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Virgin Atlantic is launching new sustainable amenity kits – but have they got it right?

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Virgin Atlantic is re-launching its amenity kits to coincide with the launch of its new Upper Class Suite on the A350-1000 starting on 10th September. These are replacing the existing Herschel kits.

The new kits are called ‘Goodie Bags’ and are made from recyclable kraft paper. There are two versions, a black one for passengers in Upper Class and a smaller paper-bag brown one for those in Premium.

If paper amenity kits sound naff, they do look – and feel – better in real life.  Virgin sent us samples of both kits and the paper feels oddly like leather, although the design itself is fairly plain.  I preferred the Premium one myself, with the red zip adding a touch of zing to the design.

Virgin Atlantic sustainable amenity kit goodie bag

Both kits contain a bamboo toothbrush (see the Bambuubrush website here) with toothpaste from White Glo, a silk sleep mask (Upper Class gets it in black, Premium in red), a paper pen and ear plugs in paper packaging.

The Upper Class kit also includes Ren toiletries and some very funky looking socks which will supposedly vary depending on where you are flying.

The socks look really fun and are something I would keep – they are not your typical low-quality amenity-kit socks but actual day-to-day ones.  These are not the branded ‘Happy Socks’ that were being given out on the A330-200 routes – I am guessing that, in deciding to roll out ‘designer’ socks to all Upper Class services, it made more sense to commission their own.

Upper Class travellers also get new pyjamas.  These come in a neutral grey/plum combination and look quite comfortable.

If you are flying in Economy some items are available on request, including dental kits, sleep masks, socks and pens.

Are these really ‘sustainable’ amenity kits?

This is not the first time Virgin has had sustainable amenity kits. In 2012 (pre-Herschel) they had kits made from recycled plastic bottles.

Whilst the bag itself does not look as stylish as the existing Herschel amenity kit – it is a fairly bland black or brown – it is clear that Virgin Atlantic is taking calls for responsible aviation seriously, although the toiletries still come in (recycled) plastic containers. Virgin estimates it will save 945 tonnes of plastic every year.

I’m sold on the contents of the kit – Ren toiletries, a bamboo toothbrush and paper-wrapping where possible is great.  The feel of the paper bags is good too – they have a tough, leathery quality about them.

What I’m confused by is both the colour scheme, which does not feel particularly ‘Virgin,’ and the lack of any interesting printing on them. It’s a missed opportunity not to commission some artists to create designs for the front of the bag. That would have turned it from something very boring to something interesting, premium-looking and collectible.

Virgin Atlantic sustainable Upper Class goodie bag amenity kit

And – let’s be honest – if they really take the sustainable angle seriously, they should get rid of amenity kits entirely and offer self-service toiletries.  Give people an empty bag and run a trolley down the aisle – or set up a display in the bar or bathroom – to allow people to take only what they want or need.

P.S. Virgin’s collectible Wilbur and Orville salt and pepper shakers are also getting a makeover in almond gold, although I’m not sure what colour that is!  Rob claims to still have a pair at home he got in 1997 ….

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Comments (78)

  • BJ says:

    The realities of recycling and environmental friendly practices are much more complex than they seem yet most people, big business and legislative authorities are easily drawn in. That is not to say it is not a good thing to be thinking about and taking action on but dont be fooled into thinking everything you do or hear is the best way forward. For example, recycling paper generally has a higher environmental impact than producing new paper, compost production massively outstrips the market for compost, and regulations on recycling waste actually relate to collection of separated waste, much of which inevitably ends up in landfill sites anyway.

    • John says:

      Yes, I know all my recycling ends up in landfill because the idiot council made the recycling bins black and the general waste bins green, and some other idiots can’t read. They religiously wash out all their bottles and cans then put them straight into the landfill bin, and at the same time contaminate everyone’s recycling with their food waste (as the council hasn’t worked out how to collect food waste from 500 households together yet).

      • Spurs Debs says:

        I knew it was all a con when we had bad snow few years back and I watched the dustmen pick up both recycling and household and dump it all in same truck.

