Friday, July 17, 2009
A $250, low-carbon vacation
There's nothing like a bit of time away, and last weekend's trip was a wonderful one. As an added bonus, it had a minimal environmental impact. Also, it combined some of my favourite things: camping, dancing and eating.
We headed to Richmond, Quebec, for the Ooh la la festival, a weekend of music, contra dancing and quebecois folk dancing. If you like twirling about on the dance floor and are not fiddle-averse, it's an excellent little festival in an attractive town.
So, what made this trip an economical and environmentally friendly one?
I've always enjoyed a road trip. They so often seem to lead to adventure. Reminds me of this time in Montana...but that's another story. The round trip from Toronto to Richmond is 1362 km. In a Ford Windstar van, that means about 0.43 tonnes of CO2 (according to the calculator at Kuzuka). That's a lot of carbon to pump into the atmosphere. But with five adults in the van, that's less than a tenth of a tonne each, and about $40 in gas each for an out-of-province vacation. Not bad.
The trick to carpooling is to plan ahead, make sure there's enough room for everyone to be comfortable, and make sure the travelling companions are compatable. It doesn't work if some people really want to get to their destination quickly and others want to see the sights along the way. To futher save time and money, consider stopping somewhere pretty for a picnic along the way. We happened upon a nice roadside turnout along the St. Lawrence River, and enjoyed the wee break very much.
Camping is not necessarily environmentally friendly. Campfires and inefficient cookstoves can be a problem, and hauling trailers increases fuel consumption by a lot.
We were in Richmond to dance, so didn't tend to hang around the campsite, so no need for fires. And all our food was provided, so no need for cookstoves. Because we all used tents, the fuel cost of hauling our gear was minimal. Also, we chose a campsite within 2km of the dance hall, which made it possible to walk home (possible, though not always an appealing option after many hours of dancing). Also, our site came to $44 for the weekend, so pretty cost-effective.
One of the best things about the Ooh la la festival is the food. It's mostly vegetarian and locally produced. It's also beautifully presented and delicious. Vegetarian food is almost always better for the environment.
But why was a vegetarian diet so welcome last weekend? Because we were dancing. It's vigorous activity, and heavy meals don't lend themselves to good nights of dancing. Lighter fare keeps you light on your toes, though a good dose of carbohydrates helped to keep me dancing all night long. That said, a little chicken on the Saturday night was welcome.
(If anyone did need something less healthy, the chip shop down the road had decent ice cream, as well as almost two dozen kinds of poutine...what exactly is the point of vegetable poutine?)
Communal cooking is a great way to save energy. It takes much less to cook for 200 people than it does to have 200 people cooking their own meals. Also, the festival provided plates, cutlery and mugs, so very little garbage was produced.
While the bands, incuding Crowfoot, provided fantastic music for dancing, a lot of the joy of dancing comes from the people you're with. Contra dancing is a wonderfully social pasttime. The halls tend not to be air conditioned, so it can get hot, but eveyrone expects that. The main energy draws are lighting, sound equipment and fans. But the sound systems aren't very big, and the workshops tended to be acoustic, so I'm not terribly concerned about the energy draw. More efficient lighting would always help, but it's tough to find good, affordable dance floors.
All in all, it was well worth the roughly $250 my mini-vacation cost. And it was a chance to get out of town, have a great time dancing, and not have to worry about the environmental cost. For anyone who likes dancing, I certainly recommend Ooh la la. I'm certainly looking forward to the Toronto Island Dance in a couple of weeks.