We’ve seen the decline of our world. We drove through Atlanta, where a persistent drought is raising serious questions about long-term solutions. We visited the state’s northeast, where dropping water levels are plainly and shockingly apparently.
We had to do better. We have no paper goods, aside from napkins, tissues and paper towels (we have two cloth kitchen towels that do the bulk of the wiping and drying), and the paper of our journal. We’re eating off Corele chip- and scratch-resistant plates with actual silverware, drinking from sturdy plastic cups, and re-using water bottles. To wash, we’re doing the “fill one sink with soapy water, the other with fresh” to do the dishes.
The intention of this trip was not to be a burden on the environment, but to enjoy Mother Nature without eco-guilt. We’ve done a fairly good job. We’ve cooked out (ever had Rocky Mountain toast cooked over an open fire?), recycled where possible, and tried to minimize our waste.
Our waists, hips, thighs, bellies and hearts have enjoyed a healthier lifestyle, too. We made a decision before leaving that we’d avoid fast food, our traditional Cracker Barrel visits on the road, and rest-stop junk food. Restaurant food is filled with fat and preservatives and stuff not ideally suited to a healthy lifestyle. So in the 14 days we’ve been on the road thus far, we’ve eaten seven restaurant meals: deli in Connecticut and New Jersey, New York pizza in New Jersey (unless take-out counts as eat-in…?), and Chinese and burgers at Carowinds park in North/South Carolina. We had BBQ and ice cream at Piggy’s in Hendersonville, N.C., “period” fare at Colonial Williamsburg, and — coming clean here — a box of Hot Nows at Krispy Kreme. But they were consumed over a couple of days.
Cinnabon is tasty and all, but I can only imagine the damage that stuff is doing to my heart, body and soul, especially as I sit sedentary in the driver’s seat through 11 states and the District of Columbia.
We’ve been green in the RV, too. We’ve used a selection of Office Depot Green brand cleaning products (window and surface cleaner, hand soap, and an array of paper products made from “post-consumer” material). And we’ve been conservative on running the faucet (a practice carried over from home).
We’ve reduced superfluous and unnecessary trips; we make a shopping trip once a week, and if we don’t have something, we don’t head back out. At home, we might hit Publix twice in one day. Here, we’ve not been to Walmart since last week (though we did stop at Ingles to get some extra ambrosia and I reckon we’ll do it again as we head south through the Carolinas).
We’re not driving a biodiesel vehicle, but we’ve kept consumption down. I’ve driven between 60 and 65 mph and set cruise control whenever on the open road (we’ve been a fixture in the right lane for 1,000s of miles). We don’t idle much, and — much to my kids’ chagrin — I’m a stickler about not using the generator when we’re driving (power outlets on an RV run off land power or the generator, not off the engine). So if the laptop loses its charge during a long drive, so sorry. They’ve been told to make sure the laptops, iPods and cell phones are fully charged before we depart, unhook or otherwise power down. That also means we don’t run the cabin AC (also powered by land power or the generator). We keep most of the shades drawn shut where possible, though I encourage the kids to watch the world outside, instead of on their handheld.
Some might say this whole experience consumes more than it saves, given that we’re in an RV that might get 11 mpg on a good day, and probably worse in the mountains. But if we had done this travel by plane, rental car, hotel and the like, the hassle, “service charges” and other costs would have been equal too — if not more than — what we’re spending here. And the carbon footprint likely would have been about the same, too.
It doesn’t take much to be healthy and eco-conscious on the road, especially from an RV. And it’s much more rewarding.
Besides, there’s no ambrosia to be had when traveling by plane at 30,000 feet…