Sunday, January 27, 2008

Traveling and trash

One of the things that has smacked me in the face quite a bit over the last few weeks was how tough it is to travel with a light impact. Forget the problem of carbon footprints from an airplane for a moment, the simple act of entering an airport means you either need to think ahead, go without, or simply accept that you're going to create a fair amount of waste. Here are a few things that I learned from my little jaunt last week.

    I always carry a water bottle and coffee mug with me in the side pockets of my bag. It's interesting to see when and if they are inspected upon going through the security area, but once on the other side, the can save you a fair amount of waste....most of the time. The water bottle is obvious, drink it down before you hit security, and fill it back up from a water fountain (yes, water fountain water in almost every state is fine to drink contrary to popular belief) on the other side. Same goes for the coffee cup but with the following potential for conflict. I have run into several starbucks in several airports over the years who say that "for security reasons" they cannot fill my mug, but will be glad to fill a cup, I can pour that cup into my mug, and they will dispose of the cup for me. I've asked many times what the security breach involved with them handling my mug is and apparently this is on a need to know basis. That said, in almost every one of those cases, including last weeks, I have found an independent company in the same terminal that has not had a problem with it. Perhaps they are terrorists in disguise waiting for the moment to fling coffee mugs at unsuspecting passersby.

    In the airport, you're pretty much stumped on food unless it's a $5 piece of mealy fruit. Everything else is going to be either packaged or come with plastic eating utensils. Mmmm, doesn't plastic make everything better?

    On the plane you really only have one choice and that's to think ahead. Anything you are going to get to eat is going to be so shockingly packaged that you really have no option but to waste. That said, i have found most flight attendants to be fairly eager to fill my mug or water bottle, but of course the water is coming from a plastic bottle to begin with, so I always try to fly with mine full.

As far as hotel staying, it seems like the big trip up I found was soap and shampoo. I totally forgot to think about these and had to use the little tiny bottles that they had there (coming to a basement near you soon). That said, I used the shampoo for washing myself as well as my hair, so at least I cut down on the soap packaging. Had we been in a metropolitan area I guess I probably would have bought large sizes of each and then brought them home to use normally which would have cut down somewhat. Another thing I've gotten used to is specifically asking them not to give me a straw with drinks. It seems that these come even with water these days and I've forgotten several times but am getting better.

Anyone have any other good travel/waste eradication suggestions?



might I add...? said...

Do you think the Starbucks thing about having to give you a cup has to do with advertising? I mean, as a company-wide policy, to advertise their product? Just wondering if contacting the company might make a difference....

John said...

My current favorite travel utensil is a knork. Its a fork with a wedge-shaped tine on the outside and a little place to rest your finger for leverage when cutting. It basically improves on the thing we all do when we don't feel like dirtying a knife.


John said...

BTW, they have metal ones as well. I've had my plastic one for more than a year. Its dishwasher safe and very light. The TSA hasn't said anything about it. The metal one might get some scrutiny.

Dave said...

Knork!!! I love it. I use bamboo (which i can't find the link too) but they don't have a cool name.

Normal Starbucks will fill my mug so i don't see why the airport would be different.

MamaKel said...

Travelling with a one year old presents a unique problem....milk. They wont let you bring in liquids so you are pretty much forced to buy their milk in plastic bottles inside the terminal. There is no way around this especially since on a crowded airplane you dont want to deprive your toddler of milk (aka meltdown central). Any suggestions?

Dave said...

Hey mamakel,
I'm trying to think what we did. Isn't it funny how you never think you'll forget anything about your kids and then you do. My wife isn't in right now or I'd ask her, but i think we used to ask them fro milk on the plane. Maybe you should contact go to the source and contact TSA, explain the problem and ask if there is a way around it? If they say yes, ask them to write it up on TSA stationary and send it to you so you have it at the airport. In the end though, the happiness of your child and those around you is, in my opinion anyway, infinitely more important than the waste created by a single box of milk. I'm of the mindset that flying is bad enough so to ask a child to do that means they should pretty mcuh get whatever keeps them happy.
My two cents.
Hope it helps.

Anonymous said...

On the travel shampoo issue, you can reuse those bottles by buying a small funnel and refilling. I bought 3 decent travel size containers and a funnel and now I have my own shampoo/conditioner and soap whenever I travel but they aren't full size so don't take up so much space.


Dave said...

Thnaks for pointing that out. I actually do the same. Problem is that when I forget too many times I accumulate too many bottles and eventually have many more than i need. But you are right, repurposing is the way to go.

Consume Less, Conserve More!!!!


Lisa Corriveau said...

When I travel, I often stay at hostels. They usually have private rooms similar to what you'd get at a lower-end hotel, but they don't hand out individually wrapped glasses, shampoo, soap, etc. You're expected to bring your own. Also, they typically don't wash your linens every day, which is more environmentally friendly. Hostels allow you to cook your own meals in a communal kitchen as well, which helps you avoid waste from eating at restaurants.

Sunshine said...

I realize this is a very old post, but I just got turned onto this blog and am really enjoying reading it from the beginning.

In regards to the 'security issue' at the Starbucks. I once worked for a coffee franchise and our shop was located in a large office building. That said, most of our customers were 'regulars' who worked in the building and most of them enjoyed drinking coffee from their own mugs, as well the convenience of not having tons of coffee cups to throw away at the end of the day.

When the 'boss' found out about customers bringing their own mugs, I was informed that it was a health code violation for their coffee mug to pass over the counter into our sanitized 'food/beverage preparation area'. I was told that pretty much my only option would be to make the coffee in a paper cup, pour it into their cup on the 'unsanitary' customer side of the counter, and dispose of the paper cup.

Security breech, indeed.

Dave said...

Wow, talk about insanity. Thanks for posting.