Monday, February 22, 2010

Girl, Up In the Air

Did you see that movie Up in the Air? George Clooney plays a dude who spends three hundred days a year on the road and gets a hard-on from rental car rewards cards.

Let me tell you, sometimes I can relate.

I mean, I travel only a couple of times a month, but that's enough to make me feel that I live in different world than the other people in line at TSA. It's enough that it's really not right, the thrill I get from waving my "A-list" card and cutting to the front of the security line. Like Ryan Bingham, Clooney's character in Up in the Air, I love it.

I love hotels.

I love the little van that takes you to the parking lot.

I love the TSA workers (they're just doing their jobs, people! Smile at them!).

What I do not love about travel, however, is that in Travel-world, America's disposable culture is taken to the nth degree.

For example, there used to be a time when you could pack your own lunch and carry it onto the plane with you. And you still can, as long as nothing in your lunch is of a liquid or gelatinous consistency. If it is, it will be taken away. (My boss once had a can of tuna taken away because it was packed in water). As a result, most of us buy our lunches and drinks once we've passed through security, and then throw away a wad of wrappers, plastic dishes, and disposable flatware.

And what about the hotel? I admit, I don't bring shampoo most of the time, because I know a tiny disposable bottle will be provided for me. I don't take it with me to recycle. I leave it in the hotel room. Really - what am I expecting? It's not as if little mice are going to fill re-fill it once I leave. The hotel staff are going to throw it away.

I've been thinking about this a bit, and I've thought of a few ideas that I'm going to try out to green my travel -- some I've already tried out. Here they are:

  • Bring an empty water bottle. Of course, you can no longer bring your own liquids into the terminal, hence the price-gouging of three dollar bottles just past the X-ray machines. But you can bring an empty bottle and fill it up at a water fountain. However, it might get your bag an extra check as they make sure your bottle is actually empty (or so I've learned).
  • Check a bag when you have time. Even when I bring a carry-on size suitcase, I sometimes check it. This way, I can bring my regular bottle of shampoo, rather than purchasing a small bottle (more plastic!). I also bring a few other non-disposable items, such as my reusable coffee mug and reusable flatware. Those items can go through security, sure, but why lug them around when you don't have to?
  • Load up your computer with entertainment. I usually have work to do on the plane, but for those of you who are lucky enough to have free time and would purchase a stack of magazines, why not download a few episodes of your favorite shows instead? If your computer has a decent battery, you shouldn't be using too much energy, and you'll probably save money as well as paper. And if you're going to use your computer ...
  • Don't plug in if you don't have to. I'm totally guilty of juicing up every time I see an outlet in the airport, just because I know I won't have access in the air. However, now that I do have an excellent battery, I'm trying to curb this habit.
  • Reuse those hotel towels. Of course, the practice of not washing hotel towels every day to "save the planet" is the practice that helped spawn the concept of "greenwashing." Who cares if it saves the hotels money? It's still better for the planet.
  • Walk. I love walking in unfamiliar cities, but many work travelers fail to notice the distinctions between towns because they cab it between the hotel and restaurant, hotel and conference center, etc. What's sadder than hearing someone say, "I don't know the difference between New York and Paris - they all look the same"? But you'll never say that if you walk.

Do you have any green travel tips?


grace said...

Hi Catlin! As I mentioned, I've been reading your blog, and was finally inspired to comment :) I also love airports far more than I think I should, but take the opposite approach-- I rarely check bags for trips <1 week (which, during sweater season, is a great game of "will it fit"), and have travel-sized bottles of shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face wash, moisturizer, toner, and lotion that I simply refill from my normal-size bottles whenever they are running low. I find they can last about a week.

Also, I am all for the search for "green" beauty products-- have you tried Avalon's shampoos and conditioners? I think I've finally found a staple.

Catfish said...

Thanks for commenting, Grace! I wish I could pack less, but it's the shoes that do me in!

I will have to check out Avalon products.