        • Shoestring says:

          Surely that’s just proof of pragmatism & keeping getting the bins emptied under adverse conditions?

        • Ken says:

          “It’s all a con”

          The eternal claim of the climate change denier.

          What recycling best needs is clean, well separated waste. So clean cardboard good, pizza boxes with a left over slice and pot of garlic dip bad.

          Most reduce, re-use,, recycle isn’t that complicated unless you are terminally cynical

          • BJ says:

            Global warming, and by extension climate change, cannot be denied. That the vast majority of gasses produced as a result of human activities have higher global warming potential than most naturally occurring gases has been proven by measurement. This renders it a fact that human activity is increasing temperatures over and above what natural processes alone would produce. You can laugh in the face of anybody who denies global warming and climate change.

            Recycling is general good but waste reduction is much better. It is about personal choices and behaviour. People in developing countries produce less waste than those in developed countries, and in both of those people living in rural environments produce less waste than those in urban environments. There are importantant lessons to be learned in there somewhere!

          • pauldb says:

            I’m sorry but you’re making me laugh. What human-produced gases have higher global warming potential than naturally occurring gases?

          • BJ says:

            @Pauldb, me too when I wrote it but left it that way just for your entertainment 🙂

        • RussellH says:

          Our recycling all goes into the same wagon, but the wagon body is equipped with four separate sections paper, glass, plastics and metals, cardboard.

          • BJ says:

            That’s because the targets your LA is trying to meet is for the collection of separated waste, not actually recycling. Once separated and collected it might be recycled combustedd, stockpiled, sold or even dumped in a landfill site.

        • Alex Sm says:

          Not all councils are that bad. I won £250 in a Golden Ticket lottery from Wandsworth a couple of years ago for correct recycling

    • Ken says:

      Recycling paper only has a higher environmental impact if we assume that it reduces demand for fresh wood, which in turn reduces the number of trees to be planted. This is a pretty spurious argument, and relies on the assumption we cut trees down for fun and replace them with nothing (or sheep).

      “Compost production massively outstrips the market for compost ‘

      Because they are not equivalents.

      The first priority with compost is to stop it decomposing in landfill to produce vented methane.

      • Shoestring says:

        yep there’s not that much point in recycling paper & cardboard – you might as well burn it for energy. It can’t release more carbon than it sequestered in the first place. And as you say, wood that ends up as paper comes from sustainable plantations & is replanted, so is just a carbon-neutral (mostly) industry in Europe.

        Small argument contra that it takes less energy to produce new paper from recycled paper than from virgin wood – but given the costs of getting it all to the recycling plant etc, a pretty small point. That argument is about a million times stronger for glass and metals.

      • BJ says:

        Much more complex than this I’m afraid.

    • Lady London says:

      +1 for the dose of realism BJ

  • Mad Mandy says:

    I wish companies would stop going on about sustainability, its annoying and just seems to end up inconveniencing the consumer at their own cost.

    I don’t want this sustainable bag, I want the luxury leather bag, use sustainability for your free give aways in economy not premium passengers!

    • RussellH says:

      Perhaps one answer is to offer a choice when booking of a ‘luxury’ bag’, or the same contents provided in a plain paper bag. You get a discount of £25 if you do not take a new ‘luxury’ bag’. You can always take your ‘luxury’ bag’ and pour the contents of the paper bag into it.

    • Andrew says:

      Quite right. The poor should be sustainable while the rich should continue to be able to consume however much they want.

  • TripRep says:

    Was listening Radio 4 comedy this week (I think it was a recap of Tim Vine at the Edinburgh festival) they had a guy on who collected branded airline sick bags and previously even had some displayed on his staircase wall.

    He said during the cutbacks in the late 90’s airlines removed the logos to save money, so he resorted to hand writing the logo on the plain bags and collected them anyway.


    • RussellH says:

      Lots of people collect (or certainly used to collect) sick bags. Ferries as well as aircraft. I have heard non-comedy interviews with collectors on Radio 4. I even had a few myself until recently.
      One was from Crossair which did double duty (NOT at the same time) as a bag for a postal film developing service.

