Ken and I got to go on a quick trip down to Iowa this week. An insurance company that he represents invited him to come down for an event they were having and he is wanting to work with them more and they were paying for our motel (with a breakfast) and supper out the night we arrived and then also lunch for him the next day so we thought it sounded like a kind off fun and productive outing so we went. I was also able to go visit a friend (and her children - 2 of whom I hadn't met yet as I hadn't seen them for over a year).
Anyway, we had a good time and it was also a fun time for me to see how well I could stay zero waste while being away from home. It added to my challenge and I had fun with that.
To live zero waste I have discovered there is definitely a certain amount of planning ahead. It isn't hard but it does need to be done in order for things to work out very well. It is similiar to saving money (and actually these things often do both - create less trash and save money) - you just have to change your habits a little but it really isn't that hard. You do also have to sometimes be willing to be a little different.
My goal was that not only would I make this trip with zero waste but that Ken would as much as possible as well. So when planning ahead I tried to think about what I would need to do that as well as what Ken would need. It isn't always the same. I don't drink or want coffee - he does. I don't care if my water is cold or not (in fact I kind of like warm water) but Ken does. If I wanted to prevent him from buying bottled water or iced coffee then I better have a substitute available.
So the special items that I brought along particularly because I wanted to stay zero waste were:
- Water bottles
- An ice chest with plenty of ice
- cloth napkins
- a few plates
- Ice coffee that I made myself in some old Starbucks bottles. It wasn't perfect, I was experimenting but Ken was game and drank it and gave me tips on making it better next time.
- Hot coffee as we started out.
- Car mugs for both of us.
- A packed homemade lunch
Things went fairly smoothly.
At one of the first towns we went through however Ken decided that he needed more hot coffee, that he wasn't quite ready for iced coffee that day. So he stopped at a filling station to get gas and coffee. I suggested that he use his coffee mug and fill it up inside. He had never done that before and wasn't sure if that was appropriate (he hasn't been drinking coffee that long and doesn't usually buy it at gas stations) and we embarrassed to do it. I had never done it before either (I don't drink coffee) but I volunteered to do it for him while he pumped gas. He said sure. So I took the mug in and sure enough it was fine to fill it up and it also cost less that way. We saved around 50 cents and didn't waste a throwaway cup. Woohoo! However in my excitement of using the coffee mug I put creamer in for him and used up 3 little plastic packets of creamer and just threw them in the gas station trash without thinking about it. I don't know that I had any other options for making the coffee the way he likes it but feel I felt a little silly for getting excited over avoiding other trash just to make some in another place.
We at the lunch I had packed on the way. We didn't have to stop anywhere besides rest stops on the rest of our trip down.
That evening in DesMoines we were taken out for supper. Thank-fully it was a sit down restaraunt with reusable dishes and cloth napkins. No waste happened there except when I ordered a cup of juice I forgot to say that I didn't want a straw. So they had one in my juice. Oops! I did remember to ask for it without a straw when I got another one.
The next morning we went down to the continental breakfast. This is where I did have to go outside of my comfort zone and be a little different but I don't really know that anybody noticed. They only had disposable plates, cups and silverware available but thank-fully I had brought my own. So I used them. I may have looked strange but it worked fine and really I much prefer using a real fork to a plastic one any day! My mug worked well for drinking apple juice (from a dispenser) out of.
That day Ken went to the insurance company's office and I went to visit a friend. We were both fed lunch. Mine was zero waste (I don't think Ken's was but I didn't grill him on that).
On our way back home we did buy supper out. I had hoped that possibly we could go to a sit down restaurant both for fun and because it is better for being zero waste but that didn't work out. We had been slowed down by rush hour traffic and then were driving in to a blizzard and it was time to just get home. So we went through a drive-through. Ken did get some stuff with a little bit of waste that wasn't recyclable or good for fire starter but I just ordered a burger that came wrapped in paper (and used my water bottle for a drink) and so I was able to use that paper for a fire starter when we got home.
So that was our low waste and low cost trip. We had lots of visiting time and it was fun to go somewhere together.