When we left for Texas, our car was filled with everything I thought we’d need to keep up with Near-O Waste on the road…
Washable wipes made with organic flannel and a water/vinegar solution:
A variety of bulk snacks with bowls for serving:
A cooler for preserving our perishables and melt-ables, using hotel (no-packaging!) ice:
A grab-and-go “near-o pack”, which included a pan for casual dining-in or take-out, Bee’s Wrap and organic cotton wraps for leftovers, water, three Cuppow/mason jar mugs, To-Go Ware utensils, two snack containers, and a cloth bread bag:
Tubs for dirty dishes and laundry, liquid soaps (in smaller bottles inside the old body scrub container), and a mini compost bin, which -yes- I hauled all the way back to California, full of hot, rotting fruit scraps:
An array of my own toiletries, which proved to be rather heavy:
And of course, our trusty coffee cups:
My pan, bamboo utensils, and coffee cup were convenient for our daily hotel breakfast. Some good choices (at least where near-o waste is concerned), were bagels, toast, and waffles. But of course the cream cheese was individually wrapped (except at one hotel, which had a whole brick of it on a plate), the jam was individually wrapped as well, and the waffle maker required you to use a disposable measuring cup for the batter. In hindsight, I guess I could have used my own cup, but batter’s pretty messy to clean. A couple hotels had real dishes, which was refreshing. Cereal in my own bowl with sliced bananas was another no-waste choice, and easy to rinse. I did break down and have yogurt a few times, waste and all. Breakfast always ended with a coffee fill-up for the road. I never once used a disposable coffee cup!
After breakfast, near-o waste became more challenging. We brought PB&J’s and apples from home, which lasted for a few days, but when they were gone we had to find other options. Between grocery stores, the occasional fast food, and the very necessary popsicles, waste was inevitable.
And when our AC went out in New Mexico and we ordered drive-thru Bahama Bucks shaved ice to save our lives, I just wasn’t programmed to say, “No toxic color-changing spoon and no umbrella, please.”!
And I could not remember that margaritas usually come with a straw! But as you can see, I didn’t let it get me down.
I used my pan at Rockin’ BZ Burgers in Alamogordo, NM, famous for its green chili burger. The guy at the register said sure, they could put the burger in my pan. While we were chatting, I spied the cooks examining my pan, very confused. They leaned out the kitchen window to check with my new friend. He said, “She’s from California.”
To my delight, there were water dispensers all over the desert.
And Texas had some *prime* produce.
I found some evidence that things are moving in the right direction out there:
Bulk soap and lotion at our hotel in Sedona, bottle-filling stations at a few national parks, and some unwrapped souvenirs for our boys’ patch and pin collections. A few were packaged in zippered bags and I was able to give them back to the store for re-use.
I (barely) made it to “America’s first Zero Waste grocery store” (In.gredients in Austin, TX) at 9:50 pm, ten minutes before closing. Sadly, it wasn’t much different than Whole Foods or the health food stores at home; conventionally packaged items and bulk bins under one roof. (They did have beer and wine on tap though!) The store is “zero waste” because it produces no food waste, but they’re still selling packaged items and sending some trash to the landfill. I imagined a “zero waste” store wouldn’t sell anything packaged, so I was a little disappointed. But I’m still glad I got to see it for myself, and if I lived in Austin, I’d shop there!
Perhaps the worst “waste crime” we committed was buying spray paint to take to Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo. We passed our leftovers on to a group of visitors from Japan, so technically *we* didn’t throw it away! And we got to leave a pretty cool mark on the proud state of Texas.
Staying committed to Zero Waste was a consideration on this trip, but not a top priority. I was living it up with my family; exploring some new states, indulging in junk food, and throwing daily routines and obligations out the window. I’m glad I attempted to stay true to Near-O though, and I learned *a lot* that will help me do a better job on our next trip!
This summer, we spent 20 unforgettable days on the road, driving a total of 5,666 miles, and making a little less trash than the average family.
Happy Randall. ‘Nuff Said.