Upcycled Travel Accessories from a More Sustainable United Airlines

upcycled travel accessories from UnitedAre you flying United this holiday season? Keep an eye out for brand-new upcycled travel accessories, which are being released as part of the airline’s eco-skies initiative.

“At United, we’re committed to running a more sustainable airline,” says Aaron Stash, Manager of Environmental Strategy and Sustainability for United. “We’re working to minimize the environmental impacts associated with our operations, whether that’s in the air, on the ground, or at our facilities.”

One of these initiatives consists in the development of 750 one-of-a-kind travel accessories, including travel tags, sling bag backpacks, and saddle bags. Each of the accessories is created from upcycled advertising materials from United, like fabric banner advertisements and vinyl billboards that have been removed from Houston, Chicago, and Newark airports.

To create these accessories, United turned to Relan, a small, mother-daughter-run company based in Minnesota that focuses on producing sustainable items in an eco-friendly manner. The WBENC-certified business partners with larger companies like United for sustainability projects such as this one, helping these larger companies put their used materials to good use.

“Through this partnership, we tell a company’s sustainable story through unique, branded products created from their old marketing materials,” reads Relan’s mission statement. “These story-telling products divert existing marketing materials from the landfills and close the loop on an often overlooked waste stream.”

Originally founded to keep vinyl banners out of landfill, Relan has helped its partners keep more than 300,000 square feet of material out of landfill since its founding in 1995.

Relan’s upcycled products are all made by hand in cooperation with underprivileged communities; for this United project, Relan worked with local contract sewers from within the Hmong community, who hail from parts of Cambodia and Laos. These sewers are able to work from home to create the final products and support their families.

“Each item we make is unique and has its own story,” says Stash. This is true not only of the unique products, no two of which are exactly alike, but also of the people who create them.

These travel accessories are available on United’s site and make a great gift for any eco-friendly travelers on your gift list this holiday season.

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Emily Monaco

Emily Monaco is an American food and culture writer based in Paris. She loves uncovering the stories behind ingredients and exposing the face of our food system, so that consumers can make educated choices. Her work has been published in the Wall Street Journal, Vice Munchies, and Serious Eats.