Green Scene Blog: Zero Garbage on vacation

Folks, here’s a new post from Zero Garbage practitioner Rose Brown, who sent a dispatch from the road…

One of the best things about vacation is that it uproots us from our familiar habits. Last week, I flew to Arizona. I left my stuff, my job, and my usual routines behind. I feel relieved and unburdened. Everything I need is packed into one small suitcase. Without the familiar background of my usual life, I can actually notice the moments of my days, which feel longer and richer. I can relax into the calm moments because nothing is waiting for my attention. I can give more energy to my activities because I know that they will be followed by more relaxation.

Even though it feels great to give up familiarity and habit, there is one habit that follows me wherever I go … the zero garbage challenge. In my quest to throw nothing away, I find travel to be the most tricky and enlightening test of my commitment. Without the structure and resources of my life in Charlottesville, it’s much harder to anticipate and avoid those sneaky little pieces of trash.

First hurdle: the airport. Airport food is usually off-limits because of packaging, so I bring my own food with me. It takes just a little preparation before the trip. Bulk energy bars, nuts, fruit, and chocolate. In my carry-on, I also bring an empty travel mug, some reusable bags, a napkin, and a plastic spoon, fork and knife. This time, I even remembered to bring a couple of tea bags because I always crave a delicious hot beverage in the chilly altitude. No need for airport junk food or in-flight drinks and snacks.

After I arrive, we go out to dinner, where I face the usual pitfalls of eating out. I am careful to order a meal that I can finish, so I won’t have to dispose of leftovers. I can avoid disposables by making use of my travel utensils and napkin. But back at my friends’ house, I face the conundrum of sticking to my garbage goals while trying not to be a burden to my hosts. My friends do not attempt to limit their garbage, and in fact are on the other end of the spectrum from me. But they are understanding and accepting of my choices, and they take me straight to a grocery store, where I can purchase bulk foods that will make my life easier. We make jokes about our lifestyle differences, instead of judging each other.

Next hurdle: my hosts do not have a compost pile. What to do with my food scraps? Some of them I can feed to the dogs, some I can toss out to the birds, and the rest go down the garbage disposal. This is definitely not as good as composting, but most sources say that the disposal is a better option than the landfill. If I had driven here, another option would be to collect all of my compostables in a big container and bring them home with me. I’ve done that before, and with a well-sealed container, it’s not as gross as it may sound! In some cities, there are public composting facilities, which make zero garbage travel quite easy.

Vacation is a perfect way to churn up the old routines and get me out of any old ruts. Just as I did during the beginning of my challenge, I have to now remain vigilant, flexible, and creative. By planning ahead and maintaining a good sense of humor, I’m happy to let my zero garbage habit tag along for the ride.

Read more about Rose Brown’s Zero Garbage Challenge here.


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