The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

July 17, 2010

Cross Country Trip: Part 1

Beth Terry Cross Country trip

Dad and I set out on Thursday from Oakland, CA and headed east.  I’m trying my best to avoid plastic while traveling, but some things seem unavoidable and others are just accidental.

First of all, we need to carry a cooler for snacks and drinks.  Dad likes to have lots of soda.  And we are bringing our own snacks (bananas, nuts, bread, etc.) to avoid buying a lot of junk food on the road, although we are not completely avoiding it. In fact, ice cream makes frequent appearances in our itinerary.  So anyway, we’re using a plastic foam cooler that I already had, and we bought a bag of ice in a plastic bag to fill it.  In the future, we’ll refill the ice from motel ice machines to avoid additional plastic bags.

We also bought.. wait… wait… oh my god…


Okay, now let me clarify. We bought two 2-1/2 gallon jugs of water to keep in the car in case we break down in the desert. We don’t plan to open it except in an emergency. I think if we had really planned ahead we could have found a big container to fill up ourselves. But we didn’t have time to hunt for something like that. So there’s bottled water on the floor of the car.

What else? I brought my own loose tea and metal tea ball, and I heat up water from the motel coffee maker to make my tea. We have not taken the mini shampoos, etc.

The only plastic I’ve collected so far that falls under the category of unnecessary but fun was a bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos my dad bought for me at the gas station. I hadn’t had those in years and wolfed down the whole bag in record time.

Now, we’re in Cedar Hills, Utah with my brother and his family, and my dad is breathing down my neck to finish writing this post so we can figure out the next leg of our journey. So, here are a few photos from the road. Will post another update when I get a chance.

First night in Elko, NV:

Beth Terry Cross Country trip

Beth Terry Cross Country trip
Beth Terry Cross Country trip
Beth Terry Cross Country trip

Cedar Hills, UT:

Beth Terry Cross Country trip
Beth Terry Cross Country trip

Poochie Terry says hi.

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13 years ago

Aw, sorry you’re sick, Beth. I’m surprised you don’t have a tougher immune system, since you use public transportation regularly and seem to do okay with it. The subway made me sick all the time, so I switched to carpooling and part-time working from home, and ultimately full-time working from home. Anyway, as you say, yet another reason to fly less. Hope you’re feeling better soon. Bed rest is my go-to treatment.

13 years ago

I used to work at different hotels and condo rental places when I lived in the Tahoe area and we always had to re-fill any little shampoo bottles if they were left at check out. This saved the boss’ money as they didn’t have to buy new ones every time. If the bottle was too damaged or the logo looked bad we could take it home for ourselves or throw it out. We would take the bad looking bottles and pour them into a still good looking one. I no longer take these bottles from hotels as they end up cluttering up my bathroom-not to mention the landfills if they aren’t recycled.

13 years ago

Trying to be green while traveling is a tough one, but sounds like you are doing great.
I hope you get lots of great bonding talks with your dad.

Happy Trails!

13 years ago

I had the same concern with the plastic shampoo bottles in the hotel I just stayed in (the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City). I made sure not to touch any of them (though my boyfriend used the soap bar and I later found out the wrapper had a plastic film on it, but he likes it so no big deal), and I even thought about writing a note explaining that I didn’t use them and would prefer that they not be thrown away (but of course I didn’t). it didn’t even occur to me to ask someone who worked at the hotel whether they have to throw them out, next time I’ll do that. but the hotel used real glasses, covered with a disposable plastic dust-cover, which I think is much better than those plastic cups wrapped in plastic that I’ve seen in motels. I made a big stink about how they had a card that said “help us help the environment” which was printed on plastic (I think it was a door hanger?). but the sentiment was a good one (it was about not washing linens every day if you requested it– we just kept the do not disturb sign up the whole time so they didn’t need to clean our room every day), and there was a similar paper card which was waterlogged and gross, so I can see why they made the other out of plastic.

someone mentioned emergency water storage a while ago and I believe there are steel tanks you can use? You can get 5gal glass ones shaped like the water cooler jugs. and there are always the refillable polycarbonate ones (you can usually get them at home depot). It’s tough when you’re faced with a situation like that where you need to make a quick or last-minute decision. I always end up beating myself up over it because I immediately think of a better solution after the fact (most of my plastic errs come down to lack of communication though). my sister uses those water jugs for refilling her fish tank, so if you end up using them and have no use for the empty containers, maybe you know someone with fish who could use them. or if you don’t use them, you could give them to someone who normally buys them and get some plastic-free emergency water storage for next time.

anyway, sounds like you’re having a good time. a road trip is always fun, even under less-than-fun circumstances.

