The Struggles of Staying "Green" on the Road {The Problem with Single Serving "Convienence"}


Going (and staying) “green” can prove to be quite a challenge. Some communities make it easier by offering access to recycling centers and bins in multiple locations throughout the city while others have strict policies allowing only residents access to drop off locations (if you can even find a drop off). We’ve been in cities where the local grocery store not only offers recycling bins for everything from aluminum cans to Styrofoam food trays but also has a bulk food section allowing shoppers to buy their dried beans, flour, coffee, tea, raisins, rice and oatmeal using their own reusable containers (reducing packaging waste). And we’ve been in areas where recycling appears to be a foreign concept and everything comes in some sort of package…like individually shrink wrapped cucumbers and Styrofoam trays of tomatoes which are then wrapped in plastic. Looking for loose fruits and veggies is a waste of time and the shopper is forced to buy their produce in pre-determined amounts (think Walmart, Fresh and Easy, Win Dixie, etc.).

We are big fans of bulk food shopping which (when using our own mesh bags) produce no packaging waste.
It was clear that we needed to take our “green” efforts further than the grocery store (which I wrote about here) if we wanted to reduce the amount of garbage we create. My philosophy is that even if something is able to be recycled it is far better to reduce the need for more packaging. For instance, Clark likes to have one soda a day and I enjoy seltzer water. Plastic soda bottles and aluminum cans are recyclable but they aren’t necessary. If he drinks a soda and I drink a seltzer water every day we are generating a need for 60 new plastic (or aluminum) bottles to be produced a month. And we are now hauling around 60 bottles or cans (along with any other recyclable items) looking for a recycle center. Our solution was to buy a Soda Stream, since, let’s face it…no one wanted to give up their fizzy water.

One of the only places we've seen that offers Styrofoam and egg carton recycling Seaside, Florida.    

Our Soda Stream uses glass bottles which can be used over and over again. The CO2 cartridge can be exchanged (reused) when it goes empty (there are locations throughout the country that offer exchanges including Staples, Walmart, Bed Bath and Beyond, Macy’s, Kohls and others). Exchanging not only saves a bunch of money, but it keeps those cartridges out of landfills. Flavors can be added and include cola, lemon-lime, lemonade, fruit flavors, cocktail mixers!!!, diet flavors, energy mixes and pretty much any ‘knock-off’ of your favorite pop. Although the flavors are sold in plastic containers, a little goes a long way so they last a long time and produce far less bulk in our recycle bin. I highly recommend the Soda Stream system if you just can’t give up your bubbly. It requires no electricity (so it’s perfect for boondocking) and uses regular old tap-water (we gave up bottled water a loooong time ago). Here’s the model we love which uses glass bottles, and can be purchased through our affiliate link here.

Our new Soda Stream!

Speaking of water…we now only use an inline filer (from hose to RV) and Kishu Binchotan Water Purifier Charcoals which sit inside our glass water pitcher and the water reservoir in the Kuerig. Tap water gets a bad rap (thanks to those marketing geniuses) and we have been convinced that it’s bad for us. That’s funny coming from a country that uses good, clean, potable water to wash their cars and water their lawns while other countries struggle for clean drinking water. But I digress. Get a filter if it makes you feel better but leave those extremely expensive and highly toxic plastic water bottles on the shelf. We bitch about fuel costs being close to (and often times over) $4.00 per gallon but think nothing of paying $7 per gallon of water

Bottled water costs 3 times as much as gasoline and about 1000 times more than tap water (and most of us full-timers get potable water for FREE). Think about it. And then think about all of those half drank bottles you find laying around and end up dumping out because you don’t know who they belong to.

And this is even more staggering considering Americans are willing to spend up to $7.50 per gallon of WATER even though we were all suffering from a huge recession!!

"The [bottled water] industry grossed a total of $11.8 billion on those 9.7 billion gallons in 2012, making bottled water about $1.22/gallon nationwide and 300x the cost of a gallon of tap water," Colas says. "If we take into account the fact that almost 2/3 of all bottled water sales are single 16.9oz (500 mL) bottles, though, this cost is much, much higher: about $7.50 per gallon, according to the American Water Works Association. That’s almost 2,000x the cost of a gallon of tap water and twice the cost of a gallon of regular gasoline."

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What the?!?!

The same holds true for those single serving pods for the Kuerig. I love my Kuerig. It’s cut back my caffeine consumption because I can brew one cup at a time and not feel like I need to drink an entire pot of coffee just because I brewed 12 cups in the Mr. Coffee. Okay, so not only are those little pods wasteful (most are non-recyclable and non-reusable) taking up valuable space in our trash cans and landfills but if the coffee were sold by the pound we’d be spending about $35-$124 PER POUND. You’d think that would be some fancy, knock your socks off coffee right?? Nope, we’re talking Foldgers. FOLDGERS!! Not Kona Blue, not Peaberry, or Sumatran, shade grown, organic, hand roasted today, fair trade high quality liquid gold. Freakin’ Foldgers…for $81 per pound if bought in the 12 pack size.

"People complain about the price of gas, but you might be surprised to learn that fueling with coffee can be four times as expensive as buying a gallon of gas. These examples show the costs of 12 ounces of coffee. Some were brewed at home; others were bought already brewed. Prices for tested products are averages. For Dunkin’ Donuts, we used the prices of small and medium cups to get the average cost for 12 ounces. That would add up to $18.03 per gallon. Your money will go a lot further with home brews."(source)
This was enough to convince even Clark that we had to change our habits. I love coffee. I would consider myself a coffee snob if I could figure out what “cupping” means. But I do know what I like and I can tell a fresh cup of coffee from an old one by smell (and by how grey it turns when adding cream). So why in the hell would I pay $81 per pound of Foldgers when I could buy super high quality, fair trade and hand roasted (the day I place my order) select coffee from Old Bisbee Roasters for a mere $15 per pound (and free shipping)? Shoot…even Peet’s Major Dickason’s runs about $6-10 for 12 ounces at most grocery stores. We are now the proud owners of a reusable coffee pod as well as my favorite (so far) brewer, the Aerobie (Aeropress)…both which make single serving cups of real liquid gold {at a fraction of the cost of those stupid plastic pods).

These are the parts of a K-cup. It's this hybrid of materials that make them almost impossible to recycle. Even when a consumer takes the time to disassemble each and every pod they use many of the parts get kicked out of the sorters due to size and "contamination' since it is almost impossible to remove ALL of the foil from the rim of the plastic pod. (source)
A quick word about the new {almost} compostable mesh pods from companies like San Francisco Bay Roasters. Their product, although a slighter better choice (environmentally speaking) still does not degrade completely. Most compostables require a certain amount of moisture and exposure to air to degrade which is not found in our landfills. Therefore, any product that claims to be compostable will most likely live longer lives than us, our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Reusable is still the best option for the environment, your pocketbook AND your taste buds.  
Going (or staying) green doesn't have to be complicated or expensive. Often times it's possible to save significant amounts of money by moving away from single serving options and other "convenience" type foods and drink (with the added benefits of being healthier and tastier). I had planned on writing about some other things we're doing here in the Mutiny to reduce our impact (and save money) but I got all wordy I'll save it for a later post.