By Larraine Roulston:
This summer Air Canada will do more than recycling paper and aluminum cans by replacing its personalized red plastic single-use stir stick with a stirrer made from recycled bamboo. This action will eliminate approximately 35 million plastic sticks per year. In addition, Air Canada has partnered with the University of Toronto’s sustainability students to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills by addressing environmental concerns in its Maple Leaf lounges and other facilities. The airline’s Teresa Ehman, Director of Environmental Affairs, states, “Air Canada has made sustainability central to its decision-making and business process, including acting responsibly with respect to the environment.”
The goal of zero waste should be the focus for passenger airlines globally. Working towards this end begins with simple changes that airlines and passengerscan initiate easily. Examples follow:
- Captains make a simple statement: “This is your captain announcing that we are striving to become a waste-free flight. Please help us reach our goal.”
- Flight attendants set an example by bringing a reusable mug for their own refreshments.
- Flight attendants offer passengers who bring reusable containers a simple thank you as an acknowledgement; provide a refill; or, on extra fun flights, give a shout out to passengers for helping the airline to achieve zero waste.
- Possibly establish a partnership with a coffee chain to determine the feasibility of having flight attendants hand out coupons to mug-toting passengers.
- Have flight attendants encourage passengers to retain the plastic disposable cup holding their beverage for the next round of drinks.
- Dispense cream, milk or plant-based milk from a carton to avoid single-use containers. Provide sugar cubes or sugar from a spoon in lieu of individual paper packets. Offer the option of oat milk, which is both delicious in coffee and smaller in its environmental footprint.
- When collecting debris, provide separate recycling bags for plastic, cans and newspapers. Little packets that hold peanuts and pretzels also can be recycled when gathered separately and collected by TerraCycle, a company that provides special zero-waste recycling boxes to gather a variety of items. Regarding those little stir sticks — let’s ask ourselves if we really need them. A few spoons on the beverage trolley mightdo quite nicely.
- Apart from recycling programs available at city airports, cleaning crews can source recycling opportunities or repurposing ideas when finding items that get trashed.
Increasing environmental practices builds on Air Canada’s current practice of donating and repurposing employees’ outdated uniforms, as well as having improved its fuel efficiency. And, flight crews have the luxury of promoting 3Rs information and implementing creative ideas to a captive audience of all ages and cultures for a cause that impacts everyone.
As flying has an environmental downside, passengers can help offset their carbon footprint by donating to the Center for Climate Protection or by planting a tree.The view of Earth through an airplane window is wondrous. Only by working together in big and small ways will we help keep our precious planet, that we call home, healthy.
Larraine writes children’s adventure books on composting and pollinating. View, www.castlecompost.com