Observations of an Environmental, Yogini Traveler

I recently took my summer vacation to visit my family in Western New York. It’s a long, taxing trip from Busan to Buffalo and totaled roughly 26 hours door to door. As usual, my mind was observant of waste created in airports on planes. Here is a short list of what I saw as well as some tips for having comfortable travel.

  • Plastic on Planes – Thankfully, airlines feed travelers on longer flights and I’m always grateful for some grub before attempting rest on a flight. Of course airlines have strict health and safety guidelines to follow when serving so many people in a short time frame, so a lot of plastic is used for sterility. I saw plenty of plastic cups for all those beverage stops, saran wrap on fruit cups, and plastic utensils. Sadly, I also noticed that pop cans, utensils, napkins, and all other waste was jumbled together in the same garbage collecting, leading me to believe that nothing was recycled.
    • My Tip! Bring your reusable water bottle or tumbler with you on the flight and have the attendants fill that up with water or your choice of drink rather than getting a plastic cup every time. I estimate that I saved the disposal of at least 10 plastic cups on my recent flights this way. Having a water bottle handy also saves a few bucks at the airport as there are usually drinking fountains found near bathrooms. At New York’s JFK I saw this nice little reminder of a drinking fountain, and smiled.
  • Hold Out for Recycling – When I first entered JFK’s immigration area I saw only a collect-all garbage can which got me feeling a bit down, but after going through security and walking around the terminal I noticed that there were in fact recycling receptacles throughout the airport. Relief!

Recycling Bins

  • Get Fresh Air – JFK had a cool new rooftop area at Terminal 5. I had some time to waste so I checked it out. After being around so many people and breathing the dry, stale air on the plane, the outdoor rooftop was a welcoming retreat. It also featured recycling bins. The grass wasn’t real, but plants and flowers bordered the area. It was nice to stretch my legs and do a little yoga after the long journey.
  • Bring a Travel Mat – If you don’t have a packable, travel yoga mat that folds up easily, then I suggest getting your hands on a yoga towel. They’re commonly used for hot yoga classes as the micro-fiber prevents sweaty palms from slipping in downdog. When
    Folds up easily.

    Folds up easily.

    traveling, I toss mine into my carry on bag, this way I can whip it out during lay overs and stretch my weary muscles. If you don’t have a yoga towel, then striking poses in a quite corner right on the carpet would suffice, just as well (I’m just a bit of a germaphobe!) Another bonus of the towel is that it doubles up as a blanket or rolls up as a pillow on the flight. Tucking your improvised pillow between the back of your seat and your lumbar spine (low back) adds an exponential amount of comfort from those flat-backed seats as well.

  • Aisle All the Way – For long flights I always request an aisle seat. Because of the dry air I drink a lot of water on flights which means a lot of bathroom breaks. While I wait in line I take the opportunity to do a simple, standing runner’s stretch to create space in my front body. Another good one to do is to find a flat surface and do downdog at the wall.
    • How To Standing Runner’s Stretch: Stand next to a wall, bend one knee and reach down for the foot with your hand. Pull the heel in towards your glutes, lining the bent knee up with the standing leg’s knee. If balancing is difficult, then use the wall to support you. Hold for a few breaths and switch sides.
    • How To Downdog at the Wall: Stand hip distance, facing a wall, with a slight bend in your knees. Be close enough to the wall that you can lift your arms overhead at shoulder’s distance and place the hands on the wall, elbows straight.  Gently bend at your hips and knees and press in and down into your palms on the wall. Stretch from the shoulders down to the low back. Stay and hold for a few breaths. Repeat as necessary.

Travel is a rewarding privilege; it is a way to see and learn about the world, a chance to relax and take a break from work life and daily chores, but the act of traveling is not always so fun, especially on trips that last literally for days. Take the time in preparation for a trip to make sure to have your essential water bottle or tumbler tucked away in your carry on. Bring along your travel mat or yoga towel for impromptu yoga sessions in the airport. Breathe long through the process of travel and know that you shall reach your destination in time.

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