Monday, July 25, 2011

Eco-Friendly Traverse Trip - The garbage

Following up on my last post on how eco-friendly a road trip can be vs flying, today I want to talk garbage.  I know not a sexy topic, but we keep adding to our landfills and a lot of it is unnecessary. 

What makes garbage on road trips?
  • food (and particularly fast food) containers
  • pop cans, water bottles, coffee cups, juice boxes (of which there will be NONE on our trip
  • paper goods like - kleenex, wet-wipes, napkins and paper towels
  • paper and plastic bags
Food - Now I'm travelling with a couple of Food Revolution folks, so we won't be eating much fast food. We'll be buying food in grocery stores (we have all the Trader Joe's on our route mapped out), and doing a bit of quick mixing in our hotel rooms at night.  We will have a plug-in cooler to keep things cold.  Karen is all over it.  She will be using re-usable containers and plates/cutlery that she has in a picnic kit.   I've been looking at some options that would reduce our use of plastic, like metal containers, but in the end it might be better to use something we already have vs buying new of any type.  We will be avoiding plastic wrap, foil and plastic bags. 

For other snacks we are trying to buy some of the things we like to snack on in bulk.  So yes, there will be Hawkins Cheezie garbage, but at least it will be one big bag and not a bunch of small ones.  And I'll be bringing some Hippie Chips along too.  We might even put some of these snacks into re-usable containers to make them easier to pack.  Or that might be just a bit too much like my mother-in-law.

Drink Containers - This is likely the easiest option as our Traverse has LOTS of cup holders, so we can each bring a re-usable water container and coffee mug.  I'm going to fill our 10L camping water container and bring it along for the back of the vehicle, so we can refill our bottles and keep them in cooler if we like our water cold.  The only thing left is pop-cans. I think there is only only person who drinks pop in our car and she recently gave up her Coke Zero habit - glad she did that well in advance of the trip or it could have gotten ugly. :)

Front seat cup holders

Door cup holders

Back seat cup holders

Paper goods - This one is probably the hardest.  I can't imagine going on a road trip without wet wipes.  But Nicole and I are both former cloth diaper parents and she suggested we use a cloth wipe trick. I have a large pile of small face clothes, and Nicole has some other cloth wipes.  We'll bring them along with a little spray bottle of water, and a wet bag to store the dirty ones.  Then when the inevitable Hawkins Cheezies accident happens we are prepared.  I'm also going to bring some cloth napkins. We can rinse everything out in the hotel at night (I'll bring my portable laundry line too).  For the car I have a great organizer that hangs on the back of the seats, which includes a cup holder to hold our spray bottle.

I have never been able to bring myself to use a hanky, and allergies are bad this year, so I think some kleenex will be inevitable.  I'll try to keep them in a wet bag that can be deposited into a compost bin, if we find any along the road (like at Trader Joe's).

Bags - I'll bring along several cloth shopping bags. And I just picked up a great new collapsible box from Safeway.   I actually picked up two - one is square and perfect for stashing all my car computer stuff nice and neat in one place.  And the other is a rectangle and will be great for car snacks.  They both have a stiff bottom and sides so they won't fall over and get sloppy in the car. When empty, we fold them down and stash under a seat.
Garbage vs Recycling - I have a couple of small flexible recycling type bags, which can be used for garbage and recycling (and to keep our Traverse nice and tidy).  We'll keep the recyclable food packaging and any paper items. We should be able to find a place to put it - likely in our hotel blue bin.  But I don't think anyone wants to keep food scraps in the car for composting.  I expect we will be able to compost at Trader Joe's when we stop. Otherwise we'll be depositing those in the garbage bins when we stop, along with any other garbage that happens to make it into our car.
Isn't everyone excited to see my photos along the trip of how much garbage we have or have not collected. I know I am. 

Anyone have any other eco-friendly road trip tips?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Eco-Friendly Traverse Trip

I love summer road trips. And now that we have actually had a few days of summer weather it feels like we should be heading on our summer trips.  I'll be heading on my big road #TraverseTrip to San Diego in just two weeks. It will be a great road trip with 3 blogging girlfriends Karen, Nicole and Alexis to Blogher '11 - no juice boxes allowed.   We've had a few interesting reactions to our road trip... mostly words I can't repeat here about how long a drive it will be. 

Yes, it will be a long drive! But there are some real environmental benefits to driving - besides being a great road trip adventure with my girlfriends.  So besides discussing fashion and shopping along the road on Fashion Forward 40, I'm also going to see how we keep our road trip as environmentally friendly as possible.

Lets start with the biggie.  Driving compared to flying.  For those that don't love numbers I do apologize as the next part gets a bit like Grade 5 math. 

A few facts/assumptions:
  • Number of travellers - 4
  • Vehicle - Chevrolet Traverse which gets a fantastic 8.4 L/100 km highway fuel consumption rating.  For the sake of simplicity we used the highway rating for our calculations, but we know our actual consumption will vary, especially when we consider LA traffic.  I'll track fuel consumption and do a final assessment at the end of our trip.
  • Driving Distance - Assumed direct drive from downtown Vancouver to downtown San Diego.  I'll track our mileage and give a final assessment at the end of our trip.
  • Flight - Assumed direct flights from YVR to SAN.

A direct flight from Vancouver YVR to San Diego SAN return is 3,792 km (you can search distance between airports here  Thanks to my friends at Climate Smart, who helped me with the math, I know that a return flight equates to 1.13 tonnes CO2 equivalent.   When flying each passenger is assessed a portion of the total carbon for the flight, so we must multiply that number by the 4 passengers  Total 4.52  tonnes CO2 equivalent.


Driving from downtown Vancouver to downtown San Diego and back again is 4,494 km.   With our Traverse highway fuel consumption, we should use 377.5 litres of gas which equals 1.0 tonnes CO2 equivalent.  Since that is the total vehicle calculation, I don't need to multiple by the number of occupants. Total 1.0 tonnes CO2 equivalent.

That means we save 3.52 tonnes CO2 equivalent driving vs flying.  Which means driving is 22% of what flying would be.  Or in real terms that means:

CO2 emissions from 133 propane cylinders used for home barbeques
Photo credit - Tomswift46 via Flickr Creative Commons


Greenhouse gas emissions avoided by recycling 1.1 tons of waste instead of sending it to the landfill
Photo credit -  D'Arcy Norman via Flickr Creative Commons

Annual greenhouse gas emissions from .626 passenger vehicles - which would be like only driving your car 4.5 months of the year.

Other Considerations

So if we are taking an eco-road trip what else do we need to consider?   Well garbage is a big one. And use of disposable products is another.  I'll have more on our plans to reduce our garbage next week.

Would you consider driving instead of flying for a vacation to help reduce your carbon footprint?

Resources...  and

Disclosure: GM is providing us with a loaner Chevrolet Traverse and paying for our hotels and gas to travel to San Diego and back.