(and the dog is adorable.)

13 years ago

@”other” Beth Terry, I was confused about your airport water plan. If you bring a glass bottle, you should be able to fill that at the airport after you get through security. Or is the tap water unsafe where you fly from? If it’s just a matter of taste, you might try adding some flavoring. I usually travel with Airborne or Emergen-C or something like that because I so often get sick after flying. It does double-duty at covering up bad tap water taste. (Not plastic-free, but staying healthy is important.)

13 years ago

Hello Beth,

I just finished reading all of your posts on this blog, a project that has ben going on for almost a year. I might not have read much in every sitting, but I’ve read often. You have been an epic and never-ending source of inspiration for me and my environmentalism, and even though it feels kind of crass speaking of this whilst you are, on a personal level, mourning for so many things, I hope you will see this as encouragement and help to continue being as strong as you are. :)

Beth Terry (the other one)
13 years ago

Beth – are you still in Elko? It would be fun for my brother to meet you. He’s up in that neck of the woods.

I feel your pain on the water issue. I get too dried out on airplane trips and can’t wait the hour and a half for the flight attendants to get around to giving me water. So i bring an empty glass bottle in a carrier, then buy the biggest plastic bottle i can find in the airport to fill it. When i get to my destination, if the tap water there is palatable, i refill the giant bottle and the glass bottle and use it the whole time I’m there. Then i find a way to recycle the bit plastic bottle. Like I told you in Hawaii – I always say, “Sorry Beth!” ;-D

On the road it’s easier. I fill up several glass bottles with water and freeze them. They go in my hard plastic cooler that I’ve had for 15 years. Those frozen bottles keep food cold for the drive, so i don’t have to use plastic bags of ice. I try and use several wide mouth bottles so i can refill them in the ice machines.

On the road food is tougher. After reading Fast Food Nation, i pretty much swore off all fast food restaurants. But they are preferable to starvation if I run out of food on the way… Fortunately most of them are doling their junk food out in paper now, and that’s easy to recycle. I just don’t buy sodas or anything they would give me straws for. I have my water in the car, and Celestial Seasonings has this new Ice tea product – you can put a bag into ice water and you have tea in about 10 minutes. So i take that with me. I try to find grocery stores and buy fruit and other healthy snacks – and bring my own bags.

Travel safely and give my best to your Dad!!
Hug your mom for me, too.

Condo Blues
13 years ago

I think it’s good to shake things up a bit and live outside of our green comfort zones. I guess that’s why they say travels broadens the mind :)

On the little soap, shampoos, et.c it really depends upon the individual hotel. If you’re concerned you can call the front desk and they’ll tell you. If you find that you are in a hotel that will toss unopened toiletries there are many food pantries and shelters that will take them.

Fun with Dad
13 years ago

It’s so funny that you are posting from Elko, Nevada. I stayed there with my Dad during a road trip aimed at moving me out to Colorado. Dads are wonderful.

I like the ice bag idea. Another big travel challenge is ziplocs, which are as important to travel gear as zippers and velcro. I’ve been using the same one for over a year now, hoping I don’t get holes. (When I do, I recycle them.)

Have fun on the road and be safe!

13 years ago

i just found your site and i really love it! i’m impressed/inspired by how much you’ve reduced your plastic intake, and i hope to do some of the same things.

i thought that they had to throw away the shampoo bottles, etc in the hotels even if they were unused, but maybe not. i heard about this project recently called ‘clean the world’ where these bottles (unused as well as half used, etc) get donated and given out to people in third world countries who really do need them. which is pretty cool!

