Eco Caring on the Road? - CycleBlaze

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Eco Caring on the Road?

Steve Miller/Grampies

Because bicycles are so devilishly efficient and eco-friendly, eco-caring seems baked in to the sport of cycle touring. Still, there are lots of exceptions. For starters, very often we head out to a cycle route by airplane. Then we may stay in hotels, throwing our towels on the floor, or not, in deference to the little ecology card they often set out, eating elaborate restaurant meals, even burning up lights and wifi writing blogs.  And of course, when we reach our most important destinations - cafes - we need to drink up the usually imported coffee and hot chocolate!

None of that, for some reason, has bothered us much. But what did bother us was the amount of plastic waste we made, buying bottled water in Mexico. So now we are looking to spend $100+ on water purification gear. We'll feel better then!

Here at home, the latest eco fad is the banning of single use plastic bags. Most of the local towns have banned them. So for example, when we go to Mountain Equipment Co-op to buy our water purifier for $100 worth of the earth's resources, they will decline to supply a 3 cent bag for it. Makes sense, I guess.

But the next area to think about here locally is straws. Restaurants are abandoning plastic straws. That's ok, because normally we are perfectly capable of drinking like ordinary people, by raising and tipping a glass. One exception is milkshakes. There is something special about drinking a thick shake through a straw!

A&W has come up with an answer, by supplying biodegradable cardboard straws. The only thing, the "mouth feel" of these straws is wrong. What to do?

Our daughter Joni dabbled in one idea. It was a Kickstarter project for a folding, reusable, rubber and steel straw. It came in the mail today, and produced at least an hour of fun as we figured out how to fold, clean, and dry it. So should we take it on the next cycle trip?

Joni wanted our decision to be well founded, so she also offered up some other options. There was a straight rigid plastic model, and of course a flexible plastic one, stolen from the hospital. But the most intriguing were three bamboo ones, brought from Belize. I like these the best. They are of course mega ecological. But also, they have large diameters. With one of these babies you could snorkel up a shake in seconds! Hey, for that matter, they could also double as actual snorkels.

What do you think? Is ecology still a topic when you are on the road? And just how long should a shake be allowed to last, anyway?

On the left, made in China plastic steel and rubber parts of the folding "finalstraw", together with a picture of the whale you will save, and the hashtag #suckresponsibly. Next, the A&W answer, the plain rigid tube, the hospital straw, and finally the mega Belizean snorkels!
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3 months ago
Andrea BrownTo Steve Miller/Grampies

I, too, wanted to cut down on plastic bottle use. So on our last trip we took a Steripen and every morning “made water” for the day’s ride. Ours has a weird expensive battery, and to replace the battery in Vietnam was challenging and relatively expensive. In Thailand there often are water dispensing machines on even the humblest street where a liter of water is only a few cents, so we gave the Steripen a ride home and used those whenever possible.

Unfortunately, in all of the SE Asian countries, plastic straws and bags are ubiquitous, and their disposal problematic. I await the results of your straw testing, and how you keep them clean (also an issue with our resusable water bottles). 

In the end, despite my best efforts, we produce plastic waste when we travel, far more than we do at home. I applaud those who are working actively (Joni!) to find lasting and effective solutions to this awful problem.

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3 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Steve Miller/Grampies

It’s a sensitive subject for us too.  Especially as credit card tourists, we’re exposed to the wastage that comes with providing every guest their own perfect and sanitized experience.  I especially dislike the provision of small, individual, nonrefillable plastic bottles of shampoo and body lotion.  Not only do you throw away the container, but often half of the contents.

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3 months ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Andrea Brown

In the Price's latest post from Cuba they talk about searching for batteries for their Steripen. That prompted me to ask them what model they have and what batteries they are using. A bit of research on my own revealed that there is a whole gaggle of Steripen models. One of the key differences is that some use two, or four, lithium AA's, some use two CR123's, and some are non removable USB rechargeable.  It's this latter style that interests us, and we see we can easily grab one at MEC (REI too).

About cleaning, we find that eventually we need bleach since algae will in time populate anything.

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3 months ago
Andrea BrownTo Steve Miller/Grampies

I had the USB rechargeable Steripen first, and had to take it back to REI. It simply would not hold a charge. I mean, it did at first, then got put away fully charged and when it was taken out months later to use, the battery no longer held a charge at all. Perhaps the battery technology has improved since then (about five years ago) but I would read recent reviews and see if that is so, because otherwise I do not recommend it.

