Waste-free Weekends #2, #3, and #4: Spontaneous Travel and Where Things Went Wrong

This past weekend marked the final weekend of my One Month of Waste-Free Weekends challenge! If you haven’t already, I highly encourage you to check out my original post here. You can also find my recap from weekend 1, here.

CHALLENGE RECAP:

As you may remember, I’m a gal in the middle of a personal challenge. After learning some disheartening downright depressing facts about garbage in our National Parks, I’ve set out to change the way I think about waste and trash when I’m out for a weekend of hiking, camping, or climbing. I know that I can barely make a dent in the 100 million pounds of trash removed from the National Parks each year, but I’m hoping that my actions inspire others to consider the trade-off between convenience and sustainable living.

This post is covering the final three weekends, since life got a bit busy and (as you will learn) a little out of hand.

Let’s start with weekend 2.

FRIDAY, MAY 25:

Our first weekend was fairly mellow, and we didn’t go much of anywhere. But last weekend, with beautiful, mild weather on the horizon, we cut out late Friday night and headed to Leavenworth, WA.

Sky finished work around 7 on Friday night, which meant we didn’t head out until a little after 8. This was actually perfect, since Memorial Day weekend traffic can be hellish on a Friday afternoon out of Seattle!

I know I’ve said this before, but we are lucky enough to live in an area that is deeply committed to minimizing human impact on our planet. Because the PNW is full of a bunch of like-minded, health-conscious hippies, we have much easier access to sustainable and compostable foods, even on the fly, at places like: Taco Time NW.

Let me just take a moment for Taco Time here, since unless you live in the Upper Left, you probably assume it’s some kind of off-brand Taco Bell, or even worse, the same as TacoTime International. Taco Time NW is a locally owned and operated fast food restaurant committed to using local ingredients and – awesomely, for those of us on this landfill-free journey – composting nearly all of their packaging, wrappings, and utensils. How cool is that?!?! 

Oh, and their fish soft tacos are to die for. Environmentally conscious and delicious? I’ll take two, please.

So anyway, Friday night rolled around, we loaded the car, hit the road by 8ish, and swung by a Taco Time on our way out. Everything we got was compostable, so when we finished eating the whole bag went straight in our travel size compost container. We use small compostable bags from Simple Truth, but any truly compostable bags will do, and make clean-up a lot easier!

SATURDAY, MAY 26:

We had packed small bags of quick oats, along with chocolate chips, walnuts, and chia seeds – all from the bulk section – and a few bananas for breakfast. We also ground some fresh peanut butter into an old Talenti container, and voila! Chunky Monkey Oatmeal!

I love oats when out camping. They are so filling, easy, and versatile! I’ve raved about a few oatmeal “recipes” in the past, but honestly, the sky is the limit on these. All it takes for quick oats in the morning is some creative mix-ins, some boiling water, and then a covered bowl to let everything sit. I think technically you are supposed to cook quick oats for 5 minutes, but we have found that letting them soak does a fine job as well.

Before heading out to climb, we swung by the Starbucks in town to get some coffee in our reusable mugs. I know this has been touted a thousand times as a great way to cut waste, but I believe it can’t be said enough: bring your own coffee mug with you wherever you go.

Like I’ve mentioned before, we have access to so many bulk snacks in the grocery stores close us. This makes it easy to snack, zero-waste style. We ate sesame sticks, peanut butter pretzels, sour patch kids, Swedish fish, and apples and peanut butter throughout the day. That served us pretty well, and for lunch we downed some cans of jalepeno tuna and split an avocado. Into the compost the avocado peel and pit went, and we put the cans of tuna into a bin to take back to Bellevue for recycling.

After a long day of climbing, we were ready for a big dinner. Because this trip was so spontaneous, we didn’t plan anything – and luckily, Leavenworth is an awesome town with some stellar food options. We went to Blewett Brewing Company, split a pizza (the Captain Planet is great, for all you vegans out there) and a salad, and got some pints. Blewett does use paper napkins, so, much to Sky’s embarrassment, I stowed them away to take back to our compost.

