I’ve just returned from Vacation. Nearly every year for the past 6 years I’ve gone to Pennsic, an annual event for the Society for Creative Anachronism. It’s held Northwest of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and draws over 10,000 people from around the globe to share in an event for lovers of medieval history. For me, it’s a place to learn new crafts and history via the classes at Pennsic University, to hang out with wonderful like-minded people (a.k.a. Historic Ubergeeks) and to buy shiny things I don’t see any other time of year. We relax in camp and read or chat, and I had a great time joining in the spinning circle in our camp every day, spinning yarn and helping to teach newcomers to spinning. At night after the camp kids are asleep we hang out around the fire drinking mead and cider and anything else that gets passed around to try, then we tuck in to bed at night.
Camping at Pennsic can be as simple as a tent and a sleeping bag, or as elaborate as a Roman feast hall that’s erected and taken down over the course of the two week event. My form of camping at Pennsic isn’t minimalist camping by any means. It’s hardly even minimalist living by studio apartment means, considering all the decorations and lanterns. For the 8 days we go, we live with what we bring and manage to make it work. Of course the market is at the top of the hill (we’re at the bottom) and there are plenty of friendly neighbors in our camp to help out so it’s not like trying to make it in the middle of nowhere.
My husband is very keen on bringing lots of decoration and stuff for our tent, and I constantly try to minimize what we bring to essential things that are easy to pack and carry. Our 12’x15’ pavilion is made by Panther Primatives, and can be set up by 2 people. It takes 8-10 hours to set up our tent and move in/set up all our belongings, and 8-10 hours to knock it down at the end and pack it up, but I think it’s quite impressive to live in. Every year we try to add something new or improve on something. This year’s addition is the dresser. I think next years will be a laundry facility I can share with the camp, now that our camp has excellent filtered/softened water that won’t stain the clothing.
Plastic on Vacation
We minimize waste by bringing lots of reusables (washcloths, reusable water jugs, real dishes, etc). Even with all the plastic bags of ice we needed to buy to keep our food cool, our garbage/recycling was minimal. The biggest use we had for the garbage can in our tent was to catch water from a drip. The biggest waste I really had in camp was the vacuum seal bags I used to pack our premade-at-home and then frozen dinners, of which there were 5. The method works so well I don’t really want to mess with it. It lets me cook large amounts of food at home and keep them frozen/cool in the cooler for the week before heating them up to serve.
While I bring lots of dinners and breakfast food and snacks, I don’t usually bring lunches. We are usually up wandering the shops, going to classes, or otherwise in the area of where the food court is. And if we’re not then we soon will be. Since it doesn’t make sense to hike down to our campsite for a sandwich and hike back up, I’ve learned to just figure that we’re going to eat out for lunch. In years past this really has been the best choice so we didn’t bring food we didn’t eat and would have had to throw out, but this year I was struck by the sheer waste that comes out of the food court. Nearly every dish and cup is Styrofoam. Plastic knives and forks are the norm. Considering that most SCAdians are used to going to feast events bringing our own dishes and dining without using disposable anything, the food court at Pennsic seems very out of place for it’s distance from our usual behaviors. Since I’ve become so much more aware of the amount of disposable plastics I use, especially those that aren’t recyclable, it was hard not to notice how much waste I was creating on my vacation. We adjusted our habits slightly to compensate:
1. We went to food vendors who allowed us to fill our own mugs. Thanks Beast and Boar and Medieval Munchies! Unfortunately both those places sell only sweetened beverages, which I would rather not drink to minimize sugar intake, but I’ll take what I can get. Two vendors sold unsweetened iced tea. One was at least in #1 recycleable cups that I could bring back to our camp and throw into the recycling. Thanks Bread Boule Place! The asian food place refused to fill our cups and only had styrofoam cups available, so we didn’t eat there again after the first time.
2. I brought my To-Go Ware bamboo utensils with me (when I remembered) to minimize plasticware usage. I’ll need to be better about that next year, I forgot a few times though I didn’t need them for every meal.
For next year, I would like to avoid Styrofoam plates if I can. Some vendors like Bread Boule serve their stuff with a piece of foil as a plate, which was great and recyclable. Most others rely on Styrofoam. I think this year I will finally invest in a portable setup with metal plates that can be packed up at the end of the meal to wash later when I get “home”, like a Tiffin Box. Then I can stick to the vendors who will let me use my own plates.