To get to Seattle, we had to fly from New York. Two things amazed me about this, and every plane trip I’ve taken lately – 1) how truly unsustainable airplane travel is, simply in terms of passenger service, and 2) How it took me this freakin’ long to notice. It was only when reading Joel Salatin that I really stopped and thought about the tremendous waste that goes into airplane travel, and it extend so far beyond the gasoline and carbon costs.
It really hit home when I ordered a soda water with lemon. In every other flight I’ve been on, they’ve always had a sliced lemon, or not had it at all. (Now, I know that ordering lemon slices from New York airport is about as non-local as physically possible, but – well – I like my citrus. I also know that ordering canned soda water isn’t the most sustainable option either. I was thirsty. I’m not a saint.)
Instead of a sliced piece of fruit, however, they gave me packets of powdered and crystalized lemon. It was, of course “100% natural” – but looking at the ingredients?
If it now takes paper packets to serve lemon, we’re in trouble. Not to mention, the tremendous amount of plastic associated with each drink and snack.
As a consumer, I have a responsibility. I have a responsibility to either bring my cup (which I forgot at home, along with the frittata disaster of 2013) or at least, save it and not throw it away between service. You can’t bring your own beverages on flights through the airport, but I could have had a water bottle and filled it at the airport water fountain. However, even when I do my part, I can’t understand why the policy is to collect the cups after service, only to re-distribute out new cups afterwards. Is there something inherently unhygienic about sipping from the same cup, naught but two hours later? Not to mention, isn’t this less financially viable? I mean, they loose twice as many cups as necessary!
Also, the hermetically sealed, many varietal processed snacks frustrate me. I’m a gluten-free and refined sugar-free person, so I carry my own snacks. For most people with specialized dietary requirements, they don’t rely on the airline to provide for their needs. For everyone else, having such a tremendous variety of processed, package snacks is unnecessary, and just creates so much garbage and waste, in their digestive system and the landfills.
So I wonder, what would happen if we had either reusable and washable bowls, or if that’s not feasible, compostable bowls, with a vegetarian and a meat-based soup and a hearty bread (and of course, gluten-free bread, for those who need). Have the airline attendants ladle them out individually to each person, so there’s no cross-contamination of anything. At the end, collect the scraps for compost, and use the compost to grow attractive plants alongside the runway (I thought of saying food trees, but that seems like overkill, considering the amount of pollution and fumes. Not to mention, probably don’t want anything high too near a runway.)
On shorter flights, the same could be done with nuts (I know this may be questionable for those with nut allergies, but they now serve packaged nuts, and from what I understand, the hermetic seal really doesn’t makes all that much of a difference once the package is open. If anyone reading has a severe nut allergy, please correct me.) They could hand out either compostable or metal tins of raw or roasted nuts, and throw them in the dishwasher at the end of the flight, or compost the containers.
Alternatively, they could have the local fruit of the season, which would be a dramatically cost and health effective option – local apples in New York right now were around $2.00 a pound (for about 3-4 apples) while chips, cookies, etc., retail for $1-2 per pack – they could cut the cost by 4, and increase health and sustainability!
I know these ideas may seem ridiculous at this point, but remember, a few years ago, you would have been hard pressed to find a “local” label, and the idea of canning supplies in the local Target would have been comical. This changed because consumers demanded it. What if we demanded something that was cheaper for the airlines, and healthier for our waist line and our waste?
I imagine things would change, and quickly too.
I know this seems a bit rant-y, and for that, I apologize. It’s more just a wonderance – what would happen if we came together, and instead of continuing to follow the most obvious and unsustainable patterns, we really paused, thought about new options, and tried them out? I really believe it would be amazing what we could accomplish collectively.Google+