Friday, June 10, 2022

Reduced Waste Road Trip


I have been meaning to write a Zero Waste blog for sometime now.  But, to be honest, our life-style is Reduced Waste at best. We try to practice the 5 R's of Sustainability: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot (compost).  But our consumer culture makes it hard. COVID made it next to impossible. Our neighborhood grocery store, Sprouts, started bagging everything in the bulk section and wouldn't even allow us to use our reusable produce bags. Boo! 

We did what we could. We bagged our own groceries so we could use our reusable grocery bags. We found other ways to cut back on single-use plastic like brewing sun tea and using kitchen scraps to make veggie broth (that I store in repurposed mayonaise jars.) But we also wanted to support our favorite local restuarants by getting take-out once a week. We were shocked (and upset) by the huge pile of plastic and styrofoam take-out packaging. We are forever grateful to restuarants like Zayna's that offer paper takeout containers. Those are the ones we frequented most often.  

Recently, we were presented with a new challenge...traveling during COVID. When we got news that my family was getting together for my mom's 80th birthday party, I really wanted to be there. Since the mask mandate had been lifted, we decided it would be safest to drive to the reunion in Wisconsin. Road trip! We don't own a vehicle, so Dan rented a mini-van (which got surprisingly good gas mileage.) 

I prepared for our "Reduced Waste Road Trip" by gathering our zero waste accessories: re-usable grocery bags, a travel coffee mug, water bottles, take-out containers, toiletries, etc. Since we had a van, we had plenty of room. When Dan saw the plates and bowls I set out, he said I was getting carried away. (While he was packing his coffee grinder and french press...) He claimed we wouldn't need them since we would be eating at restuarants - one of the joys of traveling cross country.

So off we went, our refillable water bottles and a travel coffee mug at hand. We simply filled them up when we stopped at rest areas. No single-use water bottles for us! Nope. When it came time for lunch, it was my son Jeremy's job to look up restuarants that had outdoor dining and vegetarian options. When we arrived, he brought the reusable take-out containers. Jeremy loves left-overs, so he had already gotten in the habit of bringing plastic bowls with lids when he ate out.  At this point in our journey, we'd already saved at least 8 plastic water bottles, 3 to-go cups, and a styrofoam take-out container from the landfill. And it was just lunch time on the first day of a three day drive. Yay us! 

At the hotel, we unpacked our toiletries including a shampoo bar (no plastic bottle) and our own bar of unpackaged soap (so we don't have to use theirs.) I even brought deodorant in a cardboard container. We brought homemade toothpaste (baking soda and coconut oil) in an old caper jar. And...yes...that's a plastic toothbrush.  I didn't have any bamboo toothbrushes left, so I used a plastic one I found in my toiletry bag. One of the principles of Zero Waste is to use up what you already have first. The baggie we carry the soap in has been reused for 5 years! Full disclosure... Dan did use one of the hotel's disposabable glasses for brushing his teeth. But he brought it along to use for the rest of the trip.

I had my handy-dandy water bottle by my bed with ice from the ice machine. Good thing I brought two bottles (one for tea, one for water) because the opening of the other one was too small for the ice cubes. 

I also brought real silverware and our reusable plastic bowls (Jeremy's take out containers). These came in handy when we took advantage of the continental breakfast.  I used my reusable plastic bowl in place of the styrofoam plates the hotel provided.  I just wish I had my own cup for the orange juice. Doh! 

We just needed to pack some lightweight plastic cups and plates into our handy Zero Waste bag. Dan! 

When we got to our hotel room in Wisconsin, we unpacked the big comfort items. In addition to Dan's coffee grinder and french press, I brought a glass jar to make ice tea in.  Since I couldn't make sun tea, I microwaved it and let it cool off over night.  


We were so happy to see that the hotel was making some attempt at recycling...

They encouraged customers to use the same towel several times to conserve water - which we did!

Inspired by these signs, I used shampoo from the dispensers instead of our bar shampoo. They must be refilling these bigger containers, right? But I found out from the housekeepers that they just replace them. Oh, well. It was an opportunity to teach them about plastic waste, "Did you know that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish?" 

We picked up some fruit and other goodies from the store - in my reusable produce and bulk bags...

I always keep a few produce bags and a light grocery bag or two in my purse. You never know when you'll go shopping... 

I love shopping at thift stores while on vacation. You learn a lot about a town by what ends up at the Goodwill. Check out what I found!  A sweater I have been searching for forever, shorts, a new hat and even a Dutch girl souvenir. The birthday girl found some great books. Recycled and reused! (Look up how much fast fashion ends up in the landfill.) 

I just wish I had gotten a small drinking glass...

Here's to finding an outdoor coffee shop with paper take-out containers! Good to know there are like-minded people out there. 

Even the gas station in Oklahoma encouraged customers to use re-usable glasses... 

I know what you're thinking. It's supposed to be a vacation! Was it worth it?  I think so. It's actually kinda fun. And it feels good to know that we kept all of that plastic and styrofoam from two weeks on the road out of the landfill! All it takes is a little forethought and before long it becomes a habit like brushing your teeth with a bamboo toothbrush.

Check out how our plants did while we were away....

1 comment:

  1. Good for you and especially for the planet 🌎 🙏. When travelling long distance I have a quart plastic (used and re re re used) drinking vessel with a lid and a huge bottle of Coca-Cola (to use later to start seedlings. The only time I drink coke) which means 2 litres will see us for miles in sugar and in caffeine. Every gas stop I fill my quart drinking vessel with ice to the top which once in the car I top with coke to drink on the road and top, and drink…and repeat.