SUNDAY, MAY 27:

We both woke up pretty beat on Sunday. We ate the same breakfast as the day before, went by Starbucks, and then headed to the grocery store to pick up lunch: peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Most grocery stores have bulk rolls or bagels, and peanut butter often comes in glass jars, so these are a great zero-plastic lunch for anyone!

Shortly after lunch, we decided to call it and started the two-hour drive home.

For dinner, we cooked up shrimp stir-fry. Our grocery store has a fish market and deli, and I can bring a metal container from home and have our fish dude fill it with whatever we want is on sale. Since rice is also super easy to find in bulk bins, stir-fry is a popular dish in our house!

On to this past weekend, where things got a little off-track…

FRIDAY, JUNE 1

Friday night we made dal with cauliflower, which is a pretty basic zero waste recipe. Beans and grains are often the easiest items to find in bulk, so something like dal or rice bowls with fresh veggies make for a great zero waste meal.

SATURDAY, JUNE 2

I volunteer with an organization designed to introduce inner city youth to the outdoors, and we had a trip on Saturday. On these trips, we are generally supposed to eat the same lunches we provide for the students: sandwiches, carrots, hummus, and small bags of crackers or chips. For a lot of these kids, having lunch provided for them is is an important part of the trip, and a chance to get good healthy food. It seemed wrong for me to opt not to eat with them, because of a personal challenge I had set upon myself. For some people, it’s just not feasible to do zero waste, whether it’s because of where they live or because of their financial restrictions. This was one of those instances where I felt like it was more important to be a part of the group, than to preach zero waste. This was the decision I made, and one of the first obvious hurtles in this project.

SUNDAY, JUNE 3

Sunday morning we ate grits with veggies, another easy staple breakfast that can easily be zero waste.

For lunch, we ate some leftovers from Friday night.

That evening, I left on a work trip – and zero waste took a big, clunky seat on the back burner in exchange for work-provided meals.

What I should have done is been prepared with my own food, or been prepared to make decisions about what I would and wouldn’t eat based on the waste footprint. But what I did instead was pick up a plastic container to fill at the grocery salad bar, so at least I had something to recycle. This was another example of how better preparation, better decision making, and a more diligent attitude could have kept me on track.

FRIDAY, JUNE 8 – SUNDAY, JUNE 10

Honestly, I’m not even going to go in to depth on this weekend. We headed out to our favorite local bouldering area, Leavenworth, Friday night. Just like we had two weeks ago, we ate Taco Time along the way (all hail Taco Time!!!) for dinner. For breakfast on Saturday, we discovered these energy bagels from Safeway, and picked a couple up with our lunch rolls. Safeway is great because they have a huge variety of bagels, rolls, and breads that you bag yourself; so automatically zero waste, if you bring your own bag! We spread peanut butter and banana on those for breakfast, and then had avocado and Field Roast sandwiches for lunch. Field Roast is not zero waste, by any means – it comes packaged in a recyclable wooden box, but wrapped in plastic – so this was a big miss on my part.

After lunch on Saturday, the 9th, I unfortunately had a pretty rough injury. We wound up in the ER, and then went back to that fantastic pizza place from two weekends ago, and called it quits on the weekend. The following day, our last day of One Month of Zero Waste Weekends and the day before my birthday, I couldn’t even tell you what we ate.

Needless to say, the whole challenge dissolved quickly. While we have significantly cut down on the amount of waste we are creating each weekend, this showed me how challenging it is to minimize waste without a ton of planning, and how plans can be derailed pretty easily.

Sky and I have decided to try this challenge again, but give ourselves a whole month, and create videos instead of blog posts. So stay tuned for the real zero waste challenge!

If you kept up with me, or tried this yourself, I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

 

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