Reducing Waste on the Road

Thanks to our friends at Tufts’ Office of Sustainability, the TuftsRecycles! team got the privilege of viewing the documentary YERT: Your Environmental Road Trip. The film chronicles three friends who sojourn across the country for a year in search of the best of America’s sustainable sites, all while keeping all of their trash, recycling, and waste in their hybrid vehicle so as to leave zero environmental footprint. At the end of the trip, the group produced only 40 pounds of waste (including recycling) for the year. Would you believe that the average American produces about 1600 pounds per year? That is truly truly truly outrageous!

Whether it’s a weekend in the woods or two weeks in Tangiers, you should keep sustainability at the forefront of your mind whenever you travel. Below are some tips, adapted from the movie, on how to reduce waste during your travels this summer.

Use your own dishware.

Most landfill trash can be summed up in one word: disposable. Replace your plastic forks, paper plates, and styrofoam cups with hard silverware, reusable plates, and travel mugs. If you order take-out or food to-go, ask your server to leave out the plastic silverware. And nix the plastic straws — they’re neither recyclable nor necessary! Consider a washable stainless steel drinking straw, available on Amazon or at your local Starbucks.

Tupperware is your best friend.

Instead of wasteful food containers and plastic bags, bring reusable plastic bins with you to hold your leftovers and food scraps. When shopping, use your tupperware to stash fruits, granola, or nuts bought from bulk bins (Whole Foods has them, and they’re less pricey than you probably think!). Locking containers like the ones pictured above also prevent flies and animals from getting into your food supply.

Canteen it where possible.

Plastic water bottles and disposable plastic beverage containers account for a majority of recyclable waste produced, yet only about 27% of plastic bottles are recycled each year. Using a canteen or collapsible water bottle conserves the usage amount of plastic water bottles and eliminates the need for disposable, nonrecyclable cups (like those served in a restaurant) altogether. Fill up your canteen with water or, if at a restaurant, ask your server to fill it up with the beverage of your choice. (Some establishments only charge for the cup and not the drink!) You can also ask your flight attendant to skip the cup during the in-flight meal and beverage service. The exception to this rule is during overseas travel — if the area you are in lacks access to ample clean water, buy a trusted brand of bottled water in large jugs (one gallon or more) and use it to refill your canteen.

Ditch the Ziplocs.

Though some plastic snack bag companies are making their products recyclable, they are still designed to be one-use or limited use. Leave out the Ziploc bags and Saran wrap altogether to reduce the amount of plastic both produced and discarded. Worth your consideration are GoFresh bags (pictured above), which are washable and reusable sandwich and snack bags. At around $5 per bag, they will pay for themselves and reduce waste too! Their website (with purchasing info) is located here.

Pack light.

Packing excessively decreases fuel efficiency whether you’re sailing, RVing, or flying, meaning that more damaging fuel residue will end up in the environment. Try to pack only the essentials and minimize on packing one-use “travel size” accoutrements. You can purchase a set of reusable travel containers at any big-box store.

Stay connected.

In the age of the iPhone, it’s easier than ever to keep informed of environmentally-friendly ways to travel. Check Earth911.org for recycling info all across the US; if traveling abroad, most major cities and tourist areas will have recycling available. (When in doubt, try to hold onto your recyclables until you find an unmistakable recycling station.)  Download iPhone apps to help you reduce waste and energy, accessible while you travel.

We hope you will utilize our tips on your adventures this summer. Bon voyage and happy recycling! :)

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