The Trouble with Travel

As challenging as it is to make green choices in our everyday lives, it all becomes exponentially more difficult when travelling. Options are limited and we find ourselves making compromises, sacrificing belief for convenience.

I recently travelled from Halifax to Vancouver and although it was prior to the start of the Halitrax project, the goals of this challenge were ever present in my mind.

Drizzly layover at the Ottawa airport.
Drizzly layover at the Ottawa airport.

I present to you my top 4 travel confessions:

1. The drive to and from the airport.

  • There’s likely public transit available. I didn’t even check.

2. Waiting in the terminal, prior to my flight, I purchased a delicious smoothie.

  • Like I said, it was delicious, but the secret ingredient was probably not its Styrofoam container.

3. Flying.

  • Yes, it’s the most efficient way to travel.  It’s just hard to ignore the huge carbon footprint of a cross-country flight.

4. During a layover, I purchased water.

  • Bottled water. Those who know me know that I have strong feelings on the issue of water privatization. (Seriously. I regularly lose sleep over the current state of fresh water availability for the world’s population.) Suffice it to say that bottled water is never my drink of choice.

I don’t think anything on this list is extraordinary, but was it all necessary? Probably not.

My hope as this summer continues is that I’ll explore alternatives to these decisions, and occasionally I’ll make the best choice, instead of the most convenient one.


If you’re looking for something to do on Saturday night, and feel like supporting the arts, get some tickets to Symphony Nova Scotia’s Beer & Beethoven! For more info, click here.

13 thoughts on “The Trouble with Travel

  1. Krista, you are the worst. No, wait. It’s the SYSTEM that’s the worst. The convenient choice doesn’t necessarily have to be the less environmentally-friendly choice, it’s just been institutionalized as such. If they sold reusable cups next to the water fountain for $3, you’d probably buy that, right? Or if public transit was properly funded and ran on a decent schedule, you’d probably take the bus, right? I admire your willingness to air out all your demons, but I just wanna point out: while you DO have options and responsibility in making your choices, there is a complex, established way of doing things that by its very nature makes it really hard to make the “right” choice.

    This reminds me a lot of my recent experience with moving from one house to another. Because man, it is SO HARD to properly recycle all the leftover crap that accumulates in a house over several years, especially when you’re exhausted and working on a tight timeline to get those measly damage deposit dollahz back in yo pocket. I’ll admit that I threw out stuff that could have been recycled… particularly all the nasty food that had been rotting in the fridge for months… oh gawd. It looked practically like a colony of tribbles. Nasty, gooey, smelly tribbles.

  2. That’s a good point about the system, Jan. Something is fishy when the most environmentally-friendly option is also the least convenient. I’m sure it doesn’t need to be that way at all. Not to mention, I’ve had to toss so many items at security, it just became too much of a hassle to think about carrying-on empty water bottles, food, etc. Maybe next time I’ll just take the train.

    Anyways, that is the thing about Tribbles, after all. They’re trouble. Furry, adorable trouble.

  3. So what is the disconnect here? Are the people who want the more sustainable option not loud enough? Not enough of us? Some days I wonder if the “way it’s always been” is an idea we’re -just starting- to question, in a meaningful way. Our parents had the drive (oh, the sixties/seventies!), but I think they lacked the global perspective we have now as a species.

    Maybe we’re putting too much pressure on ourselves? Or looking at a global issue through too small a lens? I wonder if small personal changes like no more bottled water, etc, aren’t -exactly- the right thing to do; are we worrying too much about what everyone else on this planet is doing? Personal development is like greasing individual cogs in the Machine: it might still be the Machine, but at least it works more efficiently. And who knows, maybe R&D will want to market those ideas corporation-wide someday…

    Janice, did you know how easy it is to make a backyard composter? (The site also has great info on composting, like, in depth and everything, man!)
    I’m not sure if you guys have a yard in Hali though, might be a no go… However, most community gardens will take your wet/dry compost as long as you promise to put no meat or garbage in (IMO, tribbles are actually pretty good for the soil). I’ve even heard of people who will come to your bin and take the compost, but that might be a rural thing, and the carbon footprint of driving around collecting from many small bins might outweigh the benefit.

  4. It’s crazy to think that I never composted in my life until… coming to Halifax? I don’t think the option was available to me in other places I’ve lived (meaning, I was never taught to do it growing up, or the facilities didn’t exist in other places I’ve rented). But I compost now! Honestly! It’s just that when it comes to moving, it’s more the question of “do I want to rinse out these twenty jars of mouldy jam and who-knows-what-else to compost the gook and recycle the jars respectively?” I’m not sure how you make a prospect like that more “convenient.” *Shudder*

    I did rinse out a few of the less disgusting ones, and as we only recycle plastics 1 and 2 in Halifax, I’m glad to say that the plastics thrown out were done so according to the advised recycling protocol. Yet despite my best intentions, some glass jars akin to science experiments got hucked in the garbage. It’s true. But look, let’s not get distracted from our purpose here, guys… Krista’s the one ruining our planet!

