Zero Waste: The problem with flying

Zero Waste: The problem with flying by Sigrilina -- Traveling can be stressing and exhausting on itself, it is more so when you want to make it as eco-friendly as possible. To be honest, I disagree with those that are absolutely against flying. I’m not saying that the industry is perfect as there is much yet to be done.

Traveling can be stressing and exhausting on itself, it is more so when you want to make it as eco-friendly as possible. To be honest, I disagree with those that are absolutely against flying. I’m not saying that the industry is perfect as there is much yet to be done. All that I’m saying is that going by train is great in Europe but what if you live in another continent? I don’t know how it is all over the world but in Argentina you only have 15 days of paid holidays, which means that if you want to go to another country, going cruising is not really an option. Not only are cruise usually extremely expensive but also take way too long to get to destiny.

There is an online calculator to estimate the amount of CO2 that your travel, either by car or plane, produces (see here). It also works for other things such as event and energy. It is useful if you are planning on offsetting your CO2 emissions.

And the Natural Resources Defense Council, an American organism, evaluated the use of biofuel by airlines and found that: “The top-scoring carrier was Air France-KLM, followed by British Airways, United Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Cathay Pacific, and Alaska Airlines”. But do remember that the Air France group is the only airline that ships non-human primates for research (see here).

Nevertheless one major issue is that airlines have miserably low recycling rates, a note published in 2009 in Scientific American (see here) claimed that the problem is that even though some airlines do separate the recyclable materials from those that cannot be recycled, in airports they are thrown in the same place. To put it graphically, and quoting David Farley,

The U.S. airline industry discards enough aluminum cans every year to build nearly 58 Boeing 747s and enough paper to fill a football field–size hole 230 feet deep—that’s 4,250 tons of aluminum and 72,250 tons of paper.
David Farley (author and journalist) in Scientific American, 2009

As you might know, methane is worse than carbon dioxide, “methane warms the planet by 86 times as much as CO2, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change” , keep on reading about it here: Scientific American, 2015. So the issue of food wasted by airlines should be a major concern, a recent article published on CNN (see here) fully covers this topic so if you are interested in having more data I fully recommend you to read it.

What can you do to help with these problems? As with most things, bring your own! Bring your own headsets, the ones given by airlines are really low quality anyway. Bring your own blanket and eat before boarding and bring some snacks with you. The first time I traveled with my own food I was mad worried that I was going to be stopped and some security guard was going to make me toss everything. Little did I know, you can take food with you, only liquids are restricted. Do make some research because some countries do not allow you to bring in certain food.

And as per usual, push for more regulation, the invisible hand of the market has done wonders to make people richer but done nothing to protect our planet, or in a more political vein the people. We need our governments to regulate the way airlines operate and to set for higher environmental standards. Make them change to greener practices!

All in all, taking an airplane is quite convenient but the whole industry needs to take the environment more seriously and start implementing greener policies.