Since my recent trip to Las Vegas for a friend’s bachelorette party coincided with Plastic Free July, I thought I’d challenge myself to eliminate plastic waste as much as possible during the trip. Las Vegas certainly isn’t the most eco-friendly of cities, but sometimes you have to abide by other people’s wishes and make the best of it. Although I wasn’t 100% successful at going plastic-free, I think I did pretty well considering the circumstances.
I arrived at the airport prepared, so when the flight attendant came by offering plastic bags and plastic cups, er, I mean, snacks and soft drinks, I politely declined and reached for my homemade sandwich and reusable water bottle instead. I usually store food in glass containers, but since they can be heavy and take up a lot of space, I brought my stainless steel water bottle and wrapped my food in a tea towel. It’s worth noting that TSA did inspect my bag and unwrap the towel to make sure that it was indeed a sandwich and not, say, a firearm inside, but the few extra minutes this took to prevent another plastic bag from ending up in a landfill was worth it.
Yet again, preparation was key when it came to avoiding plastic at the hotel. By bringing my own toiletries in reusable containers, I avoided using the ones that the hotel provided. In the week before the trip, I was tempted to buy a little container to transport my bar soap, but the only one I could find on such short notice was plastic. I was so close to buying it when I realized how ridiculous I was being. What’s the point of buying package-free soap if you then go out and buy a package to store it in?! I’m so glad my faculties returned to me before I made it to the cash register. I ended up wrapping my little bar of soap in a washcloth, and it was perfectly fine. The soap left behind no mess whatsoever, even though I packed it when it was still damp from the shower.
We mostly ate at sit-down restaurants, where the food was served with real silverware and cloth napkins, so plastic from take-out packaging wasn’t really an issue. All I had to do was remember to say “no straw please,” when I ordered a drink, et voilà, my meals were waste-free.
This is where it all went downhill. As I found out the hard way on a previous trip, the clubs in Las Vegas do not let you bring your own water bottle, nor do they provide reusable drink ware. If you order a drink, it will be served in a plastic cup. It makes sense not to serve beverages in glasses in a place where hundreds of drunk people are crowded together, but it’s still disappointing. I could have avoided using plastic by not drinking altogether, but that would have been decidedly less fun, and well, I’m not perfect. Even if I hadn’t gotten anything to drink at the nightclub, the dayclub at the pool the next day had the same no water bottle policy, and drinking water when it’s 110 degrees Fahrenheit is pretty important. That water was served–you guessed it–in a plastic cup. So when it came to drinking out of plastic or dying of dehydration, I chose the former. I know, I know, I’m disappointed in myself too.
The Return Trip
On the way home, I didn’t have the option of packing my own meal, so I chose a restaurant at the airport that had gluten-free pizza, which I’m always pleasantly surprised to find. I thought it was the type of restaurant where they serve the food with real plates and real silverware, but when my pizza arrived in a cardboard box, I realized I was wrong. On the plus side, cardboard is better than plastic, and if it hadn’t been for that gluten-free crust, my only other option probably would have been a sad salad in a plastic container served with dressing in another plastic container and a plastic fork and knife on the side. When you look at it that way, a cardboard box isn’t so bad. Plus, the pizza was so big that it kept me full the whole way home.
Plastic cups aside, I think I did a pretty good job of taking Plastic Free July to Las Vegas. That’s not to say that the trip as a whole was particularly eco-friendly, (don’t get me started on the amount of Freon it must take to air condition all those hotels in the desert), but hey, I’ll take a win where I can get one!