Call me crazy but I nearly let my quest to be as low waste as possible derail our plans for a family road trip. The thought of all the food waste, single use items and landfill consumed me. I had to find a way to have a trip of a lifetime, and not contribute any more waste than we would at home (where we really try to reduce our landfill).
We all know the great Aussie road trip - it’s an icon! You load everyone and everything in the car and head off into the distance. Sometimes you plan, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you get lost, sometimes you keep driving until the sun sets and you just roll out your tent for the night. Whatever way you road trip, we should be able to travel and enjoy nature while still making conscious choices to reduce our waste.
The good news? It can be done. We did it on our 7500kms road trip covering 3 states, 2 adults and 3 kids in a caravan over 5 weeks. A true odyssey to see Australia’s iconic Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Travelling consciously does require some compromises though.
I knew that we had to continue with our low waste living goals and compost and recycle on the road. If you are a caravanner, you know that space is at a premium so making this happen meant a few things.
Recycling on the road
We needed to have a leakproof, light, multipurpose receptacle that could hold our landfill (as little as we hoped that would be) and our recyclables (which we knew there would be many). We carried 2 Reusable Garbage Bags with us to allow us to separate our waste which is essential in being able to dispose thoughtfully. We carried one in the back of the car for recyclables (so whenever we came across a recycling facility – they were few and far between – we could empty it straight away) and the second lived in the caravan for our landfill waste or any other purpose. As the TOMbag is fully leakproof, it doubled as a washing bag to carry our laundry to the nearest laundromat and a pool bag to carry wet swimmers back to the van from the pool. Multi-purpose in a caravan is very important!
Food waste contributes 8% of the greenhouse gases that are heating our planet. . Travelling and composting can be done – it just takes planning. We took 2 benchtop composters with us so we could rotate them – one was fermenting while the other was being filled. You can stick anything in them! If you can eat it, you can bokashi compost it. Once it was fermented, we used our app to find a local drop off point (ShareWaste is a food scraps sharing platform where you can either donate scraps or offer your compost pile for people to use). If done correctly, bokashi composting is not smelly, very transportable even if you don’t have a caravan (the boot of your car would be fine) and a really simple way to dramatically reduce your greenhouse gas emissions.
Meal prep, meal prep, meal prep
This made all the difference on our trip. We prepared a lot of food before we left, so we could recycle packaging or compost the scraps that we didn’t need to take with us. We rarely ate out (the food waste from hospitality and retail food outlets is 1/3 of all food waste produced in Australia) and if we did eat out, we took leftovers home with us either in napkins or our own containers. Having meals pre-planned left us free to enjoy our days sightseeing or relaxing, without the extra task of preparing a main meal every day.
Whilst I encourage you to set up a compost bin at home and recycle as much as possible, when travelling – try to plan ahead, bring a container, think about the waste you might create (and attempt to avoid it), and look for local services that might be able to help (local councils/ShareWaste/community gardens), I also want to remind you that sometimes, trying to do what’s right feels like (or is) an uphill battle.
So, if you love to travel and want to nourish the planet, with a little planning, a touch of commitment and having the right equipment, you can have the best of both worlds!
Looking for reusable bin liner to take with you for your next zero waste road trip? Take a look at TOMbag, we've got you covered.