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July 26, 2019

I’ve Just Returned from the World’s First Zero-Waste Adventure Tour.


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I’ve just returned from the world’s first zero-waste adventure tour.

Yep. World’s first.

If the gravity of that doesn’t hit you, that’s cool. It didn’t hit me either. Not before the trip. Not during. Not the first few days after. It has been, however, slamming into me all this week.

Six days out in Yellowstone, the nation’s first National Park, with 11 strangers and a singular shared goal: to fill one quart-sized mason jar with all of our collective waste. Not per day. Per the whole duration.

There’s travel, and then there’s life-changing travel. I thought I knew the former until I experienced the latter on this trip.

It was an adventure that rejuvenated my faith in human connection and rekindled my hope for the future of this planet.

So often we who care about Earth, its living creatures, and their habitats see news which serves to beat us down and break our optimism. News of the accelerated deforestation of the Amazon, or the 50 percent decline of all surveyed animal populations over the past two generations can be overwhelming and disheartening to the point of near surrender to the supposed inevitable.

It is easy, when facing all the doom-and-gloom news out there, to feel alone.

But earlier this month, I watched as 12 strangers from very different walks of life became a family during our six days on the road with Natural Habitat Adventures and World Wildlife Fund.

We began sharing van bench seats and dinner tables. We ended sharing hugs, uncertainties, and full-bellied laughter over requesting the scraps on each other’s plates. Anything in the name of avoiding our compost bin and contributing to our food waste.

At first glance, it might have appeared we had in common only the singular value of conservation, and a healthy curiosity of what zero-waste travel looked like—if it were even possible.

Those two commonalities were enough. And therein lies the magic.

The humanity of those even with the largest of differences is something that I’ve discovered before on my own road trips. Despite what the media might present in these tumultuous times, there is well-intentioned concern among many a conservative, and likewise an enthusiastic love in the most outspoken of liberals.

If our tour group were a microcosm of the planet, the biggest lesson this adventure had to offer (zero-waste practices aside) would be its demonstration that the world is completely capable of coming together—rich or poor, liberal or moderate, eco expert or beginner.

All we need is a single common thread or goal.

As our jar and compost bin came closer to the brink, our day-to-day operations and attitudes shifted. We banded together, and tightened our belts. We bent over to clean the careless mess of those who came before us, in an effort to protect the health of the park’s features and lifeforms along its common trails. We learned to question our standard comforts and extravagances.

Our world-wide reasons for our interest in the health of the planet, and how we can or cannot help quell its temperature, may differ, but there is one thing that I know with increased certainty will help us to prevail as our global actions approach the filling of mankind’s metaphorical jar.

We all have at least two very powerful things in common: The Earth is our home, and we want to survive.

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