I was taking an extremely circuitous route to a destination last weekend and I wondered for a minute about the simple things that could help me tread lightly on the environment in spite all the miles I was racking up. Most of these ideas are within our living memory – we have seen parents and grandparents follow these principles. Returning to that lifestyle shouldn’t be terribly hard.
1. Pack Light: I know that the stereotype is of Indian parents trying to shove their entire home into suitcases for every trip, but trying digging a little further into the past. I remember the word ‘Holdall’ being used by my grandparents. It was a rectangular bag that could carry all your clothes, but it could also be stretched out to become a mattress. Now, tell me if that isn’t economical. Even if you aren’t using your bag as bedding, surely you don’t need to use your 15+7 kgs allowance on every flight? Most of us use airlines a lot – not just for the sake of speed, but sometimes simply for safety. I remember terrifying train trips through Haryana, so I am extremely grateful for air links. Yet, I think we can seriously consider whether we need 15 sets of clothes and 4 pairs of footwear for a one-week holiday. American Airlines estimates that reducing the weight of every plane by 14.5 kilograms can save the airline 1.2 billion dollars a year. This amounts to nearly 50,000 litres of jet fuel. So even if one person per flight decides to only have cabin baggage, they would contribute to reducing global fuel usage by a significant amount. Every extra kilogram means more jetfuel and carbon emissions.
2. Carry Food and Water: Every airport and railway station now has potable water dispensers. Sometimes, the water from these dispensers tastes sweeter than bottled water and I have even given it to my toddler. Carry an empty water bottle and fill it up after the security checkpoint at airports. While travelling by train, if you aren’t terribly sure about water quality, take a large bottle with you and refill it sporadically (didn’t most families have a 10-litre water carrier in the past? Check the loft for these useful relics). Also, carry at least one meal in a reusable container. Aluminium foil, plastic cutlery and cling wrap are the cornerstones of all packaged food. And if you are lucky, your food may be the starting point for the intense and temporary friendships that form on trains.
3. Create a Toiletries Bag: Most hotels and resorts give small packages containing a comb, some soap, and other sundry things for personal grooming. It is tempting to simply forget about packing toothpaste and shampoo and use whatever is available at your destination. But it is much better for the environment (and your skin and hair) to create a small bag that contains essential toiletries. If you have small empty bottles at home, use them to create aliquots of face wash, moisturizer, toothpaste and oil. If you have a bag that you usually carry on trips, arrange these bottles into a vanity case (or up-cycle old clothes to create a stylish clutch) and leave it in the bag. The next time you need to go (even if it is only staying overnight at a friend’s place), you can simply add your clothes and be ready to go.
What about you? Do you have any favourite time saving, earth saving hacks to travel with a light footprint?