      • Alex Sm says:

        These bags are widely present in my airline memorabilia / ephemera home collection

  • Shoestring says:

    we come back to my population point: world population was 3 billion in 1960, 8 billion now, shortly to be 9 billion (2030?)

    an increase of 200% in 70 years

    yet nobody talks about population or population control

    • CV3V says:

      Thanos did, but it didn’t go well. 😉

    • RussellH says:

      I hope those ‘billions’ are just thousands of millions (10^9) and not the billions we learned about in school (10^12)

      • Shoestring says:

        yep I’m vaguely aware of (10^12) – but who/ where is that ever used these days? presumably in some arcane science areas, but in daily life, the world has adopted (10^9)

        • RussellH says:

          The (American) English speaking world may have blindly followed the American usage, but in other European countries the word for 10^9 is ‘milliard’ or very similar. The English equivalent is ‘myriad’, but that sadly, has changed its meaning much more drastically.

          Maybe we should all be counting in ‘lakhs’ (10^5) as in India.

          • John says:

            No, a myriad is ten thousand. Milliard is the English word as well.

          • RussellH says:

            Quite correct. Someone gave me false info years ago!
            But it does beg the question of why we do not use milliard in English English.

    • RussellH says:

      Very true.
      But it is only two generations back that European families were huge too.
      Now we need immigrants to pay the taxes to pay for my pensions…

      • Lady London says:

        Dont get me started about British pensions being ‘unfunded’ which makes us all vulnérable.

        Should have something like Australian or Hong Kong system.

    • Andrew says:

      Bernie Sanders did just the other day there.

      USA funding “abortions for brown and poor babies” didn’t go down terribly well though.

    • Memesweeper says:

      Population is levelling out. Growth is slowing almost everywhere as people get richer and life expectancy improves. It’s possible to sustain 9 or 10bn people with the resources the earth has. The biomass of ants alone is greater than humans. Unfortunately we need to strip out the unsustainable practices, like fuel and plastic products from mineral oil, slash and burn agriculture, single use products, etc, which we all seem very keen on these days.

      • Memesweeper says:

        … so well done Virgin for trying to take a step in the right direction.

      • Graeme says:

        Without going too wildy off topic, read The Unihabitable Planet by David Wallace Wells if interested. It’s shocking although does drag on nearer the end. I’ve changed my view on things since reading it. Less (not zero) air travel, luxury and reducing carbon footprint for our kids and future generations before its too late.

    • Callum says:

      People regularly talk about population control. It never gets anywhere because it’s just plain ridiculous (in the forms people tend to bring it up in anyway – suggestions for better access to birth control etc. are sensible).

      • BJ says:

        So what about the other end of the spectrum Callum: is voluntary or even involuntary euthanasia sensible too? Or perhaps you would like to see a resurgence in endocannibalism? Not all tribes waited for the death of loved ones or neighbours to have a feast!

    • Unsavage gerbil says:

      Nor something you will need to worry about, being close to pensionable age Harry!!!

      • Shoestring says:

        I’ve got 3 teenagers though!

        • BJ says:

          I know two people personally, who noth had kids 16 years after their last so don’t go planning your longhaul travels again just yet Harry.

  • ADS says:

    i remember flying VS economy across the Atlantic about 16 years ago – and enjoyed the “amenity” kit (pen / notepad / plastic wallet) … especially as i got nothing when i flew Concorde a few months later!

  • Optimus Prime says:

    OT – Offer on Amex Plat and supplementary for Kuoni: spend £1000 and get £100

  • Jason says:

    OT anyone know if BA charge to add a inbound flight to single outbound companion ticket that’s already booked thanks

    • Genghis says:

      If inbound was not yet released (ie greater than t-355) at time of booking outbound, no charge. If inbound was unavailable as no availability, then charge

  • ehh says:

    Its a bit hypocritical.
    Saving the planet while flying 1/2 way across the planet!

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