Zero Waste Road Trip: A Teenager’s Point Of View

We're happy to share the stories and positive work of our Ambassadors in their own words. Our Be Zero Ambassadors bring life to the Be Zero Mission by sharing and inspiring ways to live simple and low-waste lifestyles. Our Ambassador, Abby, shares her recent adventure on making less trash while on the road! 

Zero Waste Road Trip: A Teenager’s Point Of View | Written by: Abby Abrahamson

A couple of weeks ago, I packed my suitcase for a family road trip from my home in Massachusetts to Washington, D.C. (and an overnight with family in Richmond, VA). For two weeks before the trip, I researched and planned how to travel while producing as little waste as possible. Having read about the consequences of waste generated by tourists, I was determined to enjoy the trip while still maintaining my minimal-waste lifestyle. 
 
Preparation: What I Packed
 
Everything I packed for the seven-day trip fit into a carry-on bag. I brought as little clothing as possible, so that there would be enough room for my suitcase to fit the car. I brought one dress, one pair of jeans, and several shirts and pairs of shorts. In addition to the usual undergarments,  I packed a sweater, a windbreaker, a swimsuit, sneakers, flip-flops, and a nightgown. Simplicity is key!
 
I packed my own shampoo, soap (and soap tin), bamboo toothbrush, and a small jar of baking soda that I used for toothpaste. As for deodorant, I packed a store-bought stick that I have had since before my transition to a zero waste lifestyle. All of these items came package-free, or in a recyclable material. I was expecting my period during the week of travel, so I packed my menstrual cup. Since I would be sharing a hotel bathroom with my family, washing and drying reusable pads wasn’t ideal. So, I packed disposable pads just in case. 
 
I knew that I would need to bring several zero waste “essentials”  in order to create as little waste as possible. The first thing that came to mind was a mason jar - it has so many uses! With it, I brought my Cuppow lid, something I use regularly. I also packed a set of stainless steel utensils, a reusable bag, and a reusable water bottle. 
 
The Road Trip
Our road trip from Massachusetts to Virginia took about ten hours. We (my parents, brother, and I) left early in the morning and arrived in Virginia by dinnertime, without making any pit stops. Naturally, we would need food! I brought with me some almonds and dried fruit in a mason jar. In anticipation of the trip, my parents bought packaged snacks such as granola bars and chips. Since we don’t live near any bulk stores, it was a logical choice. Luckily, my parents discussed this with me before the trip. Everyone did their best to make sure that our trip was as environmentally friendly as possible, so I didn’t get upset about the packaged snacks. 
 
Washington, D.C. 
We spent four days in Washington, D.C. With the help of my zero waste “essentials” I was able to maintain my minimal waste lifestyle for most of the trip. We did so much walking, I think my water bottle got the most use! I also made a point to refuse plastic shopping bags, especially for small things like postcards. 
 
I would like to point out here that my trip was not at all completely zero waste, which is why I use the term minimal waste. I soon learned that I couldn’t be zero waste when it came to eating out. My family was on a budget, and most of the restaurants in our price range were very nice, but often didn’t use many reusable items, such as plates. Sandwiches were often wrapped in wax paper or aluminum foil. In addition, I forgot my reusable napkin and silverware at the hotel one day. Instead of giving up altogether on generating as little waste as possible, I made the little actions count. When our food came in a brown paper bag, I either reused it or recycled it. When I ordered fruit and it came in a plastic container I recycled that, too! Every little action matters, and that is what I focused on during this trip.
 
What Will I Do Differently in the Future?


Once I was settled back at home, I thought, “What will I do differently next time to generate less waste?” Here is what I came up with:
 
Before the trip, I will scope out restaurants in the area that are more environmentally friendly.
I will pack an extra set of reusable utensils, one for the hotel and one for exploring the city.
Should I have the opportunity  to avoid using a paper plate, I will bring a reusable container or beeswax wrap to put a sandwich in.
 
The biggest thing that I learned during the road trip is to keep an open mind. With an open mind, I was able to find solutions, no matter how small, that would allow me to achieve my goal of creating as little waste possible.  As Vincent Van Gogh once said, “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together”.


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