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5 Zero Waste lessons learned on the road

For two life- seasoned Canadians travelling across Canada, life on the road was full of lessons about our magnificent country and lessons about our lives.

Living out of a suitcase, staying in a different community almost every night for almost two months gave us some real life lessons about having a Zero Waste lifestyle.

Here are 5 Zero Waste lessons learned on the road.

  1. We don’t need all this crap.

The big realization when we got home and had all the choices of stuff we left at home that we were still opting for the same few outfits that were in our suitcase. Now that fall weather is cooling us off, Buddy has added a plaid jacket to the t-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops, but there is a closet of clothing never worn.

Walking around the house, many items fill space but we have not used them or even thought about them as we transition back to our daily routines.

On the road, staying in different hotel rooms, we missed home but we did not miss the stuff. We missed that familiar space we call home. We missed our friends and family and community.

Our loved ones give us a sense of belonging – our stuff does not.

2.Don’t be afraid to ask?

As we tried to reduce the waste we created on our road trip we experienced that many people what to help; they just need to know what they can do. Walking into stores, restaurants, take-out food outlets and hotels often we had to share that our goal was not to create waste with staff or servers and ask for help. In restaurants when we explained we were trying to reduce waste from single use coffee creamers and all the servers very graciously brought a small serving of milk in a glass or even a cream jug.

We realized to understand that many businesses have developed systems and for best results with the “ask” is to work with the systems. So for example there are serving sizes for coffee having a reusable cup that fits in dispensing system makes it easier for servers to handle is important. Communicating how many ounces our reusable coffee cups held helped servers. Making it easy for staff to help makes it easier to achieve the Zero Waste goal.

We recommend also that you try to frequent quieter establishments or do not hit servers with requests when they are super busy.

Tip, thank, acknowledge, and promote helps to reinforce Zero Waste actions and businesses.

3.. Refusing gets easier.

Sometimes you just can’t have it. On the road it is very easy to fall prey of snack foods and convenience foods; many foods can be over-packaged or packaged in non-recyclable materials. We had to be more disciplined with our choices. One of the choices had to be not to buy something if it would create garbage. At times this was a challenge and it meant not buying the apple because it was encased in shrink wrap or not succumbing to the bags of chips.

It made us make healthier choices so our road snacks were raw vegetables, bulk nuts and local fruit.

Shopping in super markets was often a quick tour of the outer isles that contained produce and less-processed foods.

The imprint of the shopping routine and the Zero Waste goals are still embedded in our daily behaviours. It is easier to avoid or refuse products that create waste. Getting into routines of ordering drinks and saying no straws becomes habit.

4.Being organized helps reduce waste.

At times on the road we had to take a moment to reorganize ourselves. On the road this keeping our shopping kits or reusable kits ready. Having the items that helped us avoid waste included having condiments in small containers, a multi-use silicone bag for left-overs or food scraps and reusable plates, napkins and cutlery ready made it easier to avoid waste generating situations and eliminated the excuse of not being prepared.

Keeping organized is more about sticking to routines that putting net bags back in shopping bag or cleaning reusable dishes- very simple tasks.

Taking a few moments of preparation can save generating waste.

5. No one is perfect

Yes there were times we could have done better. There were times we goofed up – like not realizing that there could be plastic packaging with meals.

Those goof-ups were learning experiences to move forward. The goal of creating as little waste as possible remained.

Acknowledging that we and the people who helped us are not perfect did not give us an excuse to do less instead it gave us a reason to continue.

Like training in archery it is the practise that leads to continuous improvement and hitting the target.

The Zero Waste lifestyle is a learning journey whether you on a road trip or at home and it is about making life better.

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