The impact of haberdashery on sustainability; thoughts from 35K feet.

Sitting here in seat 18B on UA 962 from EWR to TXL and listening to Disturbed in preparation for concert attendance on February 18th. My wife Gwen and I made a pact to attend a concert at least every other month, we’re doing it, and it’s fantastic! The setlist looks solid, and I am so looking forward to it. “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” ? Plato

United’s consistently poor in-flight Wi-Fi always provides ample quiet time for solitary pondering and writing, so here we go. I usually travel with a 20″ piece of luggage, I ALWAYS carry-on, but the haberdashery I needed to pack for my trip to Deutschland required the use of a 24” bag. I can’t adequately express the feeling that overwhelmed me when I realized that I would need to check my bag. 🙁 My mind immediately began thinking about the inefficiency and risk associated with checking a bag. Then I started tabulating the number of miles per year I travel and the potential scale of the inefficiency, then I started thinking about the number of bags within single digits of the 50-pound limit sitting in the belly of the plane and wondering about the increase in fuel consumption and increased emissions in the name of haberdashery. Then I started to think about how the pivot from the three-piece suit to the hoodie is about more than just comfort, it’s about saving our planet. 🙂 Stay with me here because I am about to hit you with some empirical data. I’m on the downslope of my 40s, and I’ve heard all the arguments for haberdashery, often with a foundation in respect or pride, well I am going to make a 21st-century counterargument here, based on respect for mother earth. I will note that this commentary is in the context of travel because I am traveling at the moment and it’s the fuel for this thought process, but now I am thinking about the impact of dry cleaning on the environment, a quick Google search reveals that I will likely have some quality material for the flight home. 🙂

Okay, so after some painfully slow in-flight research I found what I believe is the most straight forward answer to this question, albeit a generalized response which does not consider aircraft specifics, but I think it’s good enough for the purposes of this conversation. A heavier airplane requires more lift which is accompanied by more drag. For example, given a constant airspeed, a 10% increase in weight will translate to 10% more required lift which is achieved by increasing the AoA (Angle of Attack), which proportionately increases drag by 10%, requiring 10% more power and increasing the fuel burn by 10%. I am not an aeronautical engineer and I am sure my distillation of these facts is a little off, but you get the idea.

Let’s take a quick look at how my haberdashery is impacting the efficiency and environmental footprint of this transatlantic flight. My usual 20” carry-on packed with a couple of pairs of jeans, some t-shirts and toiletries probably weights in at ~ 15 to 20 pounds. The 24” checked bag I have with me on this flight weights in at ~ 45 pounds, for simplicity we’ll go with a 200% increase over my usual carry-on. That’s significant!

I won’t restate the impact of the combustion engine, emissions that result from burning fossil fuels and how they contribute to climate change, global dimming, and ocean acidification, just Google it. Why is it when I look at things in life that bug me, vanity is often present? Hmmm… We could get from point A to point B efficiently, reducing our carbon footprint as much as possible, and why not make this choice? Why do I have a 50-pound piece of luggage in the belly of this plane? I should have packed lighter, disappointed in myself!

That was fun. FWIW, my Disturbed playlist is done, and I moved on to Linkin Park and the Foo Fighters. What to do for the next two hours?

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