served in a combination of aluminum containers with aluminum lids and hard, reusable, plastic bowls for fruit (which did have a plastic film on top). I asked one of the flight attendants, who confirmed / with a proud smile – that aluminum got recycled and plastic bowls were washed and reused.

The conference venue was Accor Group’s Swiss hotel.  I was very happy to see that most toiletries came in paper packaging, that there were no plastic bags lining trash bins in the room, and that there was an extra trash bin for recycling, which was a different color and material, and had the RECYCLE text and symbol. Another nice discovery was a pretty ceramic cup next to the coffee maker, which allowed me to enjoy a morning coffee, even if I still used coffee that came in a plastic tray, which I put in the recycling bin. According to information from Accor Group, by using recycling bins around the hotel and properly training its people, over 7 tons of materials were recycled in 2022.

Regarding housekeeping, this was the first time that an invitation to choose skipping room cleaning (which I have seen and accepted before) came with a credit offer for each day I chose not to have room cleaning service. Credit was made valid on my bill as offered.

Catering for the conference also managed to avoid single-use items by having glasses made of glass, ceramic dishware and metal cutlery, which were constantly collected and replaced by clean ones, possibly generating employment instead of trash.