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between our steps 07 17 19 double
I missed writing a column last week because we took a road trip. I also missed my "decrease plastic use" goals. By a lot.

I had been doing well. My cotton produce bags have done good service. They hold strawberries in the cardboard container. They collect onions to be weighed, avoiding those plastic mesh bags that shed orange fibers in the fridge. They replace thin bags to hold apples. And they get thrown in with the laundry and other re-usable bags. I haven't forgotten my water bottle all summer. I switched to aluminum pop cans. I got cheese wrapped in paper, a bit more expensive given the store I went to, but such good cheese!

However, for this road trip, I left home in a flurry. We were too far down the road when I remembered the plan to take cutlery. Those plastic forks and knives at fast food places don't work very well, and they are single use plastic. During last year's road trip, I told myself to bring metal cutlery in future. I kicked myself for forgetting.

On the plus side, we broke the trip up over two days and did not have to stop at fast food joints. On the down side, the hotels used plastic cutlery for breakfast. On the plus side, the plates were paper not styrofoam. But on the list for next year: pack bamboo plates AND metal cutlery.

One hotel had glass glasses. They also had plastic drinking cups, so it was the choice of people staying which to use. The other place only offered plastic. Both had paper coffee cups. But still, those are single use. I have metal cups at home that I took to tai chi class for tea. They are a perfect alternative to the disposable cups so common in hotels. Next year, I should pack them too. And I need to start thanking a hotel that offers glass.

Which makes me wonder why I don't carry my reusable coffee mugs with lids more often.

A few years ago, all the coffee shop chains offered coffee mugs you could bring in and refill. People did carry them, wash them, and refill them. When did that good practice become a short-lived fad?

One shop we went to had a display of reusable glasses for cold drinks with reusable straws. So, it is still possible to bring your own container. We just need to practice. I need to put a mug in the car so I have it when I decide to stop for coffee or tea or whatever.

Just before the road trip, I found a restaurant offering paper or plastic straws. Hopefully soon, it will only be paper. I'll have to speak up and thank them for the paper ones next time I stop there.

On the down side, at a restaurant that claims to be based on solid values, the glasses of water all had a plastic straw added. What is the point of that? I wanted to complain. Instead, I made a mental note to start asking for water without a straw.

The restaurants we went to had real plates and real cutlery and glasses. They also had good, interesting food. Testing out other people's cooking is one of the benefits of travel. It does mean the "eat local" pattern was set aside for the moment. Local beer, however, was usually available, thanks to the wonderful craft breweries popping up in so many places.

Back home now, I have picked up the project of reducing plastic consumption in our family, and the task of using less single use anything. I put shopping bags in the car so that even when I make a quick stop for a couple things, I don't have to take a plastic bag from the store. And I am trying to thank businesses for the positive alternatives they offer and to challenge practices like the straw in the water glass you are going to drink at table.

One more note. This week our twelve-year-old Prius needed extensive repairs. I dropped the car off and took the bus up to the hospital to do some visits. That was an eye opener. There were lots of riders. Most greeted the driver by name. All thanked her as they got off. I am glad that I shared that ride. Efficient. Saved the gas a shuttle or taxi would have used. Saw how essential this local transit system is.

Cathy Hird lives on the shore of Georgian Bay.


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