5 Tips for a COVID-Friendly Road Trip
Written by Nivi Achanta
In April 2020, my partner Ben and I realized we would probably have to cancel the South America trip we'd been dreaming of for months. Years, even.
We were going to go to Peru in the summer before Ben started grad school at UC Berkeley. We were thinking of backpacking around Peru's neighboring countries, eating street food, conquering iconic hikes, and staying up late at vibrant bars.
And then... * crowd chimes in * coronavirus happened.
We were sad about it for weeks, but finally, we hatched a new scheme. We would go on a COVID-safe roadtrip!
1 | Plan as much as you can. Yes, especially if you're a spontaneous person.
This was the most planned trip I'd ever been on. I'm so thankful Ben did most of the planning — we'd have been screwed otherwise. I'm a spontaneous traveler. I'm used to setting out for the day with no plan, no reservations, and only a general idea of what I want to do. I've slept in train stations in Munich, stayed overnight in tiny fishing villages, missed buses in remote parts of the world... and it's never been a huge problem.
This trip was not so carefree.
We had to book our campervan over a month in advance, reserve bike racks, get outdoor gear, order our National Parks pass, research campsites, buy bear spray (which was out of stock in almost every outdoor store we went to in California) and more.
We made sure that our campervan company cared about COVID precautions
We saw people coming from muddy hikes trying to figure out how to get their hands clean. We saw folks grossed out by the national parks toilets. Thanks to our preparation, we were fully stocked on bleach wipes, hand sanitizer, and ethanol spray to disinfect our food. We even had a trash can and a sink inside our campervan!
2 | Be as self-sufficient as possible with your lodging.
When we were going through Missoula, MT, we stopped at a KOA campsite to park our van and do some laundry. Inside the main office, there was a sign that said, "Due to COVID-19, only KOA guests will be allowed in the pool."
That's right — the pool was open and kids were splashing around.
I'd never been happier to live in a van. Even though we drove through areas of the United States with varying levels of COVID belief, we always felt safe at night, in our tiny home. We brought our own sheets, blankets, and pillows — something I'd recommend even if you don't end up getting a campervan.
If you're booking lodging that doesn't travel with you, I highly recommend choosing an AirBnB over a hotel whenever possible and bringing your own sheets. You may have more surfaces to disinfect, but you'll be able to cook your own food, have your own space, and potentially do your own laundry.
This is Spectrum, our home for our trip
Cooking quesadillas in the rain
3 | Do your own groceries as much as you can
Most of the states we drove through — especially Idaho and Montana — had barely any semblance of COVID precautions, especially in their restaurants. There didn't seem to be a cap for indoor seating, and staff were not often wearing masks. One guy coughed on our utensils as he was handing them over!
Something else that was a little sad was how much waste we created by eating out. In the van, we had our metal utensils that we washed with dish soap, but every time we went out to eat, we were faced with individually wrapped forks, non-compostable carry-out boxes, and way too many plastic bags — and it was Plastic Free July. Whoops. 😢
Anyway, to offset our restaurant regrets, we did most of our shopping at Trader Joe's in Nevada and then in a few more small stores near the national parks. It wasn't perfect, but it was certainly a lot safer and a lot less wasteful.
Post-Trader Joes disinfecting time
We got our lunch sandwiches and our PPA
4 | Try your best to manage your waste
I write bite-sized action plans about sustainability for a living, so this one matters a lot to me. I wish we had a better way to reduce waste during our trip. We did pretty good with eating all our food, which I'm proud of, since fighting food waste is arguably the #1 way to combat climate change, but I can't say the same about plastic and other trash.
By 2050, by weight, there might be more plastic than fish in the ocean. The plastic problem has worsened due to COVID, because of the pandemic itself and because of global oil markets crashing. Plastic is made from oil, so if oil is cheaper than ever, that also means that plastic is small pennies.
I was trying to commit to Plastic Free July, but I failed supremely. Almost all of our trash was paper plates, plastic cups, clorox wipes, and disposable masks. We sanitized our phone, credit cards, and keys after every human encounter, and it was sadly a tradeoff between perceived COVID safety and reducing waste. I wish I'd heard of the Violet Clean Kit before our trip!
Trying to keep this beautiful planet clean
5 | FIGURE OUT BATHROOMS!
This is arguably the most important tip. FIGURE!! OUT!! BATHROOMS!!
Here's a quick list of what I learned:
- If you're going to a National Park, check beforehand if their showers are open. We happily booked a campsite at Yellowstone, so excited to be staying in the park... until we discovered there were no open showers in the entire park. RIP.
- Pack hella toilet paper + flushable wipes. So... flushable wipes aren't actually flushable, but you might need it for some of your... larger errands. Do NOT trust public bathrooms to accommodate you.
- Also pack a lot of cleaning stuff. We had our bleach wipes and ethanol spray, but if we didn't have that lab-grade stuff, I would've tried to buy all-purpose spray or something beforehand. Some of those bathrooms were absolutely disgusting and thankfully bathrooms were my #1 stressor, so I made sure that was something I planned for.
- Also... pack disposable gloves. This is another sad thing that we wasted more of. Perhaps a reusable cloth would serve the same purpose, or figuring out some reusable hand-safety equipment. Perhaps we could've used one of the restaurant take-out bags. Anyway, as I said, the bathrooms could be gross, and the disposable gloves helped us navigate grimy shower handles, suspicious-looking soap dispensers, and other bathroom cleaning situations I don't think you want to know about.
- If you're going somewhere less remote, gas stations are a good bet. We found that grocery stores varied. Some Trader Joe's had their bathrooms open, and some didn't. REI and other outdoor stores seemed like they'd let you pee there in all states, but the failsafe was a gas station.
If you have to worry about more advanced-level bathroom things like periods, Google is your best friend — I got lucky with my cycle, but I was comforted that all the answers were easily accessible online.
I hope you enjoy any COVID-friendly trips you take. Let me know how it goes!
Nivi Achanta is the founder of Soapbox Project, a media startup that sends you bite-sized action plans on social and environmental issues. Changeletter, their weekly newsletter on climate change, makes it easy for you to play your part in only 3 minutes every week!
Forbes: The Best Way To Sanitize Your Face Mask, Phone, Keys And More
Written by: Brandon Schultz
If there’s one positive outcome of the novel coronavirus pandemic, it’s that fear of COVID-19 brought many of us to better sanitization practices from practicing proper hand washing techniques to being more mindful of germs and bacteria both in public and at home. Unfortunately, some of the common items we use most, like cellphones and keys, are riddled with yuck and rarely cleