The Universe conspires against those who wish to live without the landfill. This was my first weekend adventure during this experiment without the safety net of my apartment, my workplace, or my weekly routine. Throughout the week I can plan ahead and really do a good job at controlling what waste comes in and what goes out of my life. This trip out into the world was unforgiving but I (and the environment) managed to come out relatively unscathed.
Myself and 3 buddies decided to go up to Killington, VT for the Spartan Beast Race. I was having some ankle issues from 2 weekends in a row of some aggressive hiking in NH so I brought some tape with the thought of taping my ankle before the race. It wasn’t until the morning of the race that I realized I would have to throw away the tape if I used it so I decided to take my chances. If I really needed tape during the race I’d seek the medical tent and cut my losses by accepting a bit of garbage so that I don’t end up having to get x-rays later on down the road.
We drove up to VT after work on Friday and obviously had to stop somewhere to eat dinner on the road. This was the first roadblock where the universe conspired against me. We stopped at a Subway. I thought that maybe they could just put the sandwich in my Tupperware container but then I realized that they use wax paper underneath the sandwiches while they’re making it (for sanitary purposes I guess). I figured this was more work than it was worth so I opted for a pizza slice next door. Maybe I’ll try to harass Subway at some point into complying with my experiment but I wasn’t up for it that night. I got some weird looks from the high school pizza dudes behind the counter but hey, this was VT, they at least understood what I was doing:
I am sure the pizza box could be recycled but I also didn’t want to carry it around with me all weekend in order to recycle back in Boston so I opted for the Tupperware route.
Later on, unsatisfied with the lackluster pizza from southern VT, we hit up the only open pub that Killington, VT had to offer (it’s off peak season, what can you expect). I struggled with my buddy Dan to finish a pretty nasty (in a bad way) set of nachos. It was rough at the end due to the gratuitous amount of leftover jalapenos. Let’s just say that it wasn’t the best pre-race meal. I declined the offer from the Bartender for napkins and a plate and he just kind of laughed. Regardless of this experiment I’d rather just roll my sleeves up and go headfirst into a plate of nachos anyway, what’s so wrong with that? We ended up with 2 small containers of salsa and sour cream which I tossed in my bag to recycle back in Boston (#2 plastic).
Saturday morning we woke up to an extravagant continental breakfast at our hotel:
The coffee mug was clutch because all they had were styrofoam cups (#weak-sauce). Everything else however was either wrapped in plastic or largely unappetizing for a pre-race meal so I had a couple of english muffins and a mini bagel to go with my Green Mountain coffee.
To briefly describe the race: It was a 12 mile obstacle course race similar to Tough Mudder and the Warrior Dash but significantly harder and longer. We estimated it’d take about 4-5 hours to complete. Normally I’d bring a Cliff Bar or a GU energy gel to give me a boost during the race but I also realized that these come in plastic packages so I had to do without them. I mean that’s what people back in the day used to do right?
So I did the whole race sans snacks and managed to do fine (4:25:00), although it would have been nice if I had had the foresight to make a PB&J sandwich or something because I definitely ran out of fuel near mile 10.
Throughout the race they had water stations with paper cups. At the first one I stopped to ask if they were recycling the water cups. I was fully prepared to just crush the cups and keep them in my pocket until the end of the race. However, I was assured by the race volunteer that all the cups would be recycled as they were the only things being thrown away on the race course. So I took their word for it. I could have avoided the whole scenario had I brought my camelback backpack but I definitely judge those kinds of people so I try not to use it for races. At the end of the race they handed us a beer and a cheeseburger. Again I declined the plate and napkins. I found out later that all of the plates, silverware, and cups were recyclable. Oh well, I ate them fast enough that it wouldn’t have mattered much anyway.
Before we left the race area (read: hobbled like an 87 year old drunk off one beer), I had a 10 minute conversation with on of Killington’s Waste Management Specialists named Amy. She explained how there were two bins, one for food only, and one for everything else and that the waste management company (Casella Waste Management) would later sort through the single stream trash/recycling to sort it out. She made a good point that if there were a recycling bin and a trash bin most people would end up just throwing trash in the recycling bin and/or throwing recycling in the trash bin. Either way it would have to be sorted anyway. This method made it idiot-proof. It requires more work downstream but in the end more material ends up being recycled because of it. So thanks goes to Amy, the folks at Killington Mountain, and the organizers of the Spartan Race for helping me out.
I have to confess however that I did mess up twice. The first mistake came after the 50 meter crawl in the mud underneath the barbed wire. I realized that my race number had been ripped off (probably due to the gravel, mud, and hoses that were being sprayed on us). So not only did I throw something away, I littered! Hopefully someone went through and cleaned the course after the fact. My second mistake came when we had lunch at the Long Trail Brewery on the way home on Sunday. I made a point to eat all of my food so that I wouldn’t have to bring it home with me. However, the food came on a tray lined with wax paper and it was taken away by the waitress before I realized my error. I am sure they just throw them away, FAIL. Fun fact, Long Trail uses 2.67 gallons of water to make 1 gallon of beer (pretty solid use of water resources) and they bring 8 tons of “waste” grain every day to feed cattle farms throughout VT, very cool.
As I said in the beginning, the universe conspires against those who wish to live without the landfill. It really makes me appreciate those who go the extra mile to reduce, reuse, and recycle. I’m excited to see what challenges week 2 will bring me.