It’s not easy being green

Green is the colour of cute little tree frogs. It’s also the colour of millions of tonnes of rotting food in rubbish tips all over the world.

Green is also my favourite colour.

Consuming less and reducing waste is easier on the road. And travelling light has real benefits. So, yeah, this is a thought piece and I’m going to throw out some ideas and talk about what’s worked for me. It’s also about living a bit closer to nature without actually abandoning your clothes and foraging for berries in the moonlight. That would scare the wombats.

The less stuff you carry from place to place, the less weight in your tug and rig. And if you’re not already obsessing about payloads and tare weight, you soon will be. That’s the first biggie when it comes to travelling well. So it makes sense to carry only what you need and use regularly. We’ll talk more about that.

Oh, for the love of a folding bucket 💕 I bought a folding bucket on a whim around a year ago. At around $15 a pop this puppy wasn’t cheap. It’s easily one of my favourite things and use it constantly. It’s a space saver and easy to store. You could almost hear my pain when it sprung a couple of leaks. The action of folding the bucket stresses the latex (or whatever it is) and small water jets sprouted from wee holes. I carry a tube of clear silicone for waterproofing and fixing gaps, and applied this to the leaks on the outside only. I use the bucket for internal and external cleaning and mopping, carrying water, and handwashing muddy socks. If your socks aren’t muddy, you’re not doing this right. And, yeah, I handwash the caravan. It saves water and actually removes the dirt.

Reusable shopping bags are now the norm. I have a few favourites in the car and they get an occasional clean with an antibacterial wipe or a spray with Glen 20. I purchase only what I need to keep a few kitchen basics in stock, and for meal planning and snacks. One of my fetishes (only one?) is fizzy mineral water, the cheap stuff in plastic bottles, mixed with a splash of fruit juice cordial (Bickfords). I’ll deal with the plastic wastage down the page. I don’t shop with a trolley as they’re a repository for germs and viruses. Gulp! Staying healthy when travelling is a must. Everything goes into my reusable bag(s) including vegetables — leave that plastic bag on its spindle — your brown onion is peeled before cooking. Then dump everything on the belt at the checkout. If the cashier isn’t cleaning the belt regularly, ask the store to do it — but it’s not usually a problem. Everyone is sanitising like crazy these days.

If you haven’t had a new baby in the home or been trekking in the Himalayas, this suggestion may fall flat. But you don’t need to wash your hair every day. Or even every couple of days. I have long hair that is usually tied back in a ponytail. It keeps the sun off my neck. I’m out in the bush or on my mountain bike or doing other physical stuff, most of the week. I wash my hair when it needs to be washed and that’s no more than weekly. Unless I fall in a mud puddle. Earlier this year and after suffering through autumn and early winter in Victoria, I bought a travel hairdryer for twenty bucks. It’s compact and I was uncomfortable with damp hair on my neck at night. It’s a small luxury.

I keep a supply of white vinegar and bicarbonate (or washing) soda on hand. I use this to clean drains and other things. It’s cheap, it’s green, and it works. Tip half a cup of bicarb into the drain, follow this up with a cup of white vinegar. It will fizzle and pop. Wait at least one hour and pour a jug of boiling water down the drain. Someone recently told me she also starts the process with a kettle of boiling water — this doubles the use of both power and water. It’s up to you. Just keep your drains clean.

Fuel is expensive. Did I need to point that out? Don’t move constantly. If I’m transiting through an area, then the fuel costs will rise with every hour on the road. A couple of months back I had to take care of something and it involved a burst of travel. So bad for my back. I churned through $600 in petrol in just over a week — that’s not a typo! And it’s not something I budgeted for. So avoid it. And you don’t get to see anything by flipping from place to place. Stay put. Ask for a weekly discount if staying at a paying campground. Look around, explore. Set up the coffee machine and save a paper cup from landfill.

Fix things yourself. Sure, I occasionally need to engage a tradie or drag the rig in for a service. But I carry a basic set of tools and equipment such as a cordless drill and hydraulic jack, and a tube of silicone, and know how to use them. You don’t need an engineering degree but after a couple of hours under a vehicle on your back or up a ladder, a couple of things happen. It feels strangely satisfying and I feel more confident about handling minor maintenance and mishaps. if you’re not sure how to do it, google it. Or ask around. I have learned a few things from YouTube tutorials. I recently reinstalled a fixed TV antenna. Sure, it took me a while but with lockdowns the mobile repair guy was unavailable and so I went it alone. Step by step. It works perfectly.

It should be obvious that if you’re travelling solo, you need to be able to fix things, even if it’s only a temporary repair. The alternative is to leave yourself vulnerable to the elements and poor mobile reception.

There’s so much more I could say on this topic but intend to write more on stuff and how to use it, and storage, in another blog. And the focus here is on small changes that can reduce my footprint on the earth. Reducing water consumption is easy if we think about it. Food wastage is also something to consider — eating closer to nature reduces the volume of packaging and burden on landfill. Buy only what you can cook and eat.

There’s one other thing I need to touch on. I drink lots of water and for the most part it comes out of a tap. I don’t use a filter. You could spend hours discussing the pros and cons of filters with other campers. And sometimes even (alleged) potable water tastes nasty. If you’re on the road, you’re going to come across bore water. Drink it if you want. Don’t wash your vehicles with it! I also purchase cheap fizzy water that comes in 1.25 litre plastic bottles. Some of these go into recycling bins or collection points. I have also discovered a few uses for the empty bottles:

  • Cut off the top, flip upside-down, and place over the trailer plug on your rig; the pins will stay clean and dry
  • Plant commonly used herbs such as basil in a bottle, using the cut top half as a mini-greenhouse, or as a lid when travelling
  • Grow a woody herb such as rosemary, it doubles as air freshener
  • Buy concentrated dishwashing liquid at Bunnings, and mix what you need (so much cheaper)
  • Store knitting needles, spaghetti, whatever in a clean dry bottle
  • Keep a spare litre of water in the back of the car — essential!
  • Disposable coffee cups can also be used to raise seedlings.

I’ve covered off a few things and we all have the capacity to be a bit greener. It just seems easier to do when travelling, as storage and weight are top of mind. Food is expensive to produce and worldwide the wastage is huge. As for my fizzy water bottles, their days are numbered.

Images sourced from pixabay.

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