Vancouver Island, Seattle, and my ongoing challenge of roadtrip zero-wasting and accepting the (bad) habits of others.

All our bags were packed, we were ready to go, she was standing there outside my door… and off two sisters went on a roadtrip to Vancouver Island, Seattle, and back to the Okanagan through the Okanogan (what?).

Roadtrips and traveling in general have been a big challenge for me as a striving zero-waster (see Roadtrips 101), and I have not yet been 100% successful in not producing any waste.  I knew this trip would be no different, as we would be on the road for over a week, and I was traveling with my sister who sometimes challenges my lifestyle.

The prep work went quite a way, and I was mostly happy with that.  With Plastic Free July in full swing, I (and my sister) prepared a lot of road snacks and meals so we could relatively avoid having to buy pre-packaged foods; things like nut and seed mix, dried fruit, energy balls, vegetarian chili, potato salad, etc, and a big 10L water container.  I also brought along cloth bags for groceries, bamboo utensils for on-the-go, reusable water bottles we could refill from the 10L jug, and reusable travel mugs for hot beverages (in my experience, food creates the most waste on the road).

We left the Kootenays on a warm, sunlit day, and headed towards Vancouver Island on HWY 3.  At Harrison Hot Springs, we found a campsite where the owner was nice enough to heat up our chili for us in the office!  A busy little town right by a gorgeous lake.  We took a nice forest walk and my sister made me do way too many lunges.

I could not believe the amount of hydrangeas on the west coast!
Waking up early the next morning, we packed up our tent and supplies, and hit the road; luckily, we were able to avoid Vancouver’s toll bridge by taking the 7 through Mission all the way to Horseshoe Bay, our first ferry terminal.  We decided to spoil ourselves with a hot breakfast on the ferry, as we were craving hash browns and eggs; these were served on REAL plates with REAL cutlery (I was so happy!), and we used our travel mugs for coffee.  We enjoyed the rest of the ferry ride outside, overlooking the beautiful sun-covered water.

A friend of mine moved to Victoria a few years ago, and it worked out perfectly that she had her days off when we arrived.  We met up about halfway between Nanaimo and Victoria in a town called Duncan.  There was a beautiful garden around their railway museum with gorgeous totem poles, and a group of seniors practicing tai-chi on the lawn…(right by the busy road!  Here I thought tai-chi was supposed to be calming).  We had an awesome visit in a roof-top pub, and took a little stroll through the town.

Parting ways, we headed north towards Campbell River, stopping at Qualicum Beach for a stroll on the seaside.  The sand felt amazing under our feet and through our toes; it was low tide, which exposed kelp of every shade of green, sea shells, and crabs of all sizes.  The salty sea air filled our lungs, cleared our thoughts, and confirmed our vacation.

Qualicum Beach
Once our souls were content we hit the Ocean Route once more and ended up in Miracle Beach Provincial Park where we set up our tent, ate some more delicious chili, and took a small path through a lush green forest that led us to another beach.  The amount of driftwood in all the places we saw was incredible!  So many DIY options πŸ™‚  Unfortunately, the weather was not our pal that night, as it started pouring rain, and it did not stop all of the next day, which dampened our spirits a little bit.

In the soggy, grumpy morning, we packed up our soaked tent and headed into Campbell River.  The weather made it difficult to plan our next activities; we really wanted to go kayaking, but with the wind and rain, we decided against it.  Instead, we hit up the Visitor Center and got some tips there on what to see.  Taking our travel mugs, we visited the Java Shack for some delicious brew, and then found the beautiful Royal Coachman pub to watch the Eurocup game Germany vs. France; the staff were great there, switching the channel to our game, and turning up the volume so we could hear it.  We left disappointed; not because of the food, which was delicious, but because we lost the game – damn!

The clouds were breaking slightly and the rain lessened, so we headed to Elk Falls Provincial Park for a long hike through some incredible forests, and then experienced a rather terrifying suspension bridge over the waterfalls.  In the depth of the lush green, thriving forest, we could not help but notice the amount of trash.  Not only on the parking lot did I notice piles of cigarette butts thrown on the ground not 20 feet from a nearby garbage can, but we found cans and water bottles in a fish-spawning river, wrappers, and cups and plastic straws left behind in this beautiful place.  We grabbed what we could.

Elk Falls Provincial Park

Elk Falls Provincial Park
There is a small island across from Campbell River called Quadra Island, our next stop.  It was getting late in the day after our long hikes, so we decided to find accommodation.  I protested against camping one more night because our stuff was soaked and I do appreciate my comfort whilst slumbering!  We ended up at the Heriot Bay Inn; a quaint place in an old building with friendly folks all around.  The Inn overlooks a marina, a beautiful inlet, and colourful garden.  Our small room had veranda access, where we were able to hang-dry all of our stuff!  We scored BIG at this place because that night an amazing Argentinian band was playing in the pub.  First we had a fine-dining experience at the Inn’s restaurant where I tried my first oyster – it was friggin’ delicious and tasted like the spirit of the ocean!  Once our bellies were happy, we listened to some incredible tunes by Entangados; absolutely incredible performers.

View from the Heriot Bay Inn
The tent, tarp, and sleeping bags were dry.  We had our pathetic peanut butter breakfast in our cozy little room, packed up again, and drove to the Chinese Mountain trail head.  Another incredibly lush, humid forest took us to the shores of a lovely lake.

