Waste Generated on a Road Trip

I really wouldn’t consider myself a hardcore environmentalist. I mean I do drive tens of thousands of miles a year in my travels. I will say I try to be environmentally aware and try to minimize my impact by driving a 3-cylinder Focus that can get over 50mpg or just trying to minimize waste in general. Trying to be more environmentally aware, I decided to collect and document the trash I generated on my Roswell road trip instead of just throwing it out.

As part of this experiment, I didn’t plan anything out (how impulsive of me) and just bought things as I needed them. I ate out and just consumed things as a person normally would. I found sit down restaurants were the best in terms of waste. In many ways, there was just a little food waste from the large portions that Americans take for granted.

The hotels were the worst in terms of throwaway stuff.

Hotels compounded the issue by not offering recycling (see my blog entry on hotel greenwashing).

Now when I said I collected my garbage, I wasn’t fanatical about keeping every single piece of garbage. There’s obvious health\sanitary reasons and hauling away all your hotel garbage is kind of weird.

What I did find, however, is I still collected a lot of stuff in my car. I ended up filling up a whole kitchen garbage bag with stuff I would have otherwise thrown out at a gas station. Since most gas stations don’t offer recycling, this would have ended up in the landfill.

When I emptied the garbage on the table, it looked something like this.

I started sorting through everything to see what had a recycling label on it and what didn’t. I see things as simple as the brand of coffee lids can make a world of difference: one is recyclable and one is not.

When everything was said and done, I was actually surprised. A good majority of what I had collected was recyclable. This is what was left that wasn’t recyclable and had to be thrown out.

In essence, I turned that full bag of garbage into a full bag to recyclables.

I was happy I was able to divert a large amount of my trash that would have otherwise ended up in the landfill.

The more I travel, the more I want to find methods to minimize my environmental impact. It’s really a matter of slow progression and changing my habits one-by-one. I was actually surprised by the sheer amount of recyclable trash I generated. If I decide to be impulsive, I know I can at least do so and find the nearest recycle bin.