Zero Waste, Bike Style


So we’ve been on the road for about a week now, touring across Canada by bicycle. Some sections are really darn hard. . . but that’s not what this post is about. this post is about waste.

Living zero waste on bikes is not at all the same as at home. There is no pantry full of dried lentils and preserves. There is no oven to bake bread or cookies or granola bars. There is no garden out the back door for daily greens and herbs.

We can only carry so much, so we just take each day as it comes, and when we hit a town with a good bulk food store, we stock up, filling our mesh bags with trail mix, candies, dried fruit, and granola. We also carry a few boiled eggs and have been picking up samosas at corner stores for quick lunches. Between our make-shift pantry and stopping at bakeries and cafes, we’ve been keeping ourselves pretty well fed.

On the garbage side of things, we’ve also been doing well. We haven’t generated much recycling because we’ve been eating bulk food and fresh fruits and veggies (although I did carry a tin can for 2 days through Manning Park until I met a guy who took it to recycle). Paper is no problem – they seem to take it in every town we’ve been through. I also have a little compost container with us. This morning, after scoping a compost in someone’s backyard, I knocked on their door and was able to get rid of a couple days of food scraps, and I’m hoping I’ll be able to use this method all across the country.

So far, we do have two pieces of garbage we’re carrying with us. I ordered a breakfast of yogurt, fruit, and homemade granola bar, and the bar, unfortunately, arrived on the plate in plastic wrap. (I know where to recycle this in Vancouver, but not here in the Okanagan). Grant also bought a soy milk, so we have the little silver pull tab from the top.

But you know what I just realized that is really weird? We don’t actually have to carry our waste with us. We don’t have any kind of Clean Bin Project ‘rules’ anymore. I could just put that pull tab in the garbage at this very campsite. Why do we feel compelled to carry it with us? Is it because we’re stopping and talking to communities about not producing garbage so we feel like we have to monitor ours? Or is it just that we are so used to ‘collecting’ our waste, that we can’t help it? In either case, I’ve got a piece of plastic wrap and a pull tab in my front bike bag right now, and I can’t seem to throw it out.

8 Comments

Filed under no waste on the road

8 responses to “Zero Waste, Bike Style

  1. Lori

    You guys rock. Have fun and be safe. XOXO

  2. Sara

    I cycled across Canada in 2005 with an environmental and social justice youth education group in 2005. We also tried to be as waste free as possible at the time. You may find your challenges finding recycling increase in some parts of Canada. We also had to get creative with our food waste at times.

    Good places to compost your food:
    – yes backyard composters if you can spot them
    – outside bear country or where there are other animals that may dig deep, you can attempt to dig it deep into the ground….we had some messy nights attempting this with a metal stir spoon!
    – campground composting toilets.

    And good thing you practiced reducing your use of soft plastics, because that is almost impossible to recycle in most areas of Canada outside the lower mainland and Whistler (where I am).

    Enjoy your ride, and I won’t lie to you and say the riding gets easier. The hardest parts of riding in Canada aren’t always the hills…the weather, the winds, the ‘No shoulder’ hwy 1 riding in Manatoba….but it sure is fun.

    • Oh no, now I’m starting to dread Manitoba! Just kidding, we know there will be lots of challenges. So far we are managing to avoid all soft plastics except those wrapping cheese – I just can’t go without cheese and crackers when cycling all day. I’m lucky to have family in each province, so I know if I carry my compost long enough, I’ll be able to drop it with them

  3. Wendy

    I agree! Be safe! Have fun!

  4. I can’t just toss stuff in the garbage anymore either. It’s like my subconscious brain rebels at the very thought. I pack almost all the garbage I didn’t avoid home to sort for recycling. It makes me so much more mindful as I navigate my way through a world of plastic packaging.

  5. Of course you are zero waste role models and activists now! – and it’s great you are making so little waste!!🙂
    Brave you for cycling so far!! (I couldn’t live without cheese probably either. Can you get a network of cheesemakers, farms or farm markets or such on the way and get cheese in the containers? Maybe people on Facebook or any farm associations could help you with that?)
    I had to google up samosas and they look yummy!!

  6. Casper

    Hi guys,
    I hope you are doing fine on the road through Canada promoting your awesome movie. We are the dutch couple that drove to Nelson because we heard you on the radio.
    Thanks for the bunch of Moukisacs that we won after the movie. We use them now in every grocery store and feel very good about it!
    We will start composting as soon as we return to Amsterdam.
    Good luck on your road trip.
    Elise and Casper

  7. Hello! This project is absolutely incredible.

    I am helping set up the screening of your documentary in Dryden, ON and am very excited to hear about your waste free endeavours. I have been the leader of a waste reduction (One Less Plastic Bag) campaign in Dryden for a little over two years – starting in grade 10. My household has drastically reduced the amount of waste that we produce via buying local produce, buying bulk using reusable containers, being vegetarian and baking.
    My mom and I laughed when we saw the trailer for your documentary since we can relate to the odd expressions that people give when asked to put something in a reusable container as opposed to a disposable one!
    Keep up the great work and I look forward to meeting you at the Dryden showing!

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