Waste-Free Weekend #1: What Worked, and What Flopped

This past weekend marked my first weekend of my One Month of Waste-Free Weekends challenge! If you haven’t already, I highly encourage you to check out my original post here.


As you may remember, I’m a gal in the middle of a personal challenge. After learning some disheartening downright depressing facts about garbage in our National Parks, I’ve set out to change the way I think about waste and trash when I’m out for a weekend of hiking, camping, or climbing. I know that I can barely make a dent in the 100 million pounds of trash removed from the National Parks each year, but I’m hoping that my actions inspire others to consider the trade-off between convenience and sustainable living.

So, last weekend was weekend numero uno. Curious how I did? Let’s dive in…


I had originally figured that Friday night I would go out to eat (you know, “hurray zero waste challenge!” and also a chance to experiment with BYOContainer for leftovers) but after traveling all week, I wasn’t too keen to go out. Instead, the waste-free weekend challenge was kicked off by cooking up some easy broccoli dal, and eating that on rice.

After some debating, S and I opted not to head out to camp for the weekend, and instead planned to go hiking, head to the park, and just enjoy some much needed time at home.


For breakfast, I made polenta with broccoli and fried onions. Going zero waste-to-landfill often means eating a lot of veggies, and eating them multiple days in a row; so the broccoli from the night before was an easy addition to this morning’s breakfast!

Fancy grits, or dinner-for-breakfast? Who knows?

Polenta for breakfast may sound odd…and it’s certainly uncommon. But I can buy Bob’s Red Mill Polenta in bulk at my local Winco, and polenta is basically just grits, right? I mean Bob’s Red Mill even calls it “corn grits.” Totally justified.

Looks like grits to me…

For lunch, S and I shared the leftover dal, and snacked hardcore on some sesame sticks and Organic Sunny Fruit Slices (a substitute for sour patch kids) from QFC’s bulk bins. We also ate a bunch of carrot sticks and apples. Carrot sticks are an easy waste-free gateway veggie: most people buy them bagged, but they are WAY cheaper in bulk, and after a good scrubbing, don’t even need to be peeled!

Legit the most addictive snack in the world.

For dinner, we picked up a loaf of bread – the kind that is just in a paper bag, which we can compost – from the grocery store, and pulled out an old recyclable cardboard box of pasta. We were running short on vegetables (already??) so I whipped up a pretty bland, boring, vegetable pasta with toasted walnuts. If I’m feeling generous, I’d say it was mediocre. Without any bright fresh herbs, cheese, or tomato sauce, pasta can be pretty blegh – and we hadn’t planned for that stuff in our Waste Free Weekend. But it was healthy, and nourishing, and sometimes that’s good enough.


So after a very late night out playing this ridiculous game , S and I woke up late on Sunday. I woke up craving pancakes; but being light on flour, had to hunt down an appropriate recipe. Enter: the flax seed pancake , by Minimalist Baker. While these pancakes were absolutely fabulous taste-wise, the recipe made barely a snacks’s worth for the two of us hungry hungry hippies, and it was far too much work for such a small amount.

Old syrup from the cabinet (in a glass bottle), homemade french press coffee, and flax seed pancakes topped with toasted coconut flakes. We called this our “breakfast appetizer.”

We went climbing (in the gym) and played frisbee, and lunch was more leftovers and a lot of the same snacks.

For dinner, I was craving stir-fry, so we made our go-to Thai Peanut Stir-Fry. There are tons of fantastic recipes for the whole meal out there, but the most important part is the stir-fry sauce. This is the recipe we use, but with a few minor changes: no sugar, more vinegar, and we used fresh garlic and ginger as opposed to try. Also, we can get Liquid Aminos in a refillable bulk container at Winco, so we use that in place of Soy Sauce. Peanut butter is also available to be freshly ground at our grocery store, so we bring an old, empty Talenti container we’ve had for years, and fill that with PB. It may be marginally more expensive than the thin plastic one provided at the store, but it lasts waaaay longer. I added shrimp to this recipe – and that’s a tough one to get waste free! I have a small metal container, so I went to our fish butcher (futcher? what the heck is the fish butcher called?) and asked him to fill it with as many lil’ shrimpies as possible. He weighed the container, filled it up, and then subtracted the weight. It’s a nifty way to get around both plastic, and packaging weight.


  1. That was really not that bad.
  2. …On the other hand, half our meals were really not that successful.
  3. We opted not to adventure last weekend, which made this much easier. What about this coming weekend?

Tomorrow we leave for a weekend of climbing, and so far I have not planned out any of our meals. Yikes! So I’m going to take detailed photos and write down all the ingredients for the food we make this weekend. That way, I can document how possible zero waste-to-landfill is when you go in wholly unprepared.

Do you think you can do a month of waste free weekends? Want to join me? Tag #wastefreeweekend or #mountainattitude on Instagram!

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