"Oh, we get another set of plastic cutlery?" This thought passed through my mind as the very friendly flight attendant with a bright smile passed me my second complimentary meal on my trip abroad to Barcelona, Spain. I glanced down and looked at what had been provided to me and every other guest on this Boeing 767 aircraft. A completely new set of plasticware (this encompasses a fork, spoon, and yes... even a knife for who knows what food item) sits on the side of my meal tray. I've always been conscious of my own environmental decisions, and it was this moment that I began to gain a new perspective on the hospitality industry. At what point should we cut off hospitality standards for the sake of a healthy, plastic-free environment?
Let me break this down for you:
The Boeing 767-400ER has 39 business class, 70 economy plus, and roughly 133 economy seat selections. That is a total of 242 seats that this one airplane can fit and that is the number of people it transported from Washington Dulles International (IAD) to Barcelona-El Prat Airport (BCN) in the time of exactly eight hours. In that time, guests were provided dinner and breakfast, both of which included plastic cutlery. This means that around 1,452 pieces of plasticware ended up in the garbage on just one eight hour flight. Mhm. Look at that number one more time. It looks like a large number, and compare it to the over 100 million plastic utensils used every day in the United States of America alone, you'll understand that the big numbers only get bigger. But thank our lucky stars most major airlines don't use plastic straws anymore, right?
The thing I never understood about individuals who use plastic straws is that they are typically the guests in restaurants who ask for one to drink water, but put their lips on the rim of a pint filled with beer without the use of one. The worst part is even if the utensil remained wrapped or unopened on the table or tray, it will most likely still end up in the garbage for quality and sanitary standards.
Listen, I'm not saying that we need to start a new revolution to solve this issue. All I am saying is that maybe we need to include other single-use plastic items with the revolution we have already started. In addition to being hospitable to others, we need to be hospitable to our environment. The number one rule I have about hospitality, responsibility, and leadership is this: leave it cleaner than you found it. When you're in the park, by the beach, or walking down a city sidewalk, do yourself a favor. Stop and look. Doesn't look very clean, does it?