Staying vegan and (mostly) plastic-free on a 1,200 mile trek

Updated: Aug 26, 2019

Even for two people trying their hardest to avoid single-use plastics while on a four-month excursion, it was difficult!! But we did manage to stay vegan the entire time, with the exception of honey.


Stocking up at the Whole Foods bulk section for the first few weeks of our PlasTrek

Before we left for the trek, we stocked up at the bulk food section of Whole Foods, which also coincidentally happened to be Bryan's first time ever in a Whole Foods!! We were grateful that they provided paper bags to fill up with our bulk foods, but unfortunately even the paper bags had little plastic windows on them, making them not completely plastic-free. We decided to go forth with them anyways, and make sure to save the windows and count them with the rest of the plastic that we would end up using throughout the trek. Some Whole Foods will even let you use your glass jars that you bring from home to fill with bulk foods, but you'll have to check with your local WF first to confirm. We didn't measure everything we bought, but each time we did a bulk food resupply, it pretty much lasted us for two or three weeks. We used our Jetboil stove to cook our meals quickly and easily. We kept most of the food stored in their paper bags in our truck, but used our glass jars to transfer some of the items. Every morning, we refilled our metal tins with snack foods that we each carried with us in our backpacks. Admittedly, we did get a bit tired of eating the same snacks everyday for four months, but we knew they were healthy and fueled us on our journey.


Above photos: Our first bulk food purchase for the trek, including a few items that were already obtained pre-trek

(the hemp hearts were donated to my Appalachian Trail hike in 2017).

The following is a list of foods we purchased in bulk that were vegan and able to remain somewhat shelf-stable in the heat of Florida:


Breakfast:

  • Dried oatmeal

  • Granola (pre-mixed)

Snacks:

  • Dried fruit: banana chips, plantain chips, dried papaya, dried mango, dried apple rings, dried pineapple rings, dried cranberries

  • Nuts: almonds, cashews, brazil nuts, peanuts, walnuts

  • Sesame sticks (original and garlic)

  • Cacao goji energy squares

  • Pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

Dinner:

  • Red, yellow and green lentils

  • Pearled couscous (cooks fast!)

  • Quinoa

Non-bulk items:

  • Plant-based milk in paper cartons (hemp, almond, soy, coconut, rice, etc.)

  • Dehydrated coffee

  • Nuun tablets (for electrolytes, purchased pre-trek)

  • Nutritional yeast (purchased pre-trek)

  • Hemp seeds (purchased pre-trek)

  • Protein powder (couldn't find this in bulk unfortunately)

  • Superfood powder (for probiotics)

  • Coconut oil (great for cooking, and for sunburns!)

  • Honey (given to us from local farm connections)

  • Spices (consolidated from home)

  • Garlic clove

  • Sun-dried tomatoes in oil

Unfortunately, it was difficult to remain completely plastic-free during the trek, especially while on the road in rural parts of the state. There were some towns we passed through where our only options for resupplying were at gas stations or Dollar General stores, neither of which had bulk food options. Our plastic-free options at these establishments were typically either fruit (bananas, apples, oranges), boiled peanuts (if we brought our own container), or canned foods (although cans still contain a plastic lining). During these times, we tried our best to buy foods that were vegan and didn't have as much plastic packaging as other foods. It was tough! We really wish that our state/country/corporations made it easier to opt out of plastic packaging when shopping for food. That's a huge part of what this trek was about for us - bringing awareness to the prevalence of plastic in our lives and how it's difficult to avoid it.


Dining out can prove difficult to avoid plastic

Throughout our entire trek, we kept all the plastic wrappers and containers that were used for our food, whether it was purchased inadvertently, or because our options were very limited. Some of the plastic that was too messy or bulky to keep in the truck with us, we took photos of instead. Sometimes we chose to dine out instead of purchasing food in a grocery store, simply to decrease the amount of plastic we would end up using. We would always ask the eating establishments not to give us single-use plastic with our order, but unfortunately, that didn't always work. Many cafes, fast-food joints, and other places are so programmed to give single-use plastic with their orders out of convenience, economic and sanitary reasons. Even though we were just two people, when you think about the volume of plastic items that these places give out every day, every week, and every month to their customers, the amount of plastic waste that ends up back in our environment is staggering.

Here is a break-down of the single-use plastic we ended up using during our PlasTrek:


Donated to our trek:

  • 26 food wrappers/containers

  • 3 Ziplock bags

  • 3 water bottles

Purchased by us:

  • 57 food wrappers/containers

  • 16 bottle caps (from bottles of Kombucha)

  • 3 coffee cup lids

  • 13 milk/creamer caps


Thumbs down for plastic! This is the single-use plastic we ended up using during our PlasTrek

Sometimes we were given food or donated food by local businesses or organizations, and unfortunately it would come with plastic packaging. We were super grateful to have the food donations, but we made sure to let the people and businesses know why we were trying to be plastic-free, and urged them to be more aware of their plastic use in the future. We included the plastic that was donated to us in our overall single-use plastic count that we used during the trek. We were super grateful, however, to have received some food donations from a few really amazing vegan or vegan-friendly establishments around the coast of Florida. These sponsorships definitely helped decrease our overall single-use plastic count, and helped decrease how much money we spent on food as well. The following are the eating establishment sponsors who helped us out on our trek... stop in and try their amazing food, and tell them you appreciate their efforts to stay plastic-free as well!


PlasTrek 2019 Food Sponsors:


Check out our short video on single-use plastic accountability during our PlasTrek



What you can do to avoid using single-use plastics when you grocery shop and eat out:

  • Choose the fruit and veggies that aren't wrapped in plastic

  • Use your own glass jars, paper, cloth or mesh bags for bulk food items in the store

  • Bring your own reusable containers for to-go food

  • Bring your own reusable utensils (bamboo or metal)

  • Bring your own reusable straw (bamboo, metal, glass, paper)

  • Bring your own reusable water bottle (stainless steel)


Keep refusing plastic and #saynotoplastic

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