I have been lucky enough to be able to visit my family in Slovenia a couple of times a year. It’s great to wake up to the sight of mountains. My urban lifestyle routines, however, are usually out of order. This is not traveling, which I consider hard to keep without waste due to unpredictability. I have my own space at my parents’ house, where I can keep some stuff (although I tend to keep the number of my possessions low). I also cook for myself and take care of food shopping most of the time.
Lake Bohinj, Slovenia
This may or may not apply to where your folks live and how your visits look like. But at least, it may help, if you have troubles keeping up with your waste-less lifestyle while visiting home. Here are my 10 ideas to keep low waste while visiting family:
My folks live in a house in the countryside. Some things are actually easier here, like composting in the garden. They set it up themselves, but no one uses it as much as I do! I find it amazing to go directly to the compost and never store food scraps inside the house.
Fruits and Veggies:
Moreover, garden. We grow lots of fruits and veggies, that I can eat fresh in the summer and autumn.
In the store, I stock up on fresh produce and potatoes. Usually, I have to weigh everything myself and then put it in a cotton bag I brought with me. I put the unavoidable sticker on the bag and leave it half open if anyone wants to check what is inside, as the cotton bag is not transparent. No one seems to mind though.
Bulk (or the lack thereof):
Since there are no bulk options for that, I try to choose dry goods in recyclable packagings. Often, that just means pasta in a carton box. Most other goods have a thin plastic cover inside the box, so whether I choose those products depends on how long I stay and how much I will cook. I do make more trash here than in Berlin because I do not have all the services urban environment provides. But you have to be reasonable about what you can and cannot achieve.
There is, however, mom’s homemade syrups, grandma’s tomato sauces and the like.
Reusables are, of course, crucial tools when avoiding waste. I don’t like to drag everything with me wherever I go, as I realized I mostly need my water bottle, reusable shopping and produce bags. Towels are in the kitchen and the bathroom, as we do not use paper towels anyway. If I go hiking and I don’t have my steel containers at hand, I will just grab some reusable plastic container from my parents. I hate coffee to go anyway, as I prefer to sit down with a regular cup.
Speaking of coffee, we have a lovely coffee culture but are crazy about straws. I will try to get a straw free drink every time I go to a bar or a cafe. This can be frustrating as we like to put straws into every cold drink a woman (and never for a man) drinks from. So a glass of water accompanying coffee will have a straw in it, as well as any kind of juice (which sometimes even has two for some reason). My request is on some occasions overheard, and on the others confusing for the staff. I often feel like I have been the first person to ever request a straw free drink. But someone has to start the thought process regarding our straw madness, and as much as I don’t enjoy special requests, I will do it anyway. #stopsucking
Zero waste bathroom:
Establishing zero waste bathroom was relatively easy. I stock up on soap bars which you can buy anywhere (unpackaged or in a carton box). I also keep a small glass bottle, which I fill up with my parents’ olive oil from the kitchen (which they always have at hand and if they don’t, I can buy it and they will use it up). Otherwise, I pack my reusable razor, menstrual cup, bamboo toothbrush and my homemade deodorant with me. Blades for the razor are not allowed on the plane though, so I might bring a stash next time I arrive with a bus. I am also considering stocking up on baking soda.
I keep my old bike around and try to walk and bike instead of driving, as much as possible. It’s easy to get into the habit of driving everywhere because that’s what everyone else is doing. I also try to seize the opportunity and go for a hike in the mountains, a run in the forest or a swim in the lake.
If I visit my parents alone, I usually take some time to declutter what is left of my youth’s possessions. I do that as responsibly as I can by donating/handing it down and recycling properly. I gave my school supplies to an office and exchanged some clothes that do not fit with my mom. Some time ago I gave my dying laptop to an organisation (similar here), which sets up old computers for those that cannot afford one.
Can you keep up with your zero waste lifestyle when visiting family? Make me happy by sharing your experiences in the comments 🙂