There are not many signs on Quadra Island, so you really depend on your map to get you places.  We found a beautiful cove in the middle of nowhere; a trail all of a sudden appeared and swept into a forest, so we followed it and ended up on another beautiful, quiet beach with some pretty neat little finds.

Cove on SE Quadra Island
At the southernmost tip of the island we checked out a lighthouse and cultural center, and took the ferry back to the main island.  Before we headed for Comox, we stopped at Dick’s Fish & Chips shop; this was my first plastic waste shocker.  Though their food was delicious, their chips served in old school style newspaper, and I ordered food that required no utensils, I was shocked that they use only plastic cups for drinks, and offer only plastic cutlery.  It was a busy place; I could only imagine how much they throw away daily.

Lighthouse beach south Quadra Island
Next stop: Comox Valley Music Festival!  We found a campsite at Comox Lake in Cumberland, and headed for the festival grounds.  The weather was on and off, but the people of the island could not be less arsed to use umbrellas or even rainjackets.  The festival and music had a folk and community feel to it – it was incredible.  Artists came from Hawaii, the U.S., Estonia, Canada, etc., and filled the air with beautiful sounds, humour, and a good time.  Many of the food vendors offered compostable plates and cutlery, which was great to see (though I had my bamboo friends anyway).  A highlight for me was a dance group from Montreal, CUBE, an incredibly entertaining and talented group of guys that had the audience laughing, clapping, and tapping their feet along to the beat.

CUBE at Vancouver Island Music Festival
The day was dimming and the sound of drums was still beating in the air when we left the music festival; destination SEATTLE.  By chance there was a seafood festival happening in Ballard, and there was yet another stage set up for a wicked musical experience.  Here I saw the most waste of all.  Plentiful food vendors serving their food in mostly plastic containers with plastic cutlery.  There was a beer garden serving only in plastic cups (of course).  It was a beautiful spot with incredible things going on, and of course no one could be less bothered about the waste they were creating.

We roamed the city and saw beautiful aspects of this huge place.  Pike Place Market was bustling, filled with vibrant goods of all kinds.  The reason we went to Seattle in the first place was to meet up with some friends who flew up from L.A. to meet us there.  We trekked all over the place with them, visiting Fremont and the troll under the bridge, the markets, the festival, and the landmark Space Needle where we had brunch at the top; a neat aspect of this place is the food is obtained locally, or as close to home as possible.  A delicious meal, breathtaking view, with some excellent company.

Troll under Fremont Bridge
My sister and I are the type of people who like to take the scenic route, so instead of taking the fast way home on the 90, we took the 97 instead, which took us through amazing towns like Leavenworth, a beautiful Bavarian-style town in the mountains, and Wenatchee, the apple capital of the world.  The roads were surrounded by orchards, rivers, greenness, and bordered by arid hills.

The trip came with many highlights, and being by the ocean lifts the spirit and soul to a very content place.  My sister and I had not taken a trip together in… who knows how long, so it was pretty awesome to have been able to plan that together and see what we saw and experience everything side by side.

Qualicum Beach
Every time I travel I see the waste that is put into the world.  I see the lack of thought behind impulsive actions.  I see a threat to the environment.  I see that people are not bothered.  It is important to have fun in life.  It is important to see the world and experience its people.  It is important to share time and new things with family and friends.  It is important to make the most out of our short time on Earth.  However, it is equally, if not more important, to show respect and responsibility towards the environment, for it alone is the reason that you are able to do your important things.

Have you visited any of these spots?  Share your experiences!

Art in Cumberland





  1. Sounds like you had a great time. I’ve been thinking a lot lately that my family needs to just have fun, be in the moment, and all that, but we keep getting caught up in the day to day grind. We need to get better at having fun on a daily basis, because you are right we do only have a short time on earth.


    • Thanks for reading, Allie πŸ™‚ I do love the island! I’m looking forward to posting about some kind of food preservation adventure we may have in the future πŸ˜›


  2. Sounds like an amazing trip! And good work keeping your waste to a minimum while travelling. My first weekend away after doing plastic free July for the first time was a major learning curve. We stayed in a B&B, and it completely slipped my mind that “normal” people still buy their bread, cereal, jam, butter, etc in plastic. I learnt to be more prepared after that trip!


    • Prep is everything. My first lesson in this was a big one. I nearly felt helpless because I was so unprepared. However, this is life, right? We make mistakes and learn from them, which is why I stop referring to those lessons as “failures” in zero-wasting. Trips are tough. I’m going overseas on Monday, so that will be yet another challenge for me. Thanks for reading and commenting, Rach! πŸ™‚


      • Yes you’re so right, we all get to learn from our mistakes. Overseas travel is even more challenging for avoiding waste, but so worth it! Where are you going?


      • First to England to visit my mumsy, and then to Germany to visit my Oma and other family. They don’t live zero-waste, so it will be challenging πŸ™‚


  3. What an awesome trip! I love the sisters sand picture and your closing paragraph especially πŸ™‚ It is so uplifting when you find places on the road where zero waste exists, and fulfilling when we can turn a wasteful situation into a *less* wasteful situation!


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