Saturday, July 26, 2008

A Green Vacation - by Guest Blogger Jane

We are honored and humbled to introduce another guest blogger for this weekend! We thought it would be hard to do a 3-way this weekend because 2 of us are NOT traipsing around in the jungles of Costa Rica, and we had a gem in our back pocket we were waiting to share. Our (Ellie's and my) sister Jane recently wrote the following for her blog, which is environmentally conscientious and linked to an actual income-generating business, unlike some blogs I know. Jane is yet another smart and fun and funny and ridiculously fit sister of ours, but to me she will always just be the bitch who stole my candy.


Can you have a green vacation?

I tried. I really did. I took the train to Connecticut to visit my family instead of driving. Let me repeat. I took the train to CT from Chicago with my three kids. That's 20 hours on Amtrak, folks, and I recommend it highly. I did start to get that caged animal feeling after about 16 hours, but on the whole it was pleasant and so lovely to be able to stand up, read my book and drink water with abandon. Speaking of which, I bought two plastic water bottles at the train station when I realized I had forgotten reusables - but Amtrak has water spigots in each car and we reused those bottles the whole weekend until I dumped them in my recycling container at home this morning. I know, I know, you're not supposed to do that, but there were no wild temperature fluctuations and aside from the fear that we'd all catch Dylan's fever, we braved reusing plastic bottles.

Failure began on the train, ten hours into the trip, when I ordered a cup of coffee. Paper cup, paper tray, four-fold paper napkin. I dispensed with the napkin and the tray, but guiltily accepted the cup, in which I emptied a disposable container of half and half. By the time I ordered our breakfast I had resigned myself to green failure- we had muffins, egg sandwiches and scones, all individually wrapped in plastic and served in, you guessed it, cardboard trays with four-fold napkins.

Once we got to my parents' house we were able to keep our waste to a minimum, largely because my parents do the same. But on my first visit to Walgreen to get supplies I realized I didn't have a reusable bag, (my mother later said there were several in the trunk) so guiltily accepted plastic. First time since March. It got worse. Shorehaven's delicious beverages were served in plastic cups. And the Circle Line Tour serves its beer and water in disposables only with no recycling on board. Toss. And in central park's Leap Frog Cafe every single utensil and serving piece was disposable. Toss.

So the question is - is it possible to have a green vacation? Ironically, had I driven I would have had more control over my immediate environment while sending significantly more carbon into the atmosphere. I would have brought my cold and hot portable cups and reusable bags for that quick run into the store.

On the positive side, the experience made me realize that many things that used to seem like a hard habit to break or form have now become rote for my kids, my husband and me. We compost. We don't use paper napkins. Our town recycles everything so we produce very little trash. But once I got outside of my little green cocoon, it all fell apart. And it was depressing to realize that my family's efforts are such a drop in the bucket.

What's the answer? Short of traveling only to recycling friendly cities, I have to plan better or just do the best I can under the circumstances. And next time I'll at least bring a Green Homes coffee mug.


Ellie said...

Oh how lovely! Thanks for joining the party, Jane. And great set-up job, Jacquie. Now we only need another sister or two, and a parent or two, oh and a brother-in-law or two, to Guest Blog, and we'll have a full complement.

And now I can finally leave the comment here that I left on Jane's blog, which was highly inappropriate there but will fit in just fine here:

I always bring a hot/cold container with me. Usually the one covered with photos of Julie's kids. Keeps the margies nice and cold . . .

Rita.the.bookworm said...

But once I got outside of my little green cocoon, it all fell apart. And it was depressing to realize that my family's efforts are such a drop in the bucket.

That's the kicker, isn't it? We do what we can, but then we look around at the bigger picture and see that not everyone is even thinking about this. How many times do we have to bicycle to and from the store to make up for one of John Travolta's joy rides in his jet? It just about makes you want to cry sometimes.

Anonymous said...

Did your Amtrak train have an "entertainer" that got a little too friendly with the kids and then dump scotch o their heads?