We just got back from our road trip to the west coast. We did a little loop down to Seattle, Washington then up to Vancouver Island and back west through the Rockies to our home outside of Edmonton, AB. I hesitated about writing this post for a few reasons. The first being that travel and the environment don’t go hand in hand. Traveling isn’t considered an eco friendly activity. Not only are the fuel emissions costly to the planet, but we also tend to consume far more single use items than we would at home. What I did find though, as I embarked on this road trip with the intent of creating as little waste as possible, was that with the right mindset and a little planning it doesn’t have to be so wasteful. Which lead me to the other reason I was hesitant to write this post. NOTHING we did was exceptional or novel, which doesn’t make for great writing material. But then I realized, that’s not really what any of this is about. All we are trying to do is find small, easy ways to lessen our environmental impact on the planet. We don’t have time for complicated or elaborate! So here are a few small and simple ways we were conscious, planned (a little) ahead and enjoyed our Spring Break with as little waste as possible!
“The Earth does not belong to us: we belong to the Earth”-Marlee Matlin
1. We Packed Snacks
There is nothing more tempting than the gas station snack aisles. All of the sugary and salty treats in every possible flavor. We avoided the temptation all together by packing a cooler full of snacks. We had homemade muffins and cookies in reusable containers, as well as fruit and several dry snacks to last the majority of the trip. This saved our wallets, and it also saved the small individual packaging waste that comes along with gas station snack stops. It was extra handy for my daughter who eats snacks through out the day. We would just refill her little reusable snack containers with nuts and fruit each day.
2. We Brought our Reusables
We each had a water bottle, including the little one. We made sure to refill at the house we were renting before leaving and then as needed through out the day at water fountains or restaurants. We had several reusable containers for snacks as well. I wish we had brought one to the restaurant we did eat at before we could check into our house as we could have taken the leftovers in it, instead of the take out container. A thought for next time!
3. We Walked… and walked … and walked!
When we first arrived in Seattle, we had a full day before we could check in so we found a parking space and spent the rest of the day touring on foot. We walked everywhere! It was a great way to see the city and enjoy the fresh air. Once we checked into our house we explored that area on foot as well. You notice so much more on foot than you ever could zooming by in the car. When we got to Vancouver Island we walked as much as possible too. This allowed us to get on different pathways and beaches you can’t get to by car. We also got to see deer along the path, much to my daughter’s delight. An added bonus, is my daughter LOVES to go for walks. We just made sure to have the stroller or baby carrier for when her little legs got tired.
4. We Took Public Transit
In Seattle, we found there were a few things we wanted to get to that were just too far to walk. So we took public transit to get there! It wasn’t very expensive and we got to see new sights from the mono rail! This wasn’t really possible in the tiny town on Vancouver Island but we took advantage of it where we could!
5. We cooked at “home”
We didn’t eat out much, except for the day that we couldn’t check into our house until evening. While in Seattle, we intentionally shopped at the local market and bought ingredients to make evening and breakfast tacos. We bought fresh fruit and vegetables as well, which worked perfectly to refill my daughter’s snack containers. This helped save single use packaging from fast food restaurants and takeout containers. Dinning in saved us some money too, which never hurts. Despite being in the original home of Starbucks coffee, we made coffee at home every morning to avoid single use coffee cups. When we were on Vancouver Island we ate in and my grandmother did all the cooking. This was both delicious and guilt free as she is the ultimate ZERO WASTE foodie (several points on our Grandmother Tribute blog post are dedicated to her). She was also incredibly thoughtful and cooked vegetarian for everyone, extra eco WIN!
6. We used the local waste & recycling systems
Seattle is very environmentally conscious. Everywhere we went I was impressed by the awareness and systems they had in place. At the house we were renting there was a bin for food compost and a recycling bin for bottles and cans. We were careful to use both. I noticed restaurants all used special single use plastic that is designed to compost. Which of course, reusables are still better but the technology provides a greener alternative which I am all for. There were special bins for food compost in all public areas including the baseball game we attended which was fantastic. Most public places where I am from just have a general garbage and if lucky a bottle recycling bin.
7. We used the “Little Free Libraries”
On our many walks we came across several “Little Libraries”. They are such a great idea for reusing books. We all have a shelf full of books we’ve read and will likely just sit there for years unless someone in our home asks to borrow it. This organization has found an easy way to ensure books find new homes (www.littlefreelibrary.org). Why not set them out front of your home where people passing by can take a new-to-them book or leave a book they no longer need? My mom borrowed a book for herself and we borrowed one for my daughter who was tired of the few I had packed her. I want to have one at my house now, so my husband has a new project: building the little wooden case!
8. We enjoyed the Sunshine!
The best thing we did that cost absolutely nothing was we got outside and enjoyed the sunshine. We spent as much time outdoors as possible. A treat for a family that has been living in the cold Alberta winter for the past several months. But it was also a great way to spend time together, relax and it didn’t leave any permanent footprints.
I realize that because we were traveling by car we were able to bring more things with us. Such as the cooler full of food that we couldn’t bring if we were traveling by air. Therefore it was a bit easier to be eco friendly. However, I have made sure to bring my reusable water bottle and food containers with me in my carry on when I fly. I have found it isn’t really much extra work or planning. It’s more about being conscious and making an effort where possible.
What are some of your sustainable travel tips? Let us know below!