Successes & Stumbles While Taking Haste For Less Waste

As my 30-day challenge to give everything a second life comes to an end, looking back I met with some successes and some stumbles. Disclaimer: most of my lessons were learned in the context of air travel. I do recognize that the emissions from an airplane, even if Green Mountain offsets all corporate travel, are much larger than my small changes. That said, I gain my motivation from the famed phrase “if not me, then who? If not now, then when?”

Successes:

Healthier eating and fewer costs on the road:

  • I usually treat myself to a soy latte in the airport. During the challenge, I just asked for hot water (which most places offer for free) in my reusable mug and added my own bag of tea. $3 savings each way!
  • Granola and protein bars are a big go-to for me when I travel. These had to go because the wrapper has no second life. Instead, I made a couple of almond butter and jelly sandwiches and packed them in a re-sealable bag.
    Bamboo utensils and a reusable mug were a travel-essential during this challenge.

    Bamboo utensils and a reusable mug were a travel-essential during this challenge.

    I can make a sandwich for less than $1, whereas the bars I like cost more than that. Bonus: the sandwiches had less sugar than the bars, which can often leave me feeling less than my best.

  • Instant oatmeal packets are also my breakfast go-to on the road. The single-use wrapper put these on the sidelines for April too. Choosing instant-oats from the bulk bins and doctoring it with dried-berries made a flavor I actually like better than that found in the packets, and I could adjust the portion exactly to my liking. Hot water from the in-room coffee maker made it come to life tasting as good as it would from the packets!
  • I have bamboo utensils I use regularly at the office. I never thought to travel with them until this challenge – as a way to avoid disposable spoons at the hotel for my oatmeal and such. This has been a great adjustment to my travel routine. It’s probably psychological, but eating off real utensils also makes food taste better to me.

Stumbles:

Convenience sometimes wins out and kills best intentions…

  • During the first week of the Challenge, I had a late flight and really, really needed a pick-me-up. I gave in to convenience and ordered a soy hot chocolate from
    Reusable containers and fruit and veggies that are "in-season" became key to wasting less during Earth Month.

    Reusable containers and fruit and veggies that are “in-season” became key to wasting less during Earth Month.

    the only vendor in the tiny airport where I arrived. Horror of horrors, it was handed to me in a foam cup. Anyone who has ever done a street or waterway clean-up can attest to the how hard it is to clean up all the broken parts of the material. #shame

    • What I can do next time: I’ll ask the vendor about the to-go material they use before I order.
  • Grocery shopping reminded me how much packaging there is – even when it comes to fresh fruit and vegetables. The plastic strawberry and mini-tomato containers we go through weekly add up!
    • What I can do next time: I’d like to start shopping according to the seasons. That way, I can buy my veggies and fruits at the farmer’s market without packaging. Here’s the site I plan to use to stay informed: Eat the Seasons

Moving Forward:

  • I still want to make my own non-dairy milk. I originally wanted to make almond milk, but given the severe drought conditions in California (a major almond producing state), I’m going to make rice milk because rice is less water-intense to grow than almonds. Here’s the recipe I plan to follow.
  • This challenge also resulted in the Green Mountain HQ in Austin gaining an additional onsite recycling option! Next to the batteries, plastic bag and electronics recycling station, we now have a box for toothpaste and shampoo containers and other related materials for recycling through the Tom’s of Main Terracycle program.

Did this challenge resonate with anyone? What do you do to minimize consumption of single-life products?