Condo Blues: Zero Waste Road Trip - Can It Be Done?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Zero Waste Road Trip - Can It Be Done?

Its funny how receiving one little blog comment or email can create a huge new idea. I was all hopped up on caffeine and chocolate (the two great tastes that taste great together and fuel the Condo Blues creative writing machine) all set to draft my Haiku Friday post when I got a nice comment on from Almost Mrs. Average about my wine glass chandelier. I checked out her blogs The Rubbish Diet where she's trying to make her household zero waste and Bin 101 (a wonderful play on Room 101 from George Orwell's book 1984.) She describes Bin 101 as
Things that are too good to be condemned to landfill, but not good enough for
recycling... or silly things, annoying little things, frustrating big things
that shouldn't be thrust on us in the first place.

What was in Bin 101 at the time I peeked at it? Condiment packets. I have a few of these in my refrigerator. Not a lot because Husband and I try to be health conscious, cut out hydrogenated oils, transfats, and high fructose corn syrup from our diets - there's a lot of that in fast food. But I will not lie; sometimes I must heed the Syrian call of Taco Bell. I don't' know (and honestly, I don't' think I want to know from a health standpoint) what it is about their Fire Sauce or taco seasoning that sends my tummy into a happy tizzy but it just does. Therefore, I have a few condiment packets in my fridge. Maybe you do too. I keep them around because they're convenient when we take food with us on road trips. 

It's confession time gentle readers, I'm planning a road trip. Me, Husband, and the Blitzkrieg (but don't worry, I've thought of you and scheduled lots of wonderful, wacky, and helpful posts to appear on Condo Blues, while I'm officially MIA from my computer) are hitting the road. Since we've got the Blitzkrieg with us and Husband's training for a half marathon relay, it's easier to do picnics with healthy food at a rest stops than leave the pooch in a hot car and duck out for fast food on the road. (And suffer the very real possibility of having bad things happen to the dog in an empty car in the hot sun - a definite pet safety no no!) As such, I was going to take those soon to be trash condiment packets with me on the road. Then I stopped and thought, "What if I followed Mrs. Almost Average and Green Me's example and tried to do a Zero Waste Road trip?"

The next thought that crossed my mind was, "What the heck to they mean by Zero Waste?"

Because honestly when I look at places that say that they are or try to be Zero Waste, there is some stuff that goes in their recycling and compost bin. Often there's also a little itty bitty bit of trash that goes off to the landfill. That looks like generating waste to me in the very literal, sorry-but-I-parse-things-down-due-to-occupational-hazard type of way. It's not that I'm knocking them or not down with the green program. Sometimes I'm just too literal for my own good. Oops.

After some research I found that Zero Waste comes down to this: reduce the amount of trash hauled off to the landfill that you or your business makes to zero, by a combination of shopping/producing items that use less packaging, by recycling and composting everything that can be recycled and composted, and by finding ways to recycle things that can't currently be recycled. That way, hopefully, you won't generate any waste that you have to chuck in a bin and haul it off to a landfill.

Oh. OK. I can do that.
I have reusable picnic stuff; including a lovely cloth tablecloth and napkins that came with my picnic hamper. I have reusable travel coffee mugs for drinks. I have a big water jug that we were already going to take for Blitzkrieg in case the local water didn't agree with his tummy. Barring the emissions from the small fuel efficient car we drive this was looking doable.

Then I realized that I have one of these.


And as a responsible pet owner, I need to bring these.

Sure, the bags I use are biodegradable (we can't compost poo), but it's still waste. Given the Blitzkrieg situation, I was going to fail at a Zero Waste Road Trip before I even started. Sure, I could give myself a doggie doo exemption (it's my challenge and my rules after all) but that felt like cheating. However not challenging myself also felt like a cop out.

So, I decided to tweak the challenge. Instead of doing a Zero Waste Road Trip Challenge, I'm going to do a Low Waste Road Trip. Meaning: we will try not to generate trash that is disposed of in a trashcan while we're driving from our house to our destination and back. Stuff we can't recycle at our destination (because honestly I don't know what they can or cannot recycle) we're going to take home with us. This may not be an easy feat because I have a small car (sadly not a hybrid but maybe one day...) and not a lot of room for extra stuff.

How will we do? I don't know. Do you have any tips for me? I'd really love to know!

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AmazinAlison said...

You probably can't wrangle one of these up in time for this trip, but for the future you should check out the Doogie Dooley! Another blogger I recently came across has been using one of these with great success!

Have a wonderful trip and good luck! The only time my car used to get filled with trash was road trips, but since the little munchkin (and obsessive planning around naps and food) arrived we've managed to do short trips with little or no waste, so hopefully you will find your "challenge" to be relatively easy and very satisfactory!

Lisa Nelsen-Woods said...

green me - Sadly, I can't use the Doggie Dooley because I have clay soil. Clay soils won't obsorb the waste after it's broken down in the composter.

Almost Mrs Average said...

Sounds like a fantastic road trip you're starting. I've had the same issue with clay soil. I was once considering something called a Green Cone which can also accept animal waste, but we couldn't find a right spot in our garden that wasn't clogged.

Enjoy the challenge and I can't wait to see how you getting on. ;-D

Anonymous said...

We have to travel back and forth to Michigan a lot and creating "zero waste" this is one of our biggest challenges. I usually do ok on the way to my destination, but I have a hard time packing food for 5 on the way home from vacation. I really need to get better at that. You've inspired me. There's really no excuse besides my own post-vacation tiredness. And bitchiness. That also comes into play.

Unknown said...

you could try training your dog to go in the woods. i did this with my dog (admittedly, he was very young when i got him and started the training) by giving him a treat and lavishing ridiculous praise when he went in wooded areas or places with very high weeds, and NOT when he went in grass. also, especially since your dog is small, you can use a large leaf to pick up poo and toss it in a bush or woods. i've also been known to use a couple twigs like chopsticks...hehehe

Lisa Nelsen-Woods said...

june - My HOA requires us to pick up after our dogs after each "deposit" (although some of my neighbors don't, grrrrr!) I have a thing about people who don't clean up after their dogs because 1. I hate stepping in poo and 2. some dog friendly places become dog unfriendly places - because of folks who don't clean up (although this usually only happens when it comes to indoor places.)

Unfortunately, leaving poo around can cause flies and other nasties to use it as a breeding ground. And it smells bad too. So I'm going to pass on flinging Blitzkrieg's poo in the woods.

Anonymous said...

Hi Condo,

Zero Waste is an aspiration we enthusiasts strive for. Minimisation is the practical reality.

My take on it is to avoid a landfill bin waste contribution for 4-5 years.

In the UK there is a budding alliance between Local Authorities (Councils) and Zero Waste enthusiasts. This will transform the situation here.

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