Traveling during Plastic Free July - the good, the bad, and the ugly

It has been a long time since our last blog post, but it's because the "lazy" days of summer are upon us.  These longer, warmer days are great times to visit with friends and family and take time off to recharge the batteries. Our family is no exception.  The store has been a lot of work this spring (joyous work, but still work!) and we are glad to be traveling home from a vacation that took us to visit with extended family.  

I'm originally from the South, and my grandmother is turning 90 this year, so our large extended family all converged this past week to celebrate together. We flew into Atlanta and then drove, racking up nights in 3 different hotels. So what does travel look like when you're trying to minimize waste but also make it out with your sanity?

Things I packed before we left:

- Water bottles. Empty, to make it through security, but then we fill up for the flight so that we can refuse the plastic water bottles and cups from the airplane. Even the flight attendant had a nice smile when she said we "planned ahead"!

- Bar of Salt of the Earth Soap, in a soap saver bag. Big enough to get a family of 4 through a long weekend without having a big wet soapy bar to travel home with. Also didn't need to unwrap any soaps in the hotels, since many of those are in plastic.
- Small aluminum bottles of EO shampoo and conditioner, refilled in-store.  We closed the pumps but pressing down and screwing them closed, which was perfect for the suitcases to make sure they didn't end up all over the clothes.
- Huppy toothpaste and mouthwash tablets. One container of each got all 4 of us through, though we accidentally packed the kids' tablets and ended up all brushing with Watermelon Strawberry. It wasn't my cup of tea, but it's a nice gentle flavor!
- Bamboo toothbrush (each!) and a new spool of silk dental floss in a stainless steel container. Again, this allowed for minimalist packing, though we do each have our own toothbrushes.
- Dew Mighty liquidless serum. This stuff is amazing. Antioxidants, moisturizing, and we ended up needing it when we got a bit of an unexpected sunburn. It helped soothe the skin in amazing ways.
- Verdant toning mist - small enough to go through airport security, and a refreshing blast after a hot day in the South or a long flight. 
- Wellow deodorant with charcoal. Antiperspirants are especially nice in the South, but the aluminum that prevents sweating is linked to breast cancer, so I switched to sleeveless outfits and just deal with preventing odor!  This deodorant smells nice and fresh and lasts all day.
- All Good sunscreen.  I'm a little torn on this one. My sons used the SPF 30 and probably should have reapplied during our 4 hour trip to the water park, but that error is on us. I tested out the SPF 50 tinted zinc oxide in a tin.  The shade was way too dark for my pale grocery-store-dwelling skin, so I had to really rub it in. Turns out that rubbing zinc oxide in THAT well essentially means that it isn't very effective. Lesson learned - the tinted one won't be for my skin because I'm rubbing Dew Mighty all over my face to take the sting away. I'll stick with the white stuff.  (yes, I could have left the tinted one on, but on my pale skin it looked a little like blackface and I was not about to do that... hence why I rubbed it in so well). If you have darker skin than I do, it could be a great option!

But what about the stuff we didn't pack? Well, our first hotel was the Omni in Atlanta and they offered a full line of plastic-covered sample size products. But we also stayed in the Courtyard Marriot and the Sonesta ATL airport... which had refillable shampoo, conditioner, and body wash containers in the shower! The body wash was empty at the Courtyard Marriott, but I applaud the effort on this and appreciate the ability to use the shampoo and conditioner. 

Eating while traveling was also a little difficult, but we were able to make the best of it. Coming from the Bay Area, I am not used to seeing styrofoam at all... but it's a common product in the hot, hot South when you want to keep a drink ice cold.  Sometimes we saw it coming, but most times we didn't. What would be paper cups in the Bay Area were sometimes styrofoam and we didn't have a chance to refuse before it was already poured. 
Additionally, my extended family carries plastic water bottles everywhere, which dismayed me a bit. I know that they all own refillable water bottles, so it's not easy to watch them bring in a pack of plastic water bottles that are shrink-wrapped in more plastic... but we set the example and love them anyway.

And we choose the larger box of doughnut holes at Krispy Kreme over the smaller plastic cup of doughnut holes. Having the extra doughnut holes doesn't just avoid plastic - it means we have to go visit with everyone and offer them doughnuts, which just makes everyone smile.

The takeaway from this trip is that it was pretty simple to spend 5 minutes planning ahead to avoid foreseeable waste, and there were definitely some surprises even after planning ahead. We control what we can, do our best, talk about our choices, and give everyone (ourselves and our loved ones grace) for being imperfect.  After all, if everyone does something, it's still better than one person doing zero waste perfectly.


Older Post