  5. Jan, your need to detail your futile efforts only highlights your guilt. Thankfully, the HRM has a compost program to save you from yourself!
    Actually, I wonder about the convenience of things a lot, being an eater of fast food and certainly contributing to the wasteful side of society with my water bottles and twice daily Tim Horton’s runs. I think the system is in place from bad practice, and the convenience of simply throwing things in the can is a habit. This might sound lame, but twelve steppers and people recovering from severe addiction will tell you that it is a daily struggle to remain sober; maybe in order to clean things up, constant personal vigilance is the place to start? Are we that sick? A twelve step program for chronic wasters seems a little silly, but maybe developing a personal plan for desirable lifestyle changes will give us the opportunity to experience the long term benefits of dealing with nasty jams?
    On a side note, I think our obsession with time, and in particular trying to save it, can really keep us from making the changes we want -now- as opposed to tomorrow. That being said, having made several moves, let me commiserate and say that sometimes you really don’t have the time or energy to deal with that kind of mouldy hullabaloo.

  6. I definitely think the easy way is not the environmentally friendly way. But I also think a lot of it is cultural/habitual. Take the way people organize their lives. Those who have families or live with significant others are typically two earner households, which means they’re more time constrained. So the easier way is probably more commonly chosen than it was in the 60s and 70s. I recall someone telling me of a study that found a negative relationship between female working hours and household waste. Anyway, I’m too busy to find it now so maybe someone else will just “take care of it for me”.

  7. Jan, maybe we should have an entire post about the impact of moving. God knows I’ve moved enough times to know that the waste created from cleaning things out and packing things up is unreal. Even after the boxes of donations, recycling, and garbage are done away with, you’re still left with the newspapers, bubble wrap, packing tape and the like. Plus there’s either the gigantic truck making the drive or smaller vehicles making numerous drives to transport all your junk from point A to point B.

    Andrew, the fast food issue is a big one too. I love me a good cup of coffee but have actually found there’s a stigma attached to bringing my own mug to the counter. Some places encourage it but more often than not I encounter employees who just don’t know what to make of the situation and get confused over sizing and prices. Even worse are the times when a disposable cup is used to pour the coffee into my reusable mug and then tossed. WTF?

    Paul, you know I feel for the harried housewife and the ongoing strife of a working mom. Still, a piece of my soul crumbles when I think of families regularly pulling out paper/styrofoam plates for meals or consistently serving premade dinners with multiple layers of packaging. I think part of the issue is the time-management factor. Time; we never seem to have enough of it. I think another factor altogether though, is that people just don’t know HOW to do things any other way. When I find the perfect solution, I’ll let you know.

  8. Paul, where did this preoccupation with work come from? Is the schedule that robs them of their time engaged in out of necessity, or is it another habit? I can easily see the connection between both spouses working and more household waste, this might be a good time for me to advocate for the four day work week…

    Krista, I have witnessed Tim’s employees doing that waaay more than once. You can even tell them your situation at the drive thru mic, but chances are there is someone else who only sees the order actually making the coffee, and down goes another cup. Cruising in the cab I see one about every 100 meters in the ditch, at least… I wonder if there has ever been a campaign to get people to stop using the paper cup?

    Did you guys happen to hear the Age of Persuasion this past week? All about the “happy housewife” created by admen to garner their own niche market? I still have yet to see one dude on his knees scrubbing a toilet in a commercial. But that might be because today’s man in adverts is just too stupid to know how?

  9. I’m a little late on the conversation, but Krista, I certainly feel your pain about the water issue. I worry about all of the time… “Tapped” gave me nigthmares, even though I already knew the extent of the horror the water issue.

    I find we are a guilty people these days… we feel so guilty about doing all of these things that harm the earth, but does it stop us from doing it? Nope. Not yet anyway. In a nature and society class I took that was one of our biggest arguments, about how to make people guinely care, or if not that, force them to be more sustainable. We even argued over the word sustainable and what exactly it implies. It just kept going around in circles and I find I am even still at a loss. HOW best to change our actions from what’s now easy and convenient to what is more sustainable, which may even still be easy and convenient?

  10. You nailed it, Cindy. How to make people care? Hooowwwwwwwwww??? It doesn’t help that a huge sector of the population isn’t “convinced” of the need for change. Another sector entirely doesn’t realize the power of their actions. In fact, I once had a roommate (who was in her early twenties) who had never recycled prior to living with me. She wasn’t even aware of what could and could not be tossed in the bin. God bless her for trying but there’s got to be someone/something at fault for the lack of education/knowledge around environmental issues in this day and age, and I don’t think for a second the fault was her own.

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