I spent much of this last week of February traveling the Carolinas. Wake Forest University School of Divinity was my destination, and visiting family on the way was a happy byproduct. It ended up being an absolutely lovely trip, complete with 4.5 inches of snow (unusual for this part of the country) and provisions for my seminary career (praise be!).
While traveling, I stayed two nights in a hotel and two nights with family. The hotel accommodations were absolutely comfortable, and, of course, who can beat two nights at Granny’s?
Both places, however, set me outside of my natural habitat, laying my normal routine bare for a bit of reflection. Sometimes I take for granted the ease of popping by Whole Foods to refill my cereal jar at the bulk bin, or reaching for a mug instead of a Styrofoam cup.
Sustainability on the road surely takes forethought and flexibility. On this trip I practiced more of the latter. Because I had to leave a day earlier than expected to outrun a potential snowstorm, I did not have the chance to prepare quite like I had hoped on the sustainability end of things. Thus, I got a good picture of what choices are within my reach without planning, and how I can prepare best for next time.
I took my trusty water bottle everywhere.
Y’all, I am a born-and-bred Carolinian and as such, no snow day’s eve is complete without a milk’n’bread run to the grocery store. I got to Winston-Salem just in time to bag a few items JUST IN CASE we all got snowed in at the hotel.
We ended up only being delayed an hour or so by ice, but the shopping trip itself provided several sustainable wins (and lessons):
- Wholesome, minimally packaged snacks on hand. Including some local Winston-Salem fare (WAY better than the vending machine. Repeat after me: Self-care is creation care…)
- Saved a little moolah. I ended up snagging some vegan soup and cornbread for my meal that night in the hotel saving me untold calories and several bucks (have you been to a hotel bistro lately?).
Easy-stow bags did double duty helping me corral stuff while on the go and also allowing me to refuse disposable sacks at the grocer’s. Encouraged to see this habit sticking with me, simple though it may be!
My sweet roommate (Hi, Kendall!) for the scholars’ weekend agreed that we should give the cleaning staff the day off. We made our own beds and reused our towels like we would at home, hanging the “Do Not Disturb” sign on our door while we were away.
My favorite win from the week was the true hospitality at the hotel. Bravo to the folks at Marriott Courtyard on University Parkway in Winston-Salem! The manager hardly blinked an eye at my request to borrow a bowl and spoon during my stay. We giggled a little bit because the request was just slightly out of the ordinary, but she was so happy to oblige. Moral of the story: People are generally sweet, and it never hurts to ask. WIN!
Wake Divinity School had some wins of their own that I am happy to report:
- Local food goodies in the swag bag
- Recycling and compost receptacles in halls and lounge areas
- Of the Five R’s of green living, refuse is the most difficult for me. I am happy, however, to report a successful refusal (except maybe this was more of a returning). Wake Divinity included a water bottle in the swag bags, and that is one item I certainly have enough of. My plan was to simply leave it on a table in the admission’s office for their use at some other time, but what actually happened was even better. I was able to return it over a conversation with the incredibly kind administrative assistant who completely sympathized with what I was trying to do. It was a blessing and affirmation to receive her grace and understanding.
Notes for Next Time
1. Prepare travel beverages, snacks, and meals in advance
We are living, breathing humans. We get hungry every few hours, and that does not change when we are on the road. Plan to pack energizing snacks and homebrewed drinks in reusable containers. Then you can laugh at those packaged treats and sugary drinks vying for your eye in the gas station.
Preparing food and drink in advance will:
- Make wrappers and plastic bottle waste a non-issue – Though I was able to snag minimally wrapped goods at the grocery, I could have avoided all packaging had I prepared at home.
- Keep late-night vending machine raids to a minimum (or nil)
- Taste a lot better than stale, processed, and fast food – McDonald’s ain’t got nothing on a home-cooked meal!
2. Update the Car Kit
...and MAKE SURE IT GETS PACKED IN THE CAR. We have a readymade satchel of reusable table settings that usually stays in the car. I don’t know where it ended up, but I did not have it with me in Winston. At any rate, I think it needs an update.
Ideas for updated To-Go Car Kit
- Travel mugs!!! They are good for both cold and hot drinks.
- Several cloth napkins.
- Clea ning supplies (dish washing soap, cloth, and drying towel) - I bought a small bottle of Hand + Dish Soap while in Winston-Salem for this purpose. Used it to wash my borrowed bowl and spoon between uses.
3. Toy around with a purse-sized table setting for inconspicuous use in social situations.
There was one meal when disposable items were all that was available. It broke my heart to reach for that plastic party plate! I wonder if I can find a small dish and travel fork/spork that would be light enough to keep in my purse. I also wonder how awkward it would be to use it in social settings…It would be worth it, in any case. I think.
Have any tips for sustainable travel?
How do you balance ease and eco-responsibility when traveling? Favorite trail mix?
I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!