Traveling consciously

Let me tell you a story.

It is 6am in the Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport, post red-eye flight, mid-layover, pre-connecting flight, and my circadian clock rings breakfast time. 

Packed in my travel bag, I find an assortment of mixed nuts, KIND bars, and chewing gum – none of which aim to satiate a morning hunger. 

Luckily, The Coffee Bean has just rolled up its security gate; lights flicker on in tune to the mechanistic sounds of coffee grinders and a flood of grateful energy rushes over me. 

As I greet the barista, I go into mindless human ordering mode, thinking “OK, what is healthy here? What will make me feel good, while also filling me up?” Oatmeal and Earl Grey Tea vs Sausage, Egg, Cheese and Cafe Latte….

After graciously accepting my order, I realize… I have unknowingly accepted 5+ single-use waste items into my hands, and onto my conscious. 

  • traveler cup with cardboard sleeve (no indication for recycled or recyclable material) and plastic lid (polystyrene or RIC #6)
  • plastic spoon, from a plastic-wrapped set, complete with paper napkin, knife, and fork 
  • Quaker oatmeal cup, a true feat of convenience (my E.C. nightmare) with zero option for reincarnation, “Just add water and microwave. No mess, no bowl to clean up”  

Naturally, I would point blame at the merchant, looking at the plastic-based options as THEIR problem, rather than mine. But this is not how an E.C.-minded individual should handle these crises. 

Instead, we should be proactive with our observations.

Take a mental count of the things you SEE that could be done differently. Rather than accepting the situation as how things are, think how am I going to avoid repeating this situation in the future? This simple act of recapitulation… multiply that by a few hundred thousand travelers a day. THAT makes a difference.  

So, for next time, either, wait and eat at a sit-down location (avoiding convenience-based options), prepare your own fast-breaking craving satisfying options ahead of time, or at the very least, have eco-friendly utensils available, like bamboo cutlery, The Last Straw, and compostable tea bags to avoid single-use waste. Don’t forget to bring your reusable water bottle and take advantage of touchless, antimicrobial refilling stations now available at almost every major international hub! 

What conscious choices are you making to travel greener?