Weekly newspaper of Three Rivers, California, and Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks

Life Without: PLASTIC (an update)



NOVEMBER 22, 2013—  On our vacation last week, we spent a couple days with friends kayaking and camping on the Colorado River. Glass containers wouldn’t have been compatible in this rocky river setting. I tried to think of a better alternative than plastic to carry our food but ultimately resorted to my old plastic storage containers and a few large self-sealing plastic bags. Epic fail on the Life Without goal.

We also purchased water in plastic, disposable gallon jugs for the trip. I couldn’t come up with a more practical option to carry two days worth of water in a desert environment.

But while perusing an outdoor store a few days later, I saw a five-gallon collapsible jug. It’s plastic but reusable and gets smaller as it empties, which is important during minimalist-type excursions.

For the remainder of our vacation, which included lots of car travel, I used utensils from home, reusable water bottles and shopping bags, and paid close attention to saying no to single-use plastic.

It should be noted that I travel with lots of food from home and shop at natural foods stores along the way (there’s an app for that!). An obvious Life Without challenge would be to forgo fast-food restaurants, but that would be too easy for me. I quit eating corporate fast food 10 years ago.

During our travels, we discovered the next big thing on our public lands: water refill stations. We used them at Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Grand Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, and Valley of Fire State Park (Nevada). So we were able to reuse our plastic gallon jugs that we took kayaking, as well as keep topped off the bag of reusable water bottles brought from home, at these stations that make so much more sense than drinking fountains.

The above parks have also stopped selling single-use water bottles, instead making available reusable souvenir bottles in the gift shops and markets. It makes sense that our public lands lead the way on stopping the excessive consumption of non-biodegradable plastic water bottles.

This practice will decrease the litter associated with disposable bottles along roads, trails, and at popular landmarks and park attractions. It will also reduce the risk of plastic bottle ingestion by birds, rodents, and larger animals that are attracted to the bottles and chew into them in an attempt to get water or food.

In Sequoia National Park, some water-refilling stations are expected to be in place by next summer at Lodgepole Visitor Center, Giant Forest Museum, Foothills Visitor Center, and Wuksachi Lodge, according to Dana Dierkes, public information officer. Delaware North Companies and Sequoia Natural History Association have committed to continue to sell reusable water bottles at visitor centers, gift shops, and markets.

Currently, Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks has not made the decision to ban outright the sale of plastic water bottles. It’s definitely a hard step to take because bottled water is a high profit margin item for park concessioners and partners, so there is a risk for financial loss. It’s up to consumers to quit buying them.