So as most of my Instagram followers probably already know, I recently went on vacation to the beach. The beach was in Florida, but it’s fairly remote, and my family and I took precautions while there. The trip had been planned months ago, before the pandemic had become such a part of our normal life, because we wanted to spread our mother’s ashes at this particular beach. Although I did have some anxiety about traveling and coming into contact with others leading up to the trip, I am ultimately glad that I went. I am glad that my mother now has a beach we went to when I was younger as her final resting spot, that she will always be near the salt and sand and the surf. And I am also glad for some much needed relaxation time and bonding with two out of my three siblings.
But this post is not really intended to be about the vacation as a whole, or what I got out of it, or about spreading my mother’s ashes. Instead, I wanted to talk about what was a relatively small point on the trip, that was another example of stepping out of my comfort zone, and that I hope may further my environmental impact overall.
As you may already know if you read my post on ways you can be more environmentally friendly, my husband and I are very into sustainable living and trying to produce as much waste as possible. However, my family members are not necessarily into that lifestyle as much as we are. Still, while we were sharing a house for a week, I wanted to do what I could to be sustainable in that shared space.
However, this gave me anxiety. I am not a person who likes conflict, or likes to bring up anything different or weird for fear that I might cause some sort of issue. I debated over whether I should mention anything to my sister and sister-in-law before the trip began, or whether I should even make an attempt to do anything at all. But at the core of it, I knew that I would have just as much anxiety or maybe even more by everything not being recycled and lots of single use plastic. I also thought it would be better to give my family members a heads up that I would be bringing some sustainable swaps and that those things would be important to me before the actual trip, rather than springing it on them at the last minute.
For the grocery shopping I knew we would do, I brought the freshly washed reusable shopping bags we always try our best to use, both for produce and bagging at the end of the trip. I also brought lots of reusable straws, but we really didn’t need this, because we only went out to eat once, and the restaurant served all our drinks in either cans or bottles. I brought some of my handmade cloth napkins, my reusable beeswax wraps, several reusable water bottles and cups, reusable Clorox wipes I made, my homemade laundry detergent, and my homemade dishwasher detergent. We also used brought the clear recycling bags we use for recycling, although the recycling center doesn’t actually accept the bags themselves.
At first I was nervous even to mention recycling to everyone. I had texted my sister and sister-in-law about the other reusable swaps and they were pretty understanding, but I still wasn’t sure about bringing up recycling. I have a tendency to build things up in my head to be worse in my head than they actually will be in real life, so for the first day, my husband and I kept recycling in our room, and just keep getting things that could be recycled off the top of the trash, taking it up to our room, rinsing it out, and putting it in the bag we had. But also on that first day, after a fairly successful trip to the grocery store with my reusable bags, I had fielded some questions about paper vs. plastic and other common questions from my sister-in-law. That night, she took one of our recycling bags and took it upon herself to start a recycling collection downstairs in the kitchen and texted me (I was already in bed) to let me know. I was so happy that I had not just given up on the idea of trying to have a semi-sustainable vacation.
And as the trip continued, I answered more questions from both her and my sister about what can and can’t be recycled and exposed them to Ron and I drinking water out of the tap (even without our beloved Pur filter) in our reusable water bottles rather than the plastic ones they bought from the store and other norms of sustainable living. Because there was not recycling available near where we were staying, Ron and I also agreed to take all of the bags we collected back with us to be recycled at the local center we normally take them to. This did two things (in my opinion): 1) It showed them how important this cause was to both of us and 2) It allowed us to take a picture of all the recycling collected (not even all that was produced because we definitely missed some) in just a week and send it to them.
Later that night, after sending the picture of the week’s recycling, my sister texted me and asked “How do you recycle glass?” After one of her or my SIL’s questions, I had told them about how glass is a better alternative than plastic because it does not get downgraded when it gets recycled. Her recycling bin at her house said it didn’t allow glass, so I told her that she could take it to the center we use (we have an apartment that doesn’t have pickup) or give it to us and we could take it. (We did end up finding out the very next that our center no longer accepts glass, which is very disappointing. However, we still save and reuse glass jars, and I have also emailed my city representative and the local mayor. If you live in Tifton or Tift County, I would urge you to do the same. Albany, which is a city about 45 minutes to an hour away from us, does seem to still accept glass, so we plan to save it up for a while and take it there when we visit relatives that live there.) She responded again and said “I’m trying to do better about our stuff and recycle more. You inspired me.”
You never know what kind of impact you can have. Obviously it is good that we saved the recyclables we did from the landfill, but it is even more meaningful that we encouraged someone else to recycle and think about their waste more. So here is another reminder to step outside of your comfort zone and always choose happiness.