How to Have a Waste-Less Summer and Still Enjoy It

By Ryan Elizabeth Cope –

Sometimes in life, you just have to jump in the car and go where the wind blows you. Never is that truer than in the summertime… and this is where we get into trouble. Wait, trouble? Whaddyamean? Having adventures, being spontaneous, isn’t that the penultimate goal of summer?!

Planning ahead for a waste-less shopping trip should only take minutes. Bags pack light in hiking backpacks, and jars are convenient for road trip snack attacks. Photo: Ryan Elizabeth Cope

Well, it is… except when we forget to pack enough food and water for our road trip and the only available options are gas station snacks, we have nothing to drink out of at the beach meet-up we decided to go to last-minute, and we’re left trying to slice our freshly barbecued dinner with a plastic butter knife we found in our emergency camping stash from forever ago. Sprinkle in a few accidentally scattered cigarette butts in whatever pocket of BC you find yourself in, and our day of dreamy summer fun quickly turns into an environmentalist’s nightmare.

Now, let me be clear: I am all about adventure and I think it’s entirely possible to be spontaneous while also being sustainable. But sometimes we get bogged down in the details. As environmentalists, it often feels like we’re David and society is Goliath in the fight towards a simpler, waste-less lifestyle. The Goliaths of this world say, “it’s complicated to camp plastic-free” or “my homemade travel snacks don’t look as nice as that one I saw on Instagram” or “planning ahead is so complicated!” and the Davids are left holding the reusable tote bags, the lists, and the plan, muttering, “But… but… just give it a chance!” We (the collective group of environmentally-minded-yet-totally-spontaneous-adventurers) get it! The average person just wants to have a good time but is often left feeling inadequate, confused, and overwhelmed, assuming their actions couldn’t possibly add up to anything significant and that planning ahead ruins the fun of a bright, cheery summer day.

Abundance awaits at your nearest farm stand. Locally grown food will give you an energy and nutrient boost for whatever adventure awaits! Photo: Ryan Elizabeth Cope

My idea of a perfect summer is one where preparation meets up with spontaneity and says, “I saw you coming and I am so ready for this spur-of-the-moment hiking trip to Lillooet!” So, without further ado, let’s dive into some practical ways to make our summer adventures more sustainable…and have a killer time while doing it!

– Stash some non-perishable, non-melty snacks in your car for those last-minute road trips. When I had a car, I always kept a bag of GORP in my glove box. Extra points for packing snacks in something reusable. After all, if they’re going to sit around in your car for a while, do you really want them baking in a plastic bag?

– While you’re stashing things in your car, why not throw in some kind of reusable drinking vessel? Think about the number of times you’ve arrived to a summer potluck, bonfire, or boat trip and all that’s available to you are plastic Solo cups; with a reusable you can skip the plastic and never lose track of which cup is yours.

– Hit up the local farmer’s market for fresh goodies before heading out on your camping and/or road trip. Veggies, eggs, grillable meats, and pre-made snacks are all possibilities. Bonus: living in BC means you will never be without some form of farm stand, market, or farm store, virtually anywhere. At peak season I’d be willing to bet you could make it from the coast to the Alberta border and never set foot in an actual grocery store. Tip: come prepared with bags for produce and containers for meat and snacks. This sounds like a lot of work but if you’re already going on a road/camping trip, you’ve already had to plan and prepare. Trust me: it is so satisfying to arrive at a vendor’s station and whip out your bag/jar/box. It will make you feel like a superhero.

Above all else, take a deep breath in, then exhale it out and bask in the glory that is summertime in BC. Photo: Ryan Elizabeth Cope

– Dust off the good ‘ole reusable water bottle. People, it is the year 2018. Why are we still buying bottled water? If you haven’t seen or read the myriad information telling us that most bottled water is just tap water repurposed, do yourself a favour and visit Google for some knowledge. Then, grab the nearest bottle and never let it leave your side. This does not – I repeat – does not mean going out and dropping $45 on a shiny, new, Swell water bottle. Nothing against Swell, and if you’re in the market for a new bottle then for sure, invest in a durable, high-quality vessel. It’s just that we have this tendency as humans to jump on a bandwagon and feel like we need to buy all kinds of stuff. Whatever you currently have kicking around the backseat of your car will likely do. Here in the Okanagan and well into the Cariboo, there is some stunning hiking to be had, but it is an arid climate and dehydration is a real thing. Breathe life into your water bottle and get excited about all the hydration possibilities.

– Make life less of a beach and clean up after your beach or bonfire party. I lose track of the number of bottle caps, straws, wrappers, cans, kids toys, and cigarette butts I pick up because someone else got careless and it drives me and everyone else mental. It’s easy to let these things blow away, so the easier solution is to not bring them in the first place. Now that you’ve got your farmer’s market treats, a stainless steel straw, and a reusable bottle to carry your favorite beverage, there should be no mess, right?

Word to the wise? R-e-l-a-x. Here in BC, we live in paradise. Our access to nature is amazing and the amount of adventures we’re able to get up to on any given day, near or far, is staggering. Summers are for fun, friends, and memories and with these few tips, it will be all the easier to have, find, and create more of all three.

Ryan Elizabeth Cope is a Kelowna, BC-based advocate for plastic-less, healthful living. She has lived and worked in several places on the coasts of both the Atlantic and the Pacific, from Hawaii to Maine. She blogs at Seven in the Ocean (https://sevenintheocean.com/) where she marries her love of food with her disdain for plastic-wrapped garbage. When not ranting ad nauseum about plastic, she can be found playing with her chickens, or concocting fresh juices in her kitchen.

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