For our trip to Acadia National Park, I think we did a good job of keeping trash down, but I’m not going to lie. We did make some. Trying to camp plastic free was entering unchartered territory for me. I’ve never gone camping before. My boyfriend got a panic call the night before because I was lost as to what to pack and I really didn’t want to fuck this up.
When I’m on vacation, I have a tendency to be lenient on the trash I make. So my heart was set on making this trip a plastic free one, and we were almost there. During our time in Maine, Matt and I had some wins and some losses. We kept plastic down with reusables, but had to bend on a few things. This is how our plastic free camping trip went.
We got lucky. Schoodic Woods Campground was the only place that had a vacancy in Acadia during Labor Day weekend. Our campground only required for food to be locked in cars overnight. The area did not have a frequent bear problem. So no bear vaults, no tree pantry, etc.
They also had a dishwashing station, bear locked food waste bins and recycling bins available at each restroom. The water source was all potable so we didn’t have to worry about filtering water. Between all of these conveniences, we didn’t have to be super mindful about storing food.
We avoided disposables.
I just dumped all my disposables in a bag and called it a day. No need to stress about it. With a good base set of reusables, we were able to really cut down on plastic and paper waste. Plates, utensils, cups and straws; along with pots, pans, knives and cutting boards for cooking came with us.
Cloth napkins were great to have handy. You don’t realize how much paper towels and tissues you use until you’re limited to just napkins. I cut some old tee shirts into tissue sizes for facial use. We also brought kitchen napkins and those were great for cleaning up.
Our goto item was definitely empty food containers (like this one). These came in clutch when we needed to store leftovers from our campfire meals and store food for our hikes.
Our food choices.
I grabbed some dry goods from home like pasta and oatmeal because again, I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing. It ended up being a good idea because we used everything I packed.
We used bulk and produce bags to buy dry snacks from the bulk bin, fruits and vegetables. We were also able to get meat from the butcher stand there, wrapped in paper, which was tossed right in the fire.
Our buying mindset was to choose re-purposeful food. Instead of buying sandwich bread and hamburger buns, we just grabbed a loaf of bread from the bakery and used it for everything. We also packed a jar of homemade pickles and used the pickle juice for pickle backs – trying not to waste anything.
If you don’t know what pickle backs are, OH BOY you’re in for a treat: a shot of whisky followed by a shot of pickle juice. And Matt’s pickles are so BOMB it was basically gourmet or whatever.
We were limited.
It sucked that camping was the second leg of our vacation. We were limited to the Whole Foods in Portland ME – And while my WF at home sells loose bread, this one did not. Also, bacon can be purchased package free at a dedicated butcher shop but since we were in an unfamiliar place, we bought it packaged. So, we definitely could have done better.
Some things were left behind
Packing the car was rushed the night before we left for Maine. This made us forget some things. We intended on bringing a water jug from home so we picked up a 2 gallon water jug. Had we remembered, we could have gone without buying the extra plastic. We also could have used a bin to catch water so we didn’t waste so much.
Other things like cooking oil and condiments could have been brought from home so we bought new in glass. But don’t even get me started on tamper proof seals.
We picked up more trash along the way.
Although we repurposed what we could, plastic still came our way. We ended up stopping at Matt’s favorite brewery and stayed for a beer. They poured into biodegradable, plastic-like, cups which I try to stay away from. “Biodegradable” it is an overused term for material that will EVENTUALLY break down – despite how long that process takes.
Honest Confession: We actually bought a few bags of chips for the ride and general snacking, but between the fruit and all the meals we made, we barely made a dent in them. Lesson learned. Next time, I don’t think I’ll even bother.
Unfortunately, between the beer and meat, we did have to keep our coolers cold. Buying bags of ice is where we made the most waste. Our coolers were high quality and long lasting but not through our whole trip. And we weren’t going to sacrifice getting lit in the woods!
I’m still thinking of ways to improve longevity of ice without sacrificing space. Maybe, freeze a large block so that it slows down the melting process. Let me know in the comments if you have a great solution for this!
Trash Round Up
Between intentionally purchased packaged snacks, unexpected plastic, ice bags and tamper proof seals, we really did not make much trash. Repurposing was really important to us too. For example, a bread bag was used to hold half of an union, and the cups we got at the brewery was used for mixed drinks.
Now that I’ve experienced my first camping trip, I will be more prepared next time around. Let me know if you have any more tips for plastic free camping!