We Get Greener Kit Cassingham & her Bigger Half

Travel Game: How Can I Be Greener?

I love playing games. Contests with myself especially entertain me. One game I really enjoy kicks in during my travels is the game "how green can I be?" My biggest challenge in playing this game, at home or on the road, is not depriving myself of basics because they aren't green.

It's an easy game when I'm in environmentally sensitive locations, like Boulder, CO, Portland, OR, Austin, TX, Greenville, SC, Seattle, WA, and Washington, DC. In such locations I can easily recycle and avoid non-recyclable items like styrofoam. It's also easier to find locally grown and organic foods. Health food stores and restaurants also abound in greener cities, making it easier for me to enjoy fresh bounty and organic snack options.

The game is more fun when I'm in less environmentally sensitive locations. It's fun because of the presented challenges. How do you be green when on the road? Challenging topics: styrofoam to-go containers; plastic, not glass or metal; McDonalds or Burger King; recycling or trash; individual toiletries vs your own or bulk; rental car or mass transit; or fresh fruits and veggies vs either canned items or packaged foods.

For me the toiletries are easy -- I bring my own. I bring my own shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste and mouthwash (which I now have in a silicon bottle). I tend to not travel with lotions or I'd bring my own of that too. Oh, and I have a lavender perfume stick too.  On rare occasion I'll use the toiletries provided by a hotel, if they seem super green -- which sadly, isn't very often. But even when it is green I stick with my toiletries and save the packaging waste of the individual ones.

I ran out of toothpaste, which I dispensed at home into a contact case, on one trip and chose to not replace. Brushing your teeth without the paste is almost as good, I argued. I wonder what happened to the tooth powder like what my mom used to use (uh oh, I sense research and another article from that memory)? That would be a good traveling companion, as well as a good option at home. The decision came out of my game as much as anything.

Fresh fruits and veggies are preferred for my dining pleasures, as I enjoyed on a trip to Asheville, NC, and Greenville, SC. But once in awhile they aren't an option, like on a trip to South Padre Island, TX. So what does fresh mean in our hot, flat and crowded world, our
ever shrinking world of transported foods? Not canned or processed? Grown and sold locally? Fresh frozen? Canned produce doesn't cut it for me, not even that delightful fruit cocktail I adored as a little girl (and horrors, mariscino cherries have been banished too).  When I travel I keep my preferences toward local foods but succumb to unprocessed veggies when local aren't available. I see frozen veggies as probably healthier than "fresh" because they are typically processed sooner after harvesting than what we call "fresh" veggies in the store (and yes, that's a future article too).

Transportation? I'll choose mass transit when it's feasible, over renting a car. And when I rent a car I keep it small, and even green when I rent a Prius. I wish mass transit were feasible more often, but
sometimes I choose to go places where there isn't reliable or abundant service, or my schedule is tight enough I don't feel I have the luxury of using the existing mass transit. If I played my game to "win" I'd not be going places that didn't have mass transit, or only go places where the hotel shuttle was sufficient for my needs. Hiking and biking would be winners over cars, or mass transit, come to think of it.

One issue that challenges my get-greener game is the issue of recycling. That sorta incorporates the styrofoam issue as well. I generally forgo styrofoam, at any cost. I've skipped eating some foods at conferences because they were messy and styrofoam plates/bowls were the only service option. I'll ask for foil to avoid a styrofoam to-go container. At a Boulder restaurant, many years ago, they gave me a water glass as my to-go container, with the understanding I'd bring it back soon. And the True Grit in Ridgway, CO, let me take my leftover chili home in the bowl it was served in, again with the promise I'd return it. Those are cool experiences for me. But once in a while, I'm left without a choice, other than leaving my to-go meal at the restaurant, and that's not a green option either since it wastes my money and the food I purchased. Other than styrofoam, precycling -- a better way of recycling -- is easy for me when I generally can choose cans over plastic bottles, or glass over metal. And I only buy bottled water when the local's water is "so bad" that bottled water will keep me drinking water.

Other game tactics I've adopted to win my "how green can I be" game include:

  • choose green hotels when possible (and of course EnvironmentallyFriendlyHoters.com is my favorite site for making that choice)
  • carrying plastic tensils and chopsticks so I can snack anytime without wasting disposables
  • use my chopsticks for stir sticks
  • travel with my own stainless steel mug
  • reuse the same disposable cup during the outing, when I've forgotten my mug
  • carry a stainless steel water bottle with me everywhere, filling it with fountain or faucet water
  • travel with a cup I can use to top my water bottle or drink from in my hotel room
  • keep reusable grocery bags in the car to avoid the plastic/paper decision
  • use only low VOC paints and finishes to keep our indoor air quality high
  • avoid cleaning chemicals, using vinegar and baking soda for the bulk of my cleaning supplies
  • travel with organic, whole food, food bars to avoid buying junk food
  • ask for no housekeeping in hotels that don't have a sheet and towel reuse program
  • donate used clothes, technology, and furniture when I don't want them anymore

I keep meaning to adopt a few other tactics that will put me ahead in the points.

  • a reusable grocery bag in my suitcase for unexpected shopping
  • take a storage container to restaurants for my own Doggy Bag (byodb)
  • carrying a CFL in my suitcase to use in hotel rooms that haven't adopted that kind of lighting yet
  • buy only what I need and will use

The joy and challenge for me is to find increasingly more ways I can
lighten my footstep along my path of greening my life. And to do so
without lowering my lifestyle standards. I can have it all -- a
fabulous, comfortable life, and a green, healthy planet.

If you have a version of "how green can I be" that you can share,
please do. There must be lots of ways of being greener that are
suitable for sharing here so we can all get greener together. How do
you live a greener, more sustainable, life?

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