Waste-Free Travels:

If you like Pina Coladas (with a plastic-free straw)

Hello Friends,

Its Katelyn here, writing my first official blog post for Plastic-Free YYC. Im excited to join this group and Im looking forward to sharing with you!

Ive recently returned from a trip to Las Vegas and its got me thinking about litter. This was my first trip to Vegas, and it was planned entirely around seeing Celine Dion (one of Canadas National treasures). Unfortunately, Celine has been suffering from Patulous Eustachian tube and had to cancel some of her tour dates. My dream of singing along to “All By Myself” was squashed. Side note: Celine, I wish you a speedy recovery.

Even without Celine, Vegas was still a good time, a gong show even. Its like there are no rules or laws. at least on the strip! Its everything you would imagine it would be: bright lights, giant billboards (with Donny and Maries faces), slot machines everywhere, cupcake ATMs, margaritas everywhere, topless cowboys, tassel wearing showgirls and it was.clean??

Does David Blaine have a part time job making trash disappear? For a city that is so liberal with intoxicants, fed to tourists with convenient, single-use items, shouldnt there be more litter, food spills, or even puke? To my bewilderment, I didnt see any traces of the shenanigans that took place the night (or day) before. I was impressed – for a city that exudes debauchery and consumerism, it was very clean!

That was, until we went off the strip.

Our cab driver recommended a cheap breakfast spot just off the strip and after spending what felt like a billion dollars on gin and tonic, a cheap breakfast sounded like a grand plan. On our walk to find this bargain breakfast, I noticed that the street parallel to the immaculate, waste-free strip, was full of trash: coffee cups, plastic lids, plastic bags, cigarette butts, bottles, and more. It seemed as though everything had been swept under a rug, but instead of a rug, it was literally the next street over. The clean-illusion was shattered! It made me realize that we as visitors need to respect the places we visit and take note of our own consumerism that feeds the tourist-trash-trap.


I’ve also had a similar experience in Cuba earlier this year. The resort was beautiful and pristine; I was so excited to read on the beach, swim in the ocean, and drink margaritas all day. But stepping off of the resort to go for a walk along the beach, the garbage started to surface. The once alluring white sand beach was full of plastic straws, plastic cups, beer cans, food wrappers and other oddities.

While my friend and I were pretty bummed out and had a good conversation about how unnecessarily wasteful humans can be, it wasn’t long before we were back at the pool reading our books. The garbage was, yet again, out of sight, out of mind.

For those of us that are lucky enough to visit these beautiful cities and countries – that are shiny and exciting, we have to remember that just because we don’t see the waste and garbage produced from our escape from reality, doesn’t mean it’s not lurking just outside the resort. Although we go to these places to have fun, relax and dance (badly) to Despacito, we still have a responsibility to dispose of our waste properly and respectably. Or better yet find ways to reduce our waste as tourists. At the end of the day, although they might be out of sight, out of mind, we are making an environmental impact with every plastic straw, cup, and coffee lid we use once and through away. Margaritas and coffees will taste just as good from a reusable straw and cup!

After four days of no rules in Vegas, I was excited to come home, sleep in my own bed and drink water (even though it meant leaving +25 temperatures for a snow covered Calgary). I was happy to return to reality; there are no magicians in Calgary making the illusion of a clean city!  

After a week back home, the snow had started to melt and it dawned on me: we dont sweep our trash onto a parallel street – nature covers it up for us with a lovely blanket of snow. Coffee cups, cigarette butts, plastic cutlery, plastic bags, discarded plastic bottles – even a lone-wolf-shoe, had begun to be exposed as the city defrosted.

So as the snow melts away, I am faced with the reality of my own citys remnants of shenanigans, debauchery and consumerism. At first, I felt discouraged by the amount of trash I now saw being uncovered from beneath the disappearing white blanket, because Ive always believed Calgary to be a relatively clean city. However, with the waste free movement growing and joining the Plastic-Free YYC team, I feel a spark of hope! Over the past few weeks Ive seen and met some passionate people who are all for reducing waste and single-use items, and its been, for lack of a better word, inspiring!

While the litter in the melting snow was disheartening at first, Im not going to let it get me down, after all, it means that I will have something to clean up during our garbage clean-up events!

Near.far.wherever you are. were coming for you trash!


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