Road Trips 101

This past summer I described one of my biggest ZW challenges to be road trips; I never seemed to prepare enough food, pack enough utensils, or practice refusing purchases, and always seemed to regret it afterwards.

Finally I can say that I have had my most successful road trip to date; one for which I took the time to plan how much food I would need, what kind of snacks, and what items I would need for ZW lunches.

Surprisingly, this successful road trip was a school field trip to Calgary; we took students to see two theater productions, visit the Science center, and, of course, the mall.  Even this successful trip brought its challenges, which I’ll highlight below.

First, the successes in what I brought with me:

  • reusable water bottle and travel mug; I did not have to purchase any beverages on this trip
  • leftover chickpea pizza; two lunches taken care of
  • road snacks: dried fruit, pretzels, cashews, and Energy Bites, that all came from bulk ingredients
  • bamboo cutlery and a napkin
  • canvas bag to keep lunch together in my backpack
  • hand travel towel and a handkerchief

Other successes:

  • no packaged purchases made at the mall; only two shampoo bars from LUSH, and one conditioner bar (zero packaging!)
  • the LUSH store had a ‘no receipt’ option!
  • had enough road snacks that no extra purchases were necessary

This was not a 100% trash-free trip, however.  At the mall I purchased sushi that came on a plastic tray, with the chopsticks in a plastic wrapper, a napkin, and completely unnecessary decorative plastic grass within the sushi container (come on).

The food court picture was a bit overwhelming.  I don’t like shopping in malls as it is, and we were unlucky enough to catch Black Friday sales at a big, busy mall in Calgary, so it was busy with shoppers.  It’s hard for me not to notice the shopping habits of others, and as much as I dislike it when people judge me for having “weird” ZW habits, I find myself having similar patterns when noticing their NON-ZW habits.

In the food court sat hundreds of people, each with wrapped fast food items in paper bags, plastic bags, Styrofoam containers, plastic containers, with napkins, plastic cups for sauces, plastic forks, plastic spoons, plastic knives, plastic, plastic, plastic…  It was a sea of plastic.  I did notice that the food court had “sorting stations”; you bring your tray, and they sort through the recyclables, organics, etc.  Does everyone use this?  How many of the containers can be recycled?  Would it all be considered contaminated, making it unrecyclable?

I hadn’t been in a mall for a long time, and had forgotten about our consumerism craze.  People were walking around with multiple plastic bags in their hands; depending on the items, can’t you just use one of the bags to store purchases, and then refuse the rest?  That would be one small thing to avoid a huge number of extra plastic bags; will these even be reused, or just tossed along with the clothing tags into the garbage?

Mixed emotions definitely came along this trip in regards to zero waste.  I was happy with my planning and that I was able to avoid a lot of waste, but then was overwhelmed with the habits of so many others, who, without thinking, purchase their Subway sandwiches that get wrapped in paper, that get put in individual plastic bags, that come with a drink in a cup with a plastic straw and a plastic lid (the lid has a recycling number on it), but instead of finding a blue bin, it gets tossed with the cup into the garbage.

Sometimes I feel my efforts are pointless based on the absurd amounts of trash created by others, but even so I couldn’t see myself ever going back to my habits prior to starting ZW.

What have been some of your road trip successes?  Challenges?  Please share them, or tips you may have.



  1. Oh my gosh, I couldn’t agree more… With a lot you said! It *is* so funny how others think we’re weird, but we’re so aware and appalled at some of their “normal” behaviors and habits. I too get super discouraged when I see how many people are NOT zero waste, not near-o waste, or not even remotely close. But we’re doing a good thing and I think it can only catch on! We went on a three-week road trip over the summer and had many successes and failures 🙂 check it out- then search “ready. Set. Let’s roll.” Trips (as well as every day ZW life) is about being prepared!! Good job!

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is my first time trying them, and my hair was clean, soft, and light. Very happy so far! You can buy loose shampoo, conditioner, and massage bars, and loose soaps from them. It’s pretty great! Thanks for reading 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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