Waste Conscious on the Road

Over the last few years, like most people, I’ve tried to make an effort at reducing my carbon footprint. Everyone knows there’s too much plastic on this planet and we’re producing way too many fossil fuels so it’s nice to see people making conscious changes where they can. I eat a plant-based diet as animal agriculture produces more atmosphere-damaging greenhouse gases than all transportation combined; I shop with reusable bags, and I haven’t owned a car in 7 years.

Traveling for business (and holding a corporate credit card) however, creates a whole new set of challenges.

Almost nothing about travel is conducive to low-waste living. A normal week involves me getting in a 45-minute Uber ride for one, getting on an airplane and back in an Uber to the office. Then it includes ordering takeout lunch for three days and staying in a hotel room for one for three nights, before getting back in the Uber-Airplane-Uber loop to arrive home.

Having put some serious thought into this issue (usually while on a plane) I figured I would share a few small strategies that I’m trying to implement to (albeit, slightly) reduce my footprint while traveling.

1) Take a water bottle. Our offices usually use paper or plastic cups which are completely unnecessary in 2019. I don’t buy bottled water, but instead am packing a water bottle (even if it is an old plastic one) to fill at airports and in the office. I don’t use the plastic bottles offered up in the hotel rooms either.

2) Uber pool. Usually I’m staying in the same hotel and taking similar flights to my coworkers so we try to share a cab or Uber and that at least helps. It’s rare I have enough time to take public transit, but if available I’ll choose that option. In addition, I choose hotels within walking distance of the office to avoid transportation in the first place.

3) Marriott green option. Most hotels will offer you a bonus or incentive to forego housekeeping each night which I always accept. This saves water, detergent, cleaning supplies, and things like plastic water bottles, shampoo containers, etc.

4) Limited coffee purchases. This might be a deal-breaker for some people which is fine, but it’s relatively easy for me. Starbucks contributes more than 5 billion coffee cups into the waste system every year, including plastic straws and cups for their cold drinks. That’s not stopping anytime soon, but there’s no need for me to grab one of those each day - even if I’m not paying - when I never feel like I “need” or “want” it that badly. Again, I’m just speaking for myself. If coffee in the morning or throughout the day is something you love and look forward to, then fill your boots.

My goal to improve in this department is to pickup a reusable coffee mug. That way if coworkers are going on a coffee run, I can join in, get a little caffeine boost, and throw nothing in the trash.

Does anyone have any other suggestions? I still order delivery/takeout lunch every day and usually go out for group dinners in restaurants.

Obviously these are all baby steps, but it’s nice to know you’re at least being mindful of your consumerism and your footprint.

Thanks for reading,

Mike