Sustainability for the modern business traveler
Guest Blog by Dan Lloyd, SVP, Operations
Sustainability has always been an important topic for Diversity Travel and it’s something that many of our clients are now prioritizing within their travel programs. From reporting on carbon emissions to offering rail alternatives to flying, we’re constantly looking for ways to minimize our clients’ impact on the environment. Having said that, it’s vital that we don’t lose sight of our own carbon footprint, both as a Travel Management Company and as business travellers.
I want to learn more about how we, as individual travellers at Diversity Travel, can make positive changes to the way we travel and become more responsible passengers. After reaching out to Ecolimpet, a US-based company focused on providing eco-friendly solutions, we got talking about the problems that inevitably come with traveling for business and the solutions.
It probably comes as no surprise that plastic is the major issue. The ‘single-serve’ nature of plane journeys means that people are more likely to grab a bottle of water in the airport lounge or purchase travel miniatures to reduce the amount they’re carrying. While this is understandable (and something that most of us can relate to, especially when trying to navigate the liquid restrictions at security!), it’s obviously not great for the environment.
Did you know? Of the top ten most commonly purchased items at the airport, eight are beverages and the top three are all brands of bottled water.
This issue is only exacerbated when we’re travelling to warmer climates. Sun cream, deodorant and after-sun lotion are all essentials when visiting sunnier destinations (especially the latter!) and unfortunately, they usually come with a LOT of plastic.
Excessive plastic usage is not confined to the airport – hotels are notorious for their complimentary toiletries, from shampoo and soap to toothpaste. Freebies are a nice touch, but not when they’re a detriment to the environment! Thankfully, many hotel chains are starting to address this issue; Marriot switched to pump-style bottles designed for multiple uses in their rooms, estimating that they would eliminate 500 million single bottles each year. Although this is a huge step forward, Ecolimpet note that travellers can cut down on that usage even further by bringing their own eco-friendly products…
After being hit with the reality that I probably haven’t been the most sustainable traveler in the past, I wanted to know what changes I can make when packing my next overnight bag. Of course, who better to inform me than Ecolimpet’s founders, Andrew and Morgan? I asked them what individual business travelers can do to make a difference.
Me: What travel products can you recommend to the conscious business traveler wishing to reduce waste and support sustainability?
A+M: Well, depending on how long you’re traveling for, there are so many options for reducing waste while traveling! There’s the obvious, such as bringing your own water bottle (fill it up once you’re through security – it’ll save you money too!) or downloading magazines and books to your smart device. And for those looking to do more, there’s heaps of innovative solutions. To avoid complimentary kits or single-use plastic soap bottles, we offer a range of zero-plastic toiletries, including aerosol-free dry shampoo and deodorant, toothpaste tablets and shower drops (absolutely perfect for those who like travelling light!). You can also purchase solid lip balms, sunscreen, body lotion, shampoo and conditioner bars; you can easily travel without any waste! Plus if you prepare your snacks in advance, you can wrap them in beeswax wraps or lunch bags for safe storage.
Me: Do you have any suggestions for longer stays?
A+M: Yes – powdered laundry soap, dish soap and all-purpose cleaner are all items we offer at Ecolimpet. But for us, it’s not just what you buy, it’s about how you buy too. We encourage our customers to use what they have first before buying new, and when you do buy, buy high-quality low-waste alternatives. All of our suppliers are small, US-based businesses that are often run by one or two people making everything themselves – it’s about being sustainable for the planet, while sustaining the little guy! Every day, new innovations are being created to make our existence more sustainable, and we’re finding more and more vendors to join our community.
Me: Many companies are now moving away from the plastic shiny corporate giveaways. As one example, Diversity Travel now uses pens made out of recycled card instead of plastic and we print on recycled paper. But what else can we do?
A+M: You hit on it exactly! Recycled pens and paper are a great way to start and using recycled material in anything is far better than new. We try to avoid using synthetics or plastics, sticking to natural or recycled materials. Where possible, providing digital access to resources is a fantastic step, and there are so many paperless options nowadays!
For corporate gifts, we’d suggest ethical gift bags made from recycled cotton or paper that are filled with everything that the modern sustainable traveler needs. After some research, we discovered that gift cards are actually the most popular corporate gift, but we’d avoid giving away cards for large companies who don’t have sustainability as a core tenant to their mission. Instead, opt for a small, eco-friendly, local option. If your goal this year is giving sustainable presents, consider the following gift ideas; high-quality reusable coffee cups, wool dryer balls, beeswax lunch bags, zero-waste toiletries or spa sets, and maybe even some natural woollen socks! More broadly, one simple solution for any office environment to make a difference is having clear guidelines on what can and can’t be recycled next to your bins. This makes recycling easier, which is crucial to making it happen.
My conversation with Ecolimpet really made me aware of my consumerist attitude towards travel – one that I think I share with a lot of people! But it also gave me so many ideas on the ways that I can become a more environmentally conscious traveller. After speaking with Andrew and Morgan, I decided to initiate change right away and headed to their website to purchase a few items. I’m now the proud owner of toothpaste tablets, solid deodorant and a shampoo and conditioner bar, which I look forward to using as travel gets going again!
I don’t want it to stop there though. Over the next few months, I’ll be working with Ecolimpet to do some more research into how business travellers can minimise harm to the environment and work towards sustainable travel goals. I’ll be sharing these insights with the team here at Diversity Travel so that we can continue to practice what we preach, but I also hope that business travelers around the world will gain some inspiration and start to make the change themselves.