Unsustainable bus living
Sun, 18 Apr 2021 09:41:45 +0000
As you’ll probably know if you’ve been hanging around for a while, I am very much into low waste living.
I have been living this way for a few years now, and after the initial hard core phase of ALL OR NOTHING (I do this with everything), I learned to cut myself some slack and eventually safely landed on the soft grass of Everything in Moderation.
Even though I do allow myself the occasional food in a plastic packaging or disposable take away container, I still feel bad about it and I definitely consider this the exception rather than the rule.
It is also true that I still find living low waste quite demanding. It requires a lot of energy and focus, and if I’m not in a quiet mental space, or if I’m stressed or I simply have too much going on, the first thing I drop to make my life easier is Zero Waste habits.
Lockdown is a great example of this: as my anxiety went through the roof, so did my plastic consumption. Moving into a bus very much followed the same process. As my stress level rose, I allowed myself to not worry too much about disposable packagings so I could free some mental space to adjust to a very new, pretty overwhelming lifestyle.
But beside getting takeaway more often, since moving into Sid I have noticed a few not-so-much sustainable practices that have come up and that I hadn’t predicted at all.
The fridge situation in the bus is not ideal: more often than not our fridge doesn’t work. Apart from that sad jar of minced garlic that didn’t smell great to begin with, heaps of food that sat in the fridge without us realising it wasn’t keeping cool had to be thrown away. Sometimes I buy something I intend to cook on the day but then I might not have the means to actually do it (we have to move unexpectedly, we run out of water), so again, the food would go bad. Meal prepping is hard and bulk shopping almost impossible. I’m trying to shop smaller and more often, but this requires more planning and more time, and it’s taking me a while to figure this one out. I HATE throwing away food, and I have been improving, yet I’m definitely wasting more food than ever before.
Because I’m still not used to cooking in the bus, I often eat out or grab a takeaway. But because I am always carrying my entire life with me (towels to shower, gym clothes, change of clothes, toiletries, computer, water bottle, bike stuff), I often don’t have room to bring my reusables. Which means I have been accepting disposable containers a lot. Which I am not proud of. This is probably the best example of me dropping a good habit for the sake of feeling less stressed. Again, not proud of it, but still happening.
Buying food has also become more relaxed. Bus maintenance has been taking up a lot of my time, and hasn’t left me with a lot of energy to buy my groceries from three or four different places like I normally would. I have been visiting Pak’N’Save a lot. I no longer store all my rice and oats in jars. I have been eating a lot of Weet-Bix.
When you don’t have the option of showering every day, baby wipes become your best friends. In spite of me refusing to believe that baby wipes would be such an essential, and scoffing at my van-lifer-mates that no, not me, I would never crawl down the baby wipes tunnel, here I am, wiping my butt and pits in the library toilets.
It has taken me years to create a perfect collection of sustainable, ethically made, good quality bamboo underwear. Most of my undies are from Hara the Label and I swear by them. However, Hara products are not made to be washed in a washing machine: they are supposed to be hand washed and air dried. This is unfortunately not an option when you do your laundry at public laundromats and you don’t have the space to hang your clothes to dry but you have to use a drier. Because I want my Hara undies to last, I have put them aside fo the time being and have bought some cheap, unethical, lycra undies that I can easily throw in the washing machine and they dry super fast.
Sure, it would be great to only use second-hand materials to upgrade and decorate Sid, and most of the projects we had we have worked on with what we already had. But time and energies are already limited, so sometimes you just need to buy plastic containers and mountains of velcro from the Warehouse and call it a day.
This is the most obvious but: before the bus I didn’t own a motorised vehicle. We are not driving the bus heaps, but when we do the amount of smoke that comes out of it breaks my heart. No matter how ecological you are, driving will always produce some emission, and if you’re driving a 1988 diesel truck you’re definitely not doing the planet any favour. We also still have Luke’s car so we drive two vehicles every time we move.
I hope with time I will get used to these new living dynamics and will find the time and energy to go back to my good low waste habits. I also think I’m still doing ok: some of my low waste behaviours are so engrained in me that I couldn’t get rid of them if I wanted to, and in general most of the things I do are still waste free and environmentally conscious.
Bus life is teaching me heaps and really changing my perspective on life priorities. I definitely went in assuming that my waste would decrease or that at least I would be more conscious of it, so it’s been interesting to see how this is going in quite the opposite direction.
Does anyone have experience with bus life or van life in this regard? I would love to hear from you and learn how you navigate waste while living on the road!