Recycling / Reducing

How My Family Took a Vacation from Creating Extra Trash

Cristie Snyder

Ahh, vacation. My family and I decided to get-away for a few days and have a quick adventure. Our travels took us away from home for three days, which gave us plenty of opportunity to eat out and create trash. While it was challenging at times, my family of four made a conscious effort to reduce our waste while we traveled.

My career choice of working for the Solid Waste District makes me very aware of how wasteful people can be. As the communications manager, I work to promote and encourage any and all effort to reduce waste and recycle. It also helps me teach my kids and husband how they can be a little bit greener and environmentally aware of their own actions.

We spent most of our time in New York, which is a bottle bill state. A bottle bill is also known as a container law deposit, which requires a minimum refundable deposit on beer, soft drink and other beverage containers in order to ensure a high rate of recycling or reuse. There are only ten states in the U.S. that have bottle bills.

We recycled our plastic bottles. Because of the bottle bill, recycling bins were in many places. We just had to make a conscious effort to use them. Occasionally, the recycling bins were not located near a trash can and we had to seek them out. If we couldn’t find a recycling bin, we took our empty bottles back to the hotel for recycling or gave them to people that were out collecting the items for deposit.

We skipped the straw. At a typical fast casual restaurant, your to-go beverage creates four pieces of trash: the container, lid, straw and straw wrapper. My kids (ages 11 and 7) and husband all got involved with telling the servers “no straw.” It became a fun challenge for us and my boys were proud to be the first person at the table to say “no straw,” especially if it helped the rest of us remember. I often ask my kids to decide if they REALLY need an item that they’ll only use once. It was challenging at times, because servers at restaurants would still place them on the table. We estimated that we prevented about forty straws and wrappers from being thrown away. That’s some interesting dinnertime conversation!

We packed reusable items. Sometimes, when you’ve got a busy vacation schedule, it’s easier to have a quick breakfast in the hotel room before you leave for the day. We ate our oatmeal using cereal bowls and spoons that we brought from home. Those two quick breakfasts with reusable items allowed us to keep sixteen single-use items from going in the trash.

Yes, we still created trash when we traveled. But, by being aware of what we could prevent, at least we were somewhat less wasteful than we could have been. I will continue to encourage and challenge my family to think about how they can create less trash. Hopefully, they’ll never think about taking a vacation from recycling and waste reduction.