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3 months ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Andrea Brown

Yes, upon returning a rechargeable headlight to MEC I had them say that lithium batteries can not be expected to hold up for more than a couple of years. But months is awfully short. The ebike batteries have internal electronics designed to help them survive, but their life is still just a few years. It is said that such batteries are best stored at 60% charge.

Thanks for the tip on the Steripen. Maybe we would buy enough in advance to be sure it's working, and not so much that it dies. That rules out running down to MEC right now, which we almost did, in a fit of exuberance thinking about next winter's trip.

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3 months ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Steve Miller/Grampies

I have checked the MEC and REI reviews now, and while some people like the Steripen a lot, there are many who relied on it and got stranded. The most usual complaint is that the unit will not sense that it is in water, or else that water got in to the works and wrecked it. Generally it is characterized as delicate and flaky. Hmmm.

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2 months ago
Andrea BrownTo Steve Miller/Grampies

I did not have those problems with the one we own (the CR123, I think?). It was not delicate or flaky, and sensed the water just fine. It’s just that the battery was a bit expensive per liters produced. But the unit is lightweight and very easy to use, and I will try to find a sale on batteries here in the states and have a couple extras along. It is important to use it correctly. You want a wide enough mouth on your water bottle so that you can swirl it around without without having to fill it to the very top and spill over.

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2 months ago
Gregory GarceauTo Steve Miller/Grampies

Hi Steve,

I try to be environmentally responsible most of the time, both at home and on the road, but I'm not always successful.  Sometimes I don't even realize how harmful the things I do really are.  Only last year did I start trying to reduce my use of plastic water bottles and straws.  I've only toured in the U.S., so I've found it's pretty easy to get good water for no charge simply by asking.  And I've learned how great it is to take a big gulp of a shake directly from the cup.  

 I just think it's really hard to enjoy yourself and to be completely "environmentally-friendly" all the time.  I try to camp most of the time, but I also luxuriate in a motel with hot water and clean towels every few days.  I rarely eat in restaurants, but when I do, I eat lots of meat and I don't even consider where it came from.  I've stopped cooking my food over an open fire.  I usually refuse a plastic bag at the grocery store, but sometimes I have to carry quite a bit of stuff on foot from the grocery store to my motel.  I used to filter my water in my backpacking days, but I never consider carrying that equipment on my bike when clean water is likely to be available less than 30-miles away.

This is my goal:  To be a little more eco-friendly on each tour than I was on the last one.   

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2 months ago
Mike AylingTo Steve Miller/Grampies

A few random thoughts:

Shortly before we left South Africa in the nineteen seventies I was told that because none of the African countries would permit the then White South African regime to overfly their countries SA commercial aircraft had to fly west out of Johannesberg and fly over the sea and around the bulge of Africa with a refuelling stop on a Portugese island and then on to the United Kingdom.To make this long distance flight the 747 aircraft took off with a 150 tonne fuel load on board. Modern aircraft are more fuel efficient but still that is a lot of fuel per passenger mile.

On our last tour the N class locomotive would have used about 3,000 litres of diesel for the 960km train trip from Melbourne to Albury.

Single use plastic bags:

In the Ayling home they are used as bin liners, doggie poo bags and among other things to separate dirty clothing from clean in our panniers when touring, before hitting landfill. South Australia has banned these for quite a few years now and on our ride from Adelaide to Melbourne in 2009 we found it difficult to cope with having to carry our food purchases home from the supermarkets without the use of single use bags. We were please when we crossed back into Victoria again. From July 1, 2018 the two major supermarket chains discontinued the use of single use bags Australia wide and we Victorians are getting used to it as we run down our stockpiles of used bags. The damage caused to fish and other sea animals is undisputed but I do always come back to the thought that Singapore does not have a litter problem due to the severe penalties applied to offenders!

Single use plastic water bottles:

Not much that you can do in third world countries if your Steripen is not working apart from trying to ensure that they are going into landfill but here in Melbourne which claims to have some of the best tasting fresh water in the world I continue to be amazed at the number of people of all ages that I see drinking bottled water. Apart from what it is costing them it is now claimed that the number of children with tooth decay is increasing due to drinking bottled water instead of Melbourne tap water with fluoride. (Fluoride might be a bete noire to some but it certainly inhibits tooth decay.) Of course the sugar laden drinks also in plastic bottles do a great job in assisting tooth decay.

I don't throw my towels on the floor but I often have a lot of trouble in opening those shampoo sachets and end up washing my hair with the minute bar of soap provided!

I don't use drinking straws.

Mike

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2 months ago