child with wooden toy airplane

The airline industry is infamous for its huge carbon footprint. When you choose your next vacation, consider eco-friendly travel options that reduce your contribution to the airlines’ environmental impact.

Sometimes, jet setting is unavoidable. Don’t fret — there are a few ways to make your airplane travel greener. Buying carbon offsets, flying in economy class and booking nonstop flights will help reduce your contribution to CO2 emissions.

Airlines are exceptionally wasteful, especially when it comes to plastic and food. According to the International Air Transport Association, airlines produced 5.2 million tons of waste in 2016.

Reducing your personal waste is a great way to shrink your carbon footprint on the plane. Going plastic-free on your next flight is easier than you might think, and we’re here to guide you through five ways to nix airline plastics.

Use Reusable Cups

Perhaps it’s the dehydration that comes with air travel — or maybe sheer boredom — that sends hearts soaring when the drink cart begins its journey down the aisles. Flight attendants hand out hundreds of plastic beverage cups each flight. The cups may end up in a recycling bin, but more often end up in landfills.

Challenge them to change. Bring your own cup or ask them to pour that mid-flight beverage into your reusable water bottle.

Bring Your Own Utensils

If you opt for an in-flight meal, a necessity on long trips, stick to your own utensils and refuse the wasteful plastic ones that come with the food tray. Get your own set of travel flatware or a reusable spork for waste-free bites.

Keep a Reusable Bag Handy

You never know when you’ll need a shopping bag, especially at airports, which have become the modern mall. Souvenir shops and specialty restaurants can be severely tempting. On-the-go purchases will get a green kick if you can pass on a single-use plastic bag and use your cotton tote instead.

Pack Snacks

Airlines are famous for serving free peanuts and, let’s be honest, the snack can be a welcome energy boost for weary travelers. Peanuts and other snacks offered on flights are typically wrapped in a plastic bag and accompanied by a paper napkin, both of which get thrown away at the end of the trip. So, turn them down.

Rather than relying on the airline to provide you with a nutritious treat, plan ahead. Bring a handful of almonds or homemade granola bars to nourish your tired body and satisfy your hunger. For ultimate waste reduction, pack them in a reusable cloth snack bag.

Avoid Straws

Single-use plastic straws are an environmental nightmare. Scientists even found one lodged in a sea turtle’s nose. If that’s not enough to convince you to stop sipping, we don’t know what is.

Straws’ unusual sizes and shapes make this pesky plastic difficult to recycle and devastating when polluted. Consider going strawless or using eco-friendly alternatives the next time you take a sip. Pack your own and you can comfortably say “no, thanks” as the flight attendant offers you a plastic straw.

Do you have other suggestions for a plastic-free flight?

By Lauren Murphy

Lauren has a B.S. in environmental science, a crafting addiction, and a love for all things Pacific Northwest. She writes from her cozy downtown apartment tucked in the very northwestern corner of the continental U.S. Lauren spends her time writing and focusing on a healthy, simple and sustainable lifestyle.