Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Zero-Waste Summer Fun

Hello everyone! As a kid, I used to hate summer. Too hot, too sweaty. Too many bugs. Too much sun. Summer and I just did not get along. As an adult that all changed. First, I became a minimalist, which forced me to put more value on experiences and memories rather than material possessions, which I am forever grateful for. Going out and about for festivals, outings, trips, and events has made this year one of my most memorable so far. I've noticed I have saved so much time as a minimalist, due to lack of things to care for, less time cleaning, etc., and instead of wasting that time on useless activities or social media, I spend it with my dog or husband; with family and friends; outside in nature or in the garden; or doing other things that are truly fulfilling, that I wholeheartedly enjoy that give me a great sense of peace and purpose.

Secondly, going vegan enabled me to tolerate heat better and sweat less, or so I think. Sweating less as a vegan could be totally scientifically unfounded, but after years of suffering through heat I find this year, the year I went vegan, it's so much easier for me to handle the heat enjoyably. I sweat so much less and don't feel so overwhelmed by the humidity and heat, which, in Virginia, can be INSANE. I also tend to eat much more water-based meals (veggies, fruits, melons, etc.) that I think contribute to the reduced sweating/body temperature regulation. I also drink or "eat" far more water than I did previously, which indefinitely helps in the heat.

Lastly, going zero-waste and focusing on natural, breathable fabrics has made being outside more enjoyable too. While I sweat less than I used to, I still sweat, and find linen and cotton my go-to fabrics for summer. They both dry quickly, especially linen, and are very light and breathable, reducing my suffering in the heat.

One of my biggest challenges (in addition to these successes) this year has been how to stay zero-waste when visiting so many new places, taking trips, and going to events where I don't know if it's even possible to stay zero-waste. Fortunately, with a bit of planning I have been able to stay zero-waste no matter where I go.

This is especially important to me this time of year because every July is Plastic Free July (see blog sticker right for more info). I am participating in PFJ for the first time this year, and have already done well so far with these tips below. I don't want to sacrifice my fun for zero-waste's sake, nor do I want to condemn the planet so I can have enjoyment. I think we all need to strike a balance between the two.

1. My biggest tip would always be to research where you are going before your trip. Most places have websites or social media pages with info and FAQ's about the event or place you are visiting. Do some thorough searching to get a feel for what to expect as well as what you might need to bring to stay zero-waste. I've found a lot of events on Facebook are more than willing to answer your ZW questions directly on their wall or through DM. Even a simple email can help you plan your trip. Never be too shy to ask questions!

2. Try your best to support events/restaurants that align with your values. If I, as a vegan, spent money on a BBQ fest, I think most can agree I'd be wasting my time and money. Try to focus on events that align with what you believe and want to support. There were two such events in my area, Eco-Fest and Veggie Fest, though I'm sure there are plenty more. I chose those two as ones to attend as they clearly align with my beliefs and lifestyle.

3. Or, go to places that allow you to bring your own food/containers, such as beaches, lakes, parks, campgrounds...just be sure to not litter the area and leave it better than you found it!

4. If at a theme park, like Busch Gardens (my fave), purchase their reusable cups you can use through the entire season.

Busch Garden's cup I reuse every visit.
 
I will first say that you can go the free route and just ask for ice water at any beverage station, because by law theme parks must provide patrons with water, which is of no cost to you. While they don't give you a whole lot when you do this it's nice knowing you have that option for free. These drinks do however come in a plastic-lined paper cup or plastic cup, which you have no choice but to toss after use. Depending on how hot the day is, you could easily be going to the stands for ice water multiple times in a day, resulting in you tossing many cups. I know I can down 20 oz at once sometimes, depending on how hot it is, all by myself. So I prefer to buy the park's refillable cup. From a zero-waste, plastic-free standpoint this might be a travesty. However, think of all of the non-recyclable cups you are avoiding, which could easily be a high amount on a hot day. Secondly, the cup is up to 30% made from plant materials and is 100% recyclable (#1 plastic)! In my eyes, that is a huge win for Busch Gardens and theme park freaks like me. Each season they usually make a new cup design, so one this summer is over I can either keep using the cup or recycle it and wait until next summer to find/purchase/borrow a new one. This cup is quite large, you can get it refilled anywhere in the park, and refills are usually less than a dollar. You could be really cheap and say you bought it that day for free refills (even if you did not, in fact, buy the cup that day) but paying maybe $4 for a day of drinks is worth it. $4 bought me 4 refills of whatever I wanted, including water, and I estimate I drank a total of 5 separate 20 oz refills, not including the water I first filled it with on the trip there and the water for the trip home, both of which were free.

Side note: this might sound gross, but you can also get them for free because even after buying them people leave them all over the park. My sister-in-law scored three free ones because after waiting through a whole show and then some, no one came back for the cups at a table near her. That's about $10 per cup, $30 total, for free. That you can reuse all season long, mind you. Just be sure to wash before use, of course.

5. If going to a drive-in (one of my favorite things to do in the summer), check their website/social media pages to see what food they offer and their prices. My drive-in's prices and menu are really reasonable (aka affordable AND can easily be made vegan) so I have no problem supporting them and eating the food provided. (Some people I know bring their own drinks/snacks, which is something I have done before and don't necessarily discourage, I just don't want to mention it here as my drive-in is locally and family run, and these people rely on our concession money to stay in business. Thus, since I love my drive-in, they are getting my popcorn money ;) )

6. If going to events or other outdoor festivals, follow general ZW guidelines and bring your own cup, napkin, straw (if needed), silverware/eating utensils, and plate/eating surface if you desire. You could also opt for foods like sandwiches, burritos, and other "handheld" eats. Bring a smaller jar or bag to carry your refuse with you if no good recycling/compost options are available. Of course, refuse plastic straws, napkins, and other single-use disposables when possible.

7. Art museums, nature parks, zoos, and other places may not pose any zero-waste problems for you and are in many cases (as they are around where I live) FREE! I also try to support my local area by visiting historical sites, monuments/landmarks, going on history/ghost tours, and other places that teach me the history of where I live and help me support my local community through tickets/donations. As a kid I went all over Virginia doing things like this and most of our family trips were educational and history centered but I LOVED them and they remain some of my most cherished memories to this day. Most of these events were free or low-cost and when I was a kid you were even rewarded with prizes depending on how many historical sites you visited during the summer.

8. Ultimately, do not deny yourself experiences for the sake of being zero-waste. If you happen to make some trash while having fun, it's not the end of the world. You live and you learn. You'll have had fun at best and at worst, learn some new tricks to avoid trash next time. Just don't become a homebody because that's less "trashy" (although I wholeheartedly love staying at home and highly recommend it 80% of the time :) ).


Hope this helps some of you get ideas for how to have zero-waste, eco-friendly fun this summer! Now, go outside and have some fun (especially before school starts again!)

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