We needed gas, had to go to the bathroom, and were hungry. Naturally, the gas station is the place to stop. Unfortunately the gas station can also be the source of a lot of garbage. They have walls of plastic bottles filled with every color liquid imaginable. There are aisles upon aisles of packaged junk food. The fountain drink stations have cups, lids, and straws. Everything in the gas station is meant to cater to convenience. To be consumed and discarded. What is someone who is trying to minimize her waste supposed to do?
Thanks to the Navy I've been on my fair share of road trips. Primarily it has been called "moving" rather than "vacation," but those are technically just semantics. We drove from Oregon to Florida, from Florida to Maine, from Texas to Florida, and the length of the Florida Panhandle more times than I can count.
Looking back on those pre-zero waste days I can see how much waste was created without even realizing it. However now I've got some tricks that would help minimize the amount of waste created. Typically you have a lot more space and fewer restrictions when traveling by car then you by traveling by air.
Water and Drinks:
- Bring your own water. Bring a reusable water bottle (or multiples if it is a long trip). You can refill it from water fountains or in restaurants.
- Bring a large water jug. I know sometimes the water in other places tastes weird or there isn't easy access to water fountains, so by carrying a large supply of water you can easily refill your water bottle.
- Buy glass. If you must buy water (or any drink) be sure to buy it in glass and not plastic. Remember glass is fully recyclable whereas plastic can only be downcycled.
- Use a reusable coffee mug. At the gas station fill up your own mug rather than use one of their own. When passing through a town local coffee shops may be more willing to let you use your own mug rather than a disposable one.
Snacks and food:
- Buy unpackaged food. The last time we were on a trip the gas station they had apples and bananas available.
- Pack a cooler. If you've got room you can bring all sorts of food from home or get some along the way.
- Shop at grocery stores not gas stations. The grocery store is far more likely to have package free good.
- Hit the bulk food section. The bulk food section is usually perfect for road trip snacks: nuts, yogurt covered pretzels, trail mix and candies all come to mind.
- Bring your own silverware and straw. When eating out many places want you to have disposable silverware. By bringing your own you can refuse them.
- Eat at a local restaurant not fast food. Sit down restaurants are more likely to serve food on plates with real silverware. Fast food restaurants tend to give disposables.
Planning ahead, by bringing your reusable products will help eliminate a lot of waste, but even if you end up on an impromptu car trip there are choices you can make that will limit the environmental impact.
So the next time you end up hungry, thirsty and out of gas look to see what choices you can make to limit the trash that is created.
How do you limit waste on car trips?