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The Travel Industry Takes Sustainability to the Next Level

by Susan B. Barnes

Feb 26, 2024


February 2024

Ecotourism. Ecotravel. Reduce – Reuse – Recycle. Sustainability. These buzz words and phrases have been part of the travel industry for years now, and there is a new one to add: upcycling. Merriam-Webster defines upcycling as “to recycle (something) in such a way that the resulting product is of a higher value than the original item.”

In an effort to be more eco-conscious, brands across the travel industry increasingly implement upcycling initiatives. Here we take a look at a few examples of upcycling in three different travel industries.

Perhaps the most common example of upcycling resides in the hotel space. Take Hotel Marcel in New Haven, Connecticut, for example: An iconic building with Brutalist architecture and Bauhaus design that once housed a tire production company’s headquarters was upcycled and now houses a hotel not only luxurious but net-zero and sustainable. Or Bottleworks Hotel in Indianapolis: Part of the former largest Coca-Cola bottling plant in the world has been upcycled into a modern luxury hotel while maintaining its Art Deco vibes, including the original terrazzo floors.

The Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association estimates 80–85 percent of aircraft parts are recycled when a plane is retired, with many refurbished to fit another aircraft. But more can be done. Lufthansa launched its Upcycling Collection 2.0 in October 2020. The collection includes a laptop bag and weekender travel bag, both made from discarded Lufthansa business-class blankets; a piece of rectangular wall art made from outer aircraft skin; and a mirror mounted in a former window frame of an Airbus A320.

When Delta Air Lines introduced new crew uniforms in 2018, it donated 1 million pieces, or 350,000 pounds, of retired uniforms to be upcycled to make new items such as backpacks, travel kits, passport covers, other bags and accessories, and even pet bed stuffing.


Having already launched the world’s first hybrid-powered cruise ship in 2019 and making a commitment to achieve zero waste by 2030, it’s of little surprise Hurtigruten Expeditions has integrated upcycling into its operations. The expedition cruise line partners with BRACENET to upcycle old fishing nets and other marine waste to create lanyards, bracelets and keychains for guests and crew to use. Guests are invited to take their lanyards home with them as a memento of their voyage.


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