Rebecca The Greeniac
13 years ago

I agree that bottled water for emergencies is qualitatively different than bottled water for pure convenience. Last fall I had a bunch of completely inexplicable allergic reactions and we had to rule out that it was something in the “disinfectant’ that they put in the city water supply. Anyhow, I had to drink distilled water for a week. It felt REALLY weird to buy all of that water in big plastic jugs! I ended up not using it all so the unopened ones are in the emergency pantry in the basement.

Safe travels.

Isle Dance
13 years ago

What a neat trip and what a great idea for the ice!

Sandra Lee
13 years ago

Love the wide open spaces! And love how you give us the blow-by-blow of plastic choices giving us all new ideas for reducing plastic usage.

13 years ago

UPDATE: my hotel (its a marriott) doesn’t throw out the shampoo etc. if you don’t use it. If its not opened they will reuse it. So check with your hotel before you decide you have to take the little bottles even if you haven’t touched them.

13 years ago

we use bottled water in our earthquake kits, but avoid it otherwise. So the way you are using it makes sense. We still don’t have a good substitute for bottled water for emergency use. You are amazing that you are still trying to reduce the plastic even while going through such a difficult time. As I’m staying in a hotel at the moment, and have been avoiding the little shampoos etc. I am now going to call housekeeping and ask them whether they are required to throw them out or if they can reuse them… the other thing thats bumming me out about hotel food is that when you order it they use TONS of saran wrap on everything :( and of course the unasked for straws that keep arriving despite my requests for no straws. *sigh*

Sarah "Angry Butterfly" Schumm
13 years ago

I’ve heard, I don’t know if its true or not, that they can’t re use the shampoo bottles so the best thing to do is take them and donate them. Can anyone in the industry confirm this.

I have some re-usable water containers for Burning Man and they are made of plastic so it would have been kind of a no win thing, if you weren’t going to use the containers again, you are probably are better off with the *gasp* disposable ones. Its less plastic in the long run, the reusable ones are much heavier plastic. If you went to Burning Man or took road trips through the desert every year that would be different.

You’ve helped so many people cut back on plastic so much that I think you can forgive what you need to do on your trip.

have a great time with your dad :)

Chris Oxford
13 years ago

Sounds like you are doing a good job of avoiding unnessesary plastic. Chances are if you had found large containers for water they would have been made of plastic.

One thing about the small plastic containers of shampoo and such. I always briung them home and donate them to the local food closet which hands them out to the homeless as they cannot carry larger sizes.

Lisa @Retro Housewife Goes Green
13 years ago

Don’t worry to much about extra plastic, enjoy your time with your dad! Also have a safe trip!

13 years ago

I love road movies – or in this case, road still-shots. Maybe because I love to travel. Did you stop and get out of the car to go touch the salt flats? It’s very strange, white and crunchy and taste it – yep, it’s salt! I wonder if it could be used as table salt? A potential small business for someone?

When you get back I have a great subject for you to take on – Christo and his zany plastic exhibits that use thousands of square feet of plastic for the ultimate in ephemeral displays. The irony is that his displays make use of natural settings…but what happens to all that nylon when the exhibit is over? How does that do nature any good?

13 years ago

I have never driven through the desert but if I did, I would take every precaution. Your love and care for your Dad is the most important thing on this journey.

13 years ago

I think that bottled water was invented for situations like those. If people only bought it to fend off emergencies, there would be a whole lot less bottles of water floating around. So while planning ahead is great, I’m willing to grant you absolution for this one.

Safe travels!

13 years ago

Awesome. My mom and I are planning our trip from the bay area up to Washington and trying to get creative to avoid all the packaged stuff as well. Our biggest challenge is that we are bringing my 2 girls (5 and 2) so i’ve got to feed them but entertain as well. Definately going to bake some banana bread for them… and probably going to make some fruit leather…and we always make a crazy trail mix type thing in a big jar and dole it out in handfuls. Its definately a challenge while travelling….have a fun trip