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Tour company hosts zero-waste trip to Greater Yellowstone

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Zero-Waste Adventure trips show participants extraordinary places like Yellowstone to create an understanding of what is at risk due to human's habits of overconsumption. PHOTO COURTESY OF PEXELS.COM


LIVINGSTON – In June, Marisa Zocco of Boulder, Colorado, traded her disposable plastic razor and stick of deodorant for a safety razor and refillable antiperspirant. She switched from throwaway cosmetic pads to reusable cloth. And she also began carrying a small tin with wooden tableware and a stainless-steel straw she keeps gently wrapped in a cloth napkin.

The reason? Zocco was preparing for a special kind of trip through the Greater Yellowstone.

Partnering with the World Wildlife Fund, tour company Natural Habitat Adventures offered its very first Zero-Waste Adventure July 6-12, fondly called “Safari America: Yellowstone Country.” A party of 12 traveled to various locations in Yellowstone National Park and its gateway communities to learn about area wildlife, all the while practicing sustainable living in order to produce a minimal amount of trash.

“Ultimately, as humans, we’re taking a lot more from the planet than the planet can provide,” said Erin Simon, WWF director of sustainability research and development. “We need to be able to cascade our use [of items].”

Based in Richmond, Virginia, Simon was among the group of travelers from California, Washington, Montana and Colorado. She added that the Zero-Waste Trip was the first of what WWF and Natural Habitat hope to be many excursions that encourage guests to be conscious about the waste they produce. By thinking about daily interactions, Simon said, you realize the amount of packaging that is thrown away and can find opportunities to refuse items like plastic straws or avoid snack wrappers by purchasing bulk foods and storing them in your own containers.

With stops in Gardiner, Cooke City, West Yellowstone and Bozeman, and set amid the backdrop of Yellowstone, the Zero-Waste Trip illustrated what’s ultimately at stake if pollution continues: a loss of our natural world and the wild places like Yellowstone.

“You see small waste and how when added up that becomes a big problem,” Zocco said. “I can’t imagine this trip being a better fit anywhere else.”

The travelers brought their own containers for recycling to avoid relying on recycling availability. They also collected atypical recycling items that require more complex processes for breakdown and aren’t usually accepted at municipal recycling centers. Natural Habitat and WWF will send these items to the recycling company TerracCycle, headquartered in New Jersey.

The group also brought a container to collect compostable items like paper and food scraps. When eating out, they placed leftover food in reusable containers like Zocco’s tin, or composted the food.

Zocco, who is a WWF ambassador, said food waste was the greatest challenge for the group, as many eateries provide large servings. “A lot of the time, especially at restaurants, that food disappears and you don’t see the impact you’re having,” she said.

In being responsible for what happens to that waste, she said the group became more aware of their appetite and ordered food accordingly, even sharing meals if needed.

All remaining materials that were neither recyclable or compostable were placed in a 2-quart Mason jar and by the end, Zocco said waste from 12 people during a week-long trip could be packed into a single quart jar. It included airline baggage tags, Kleenex tissues, clips from bread packaging, and single-serving creamer containers.

“In the end, it wasn’t as hard as I anticipated,” Zocco said. “It’s also not about perfection, it’s about the little things we can do.

“Once you know what you know and see what waste you produce, there’s no sense going backward,” she added. “In preparing for this trip, it became apparent very quickly I was making decisions for the rest of my life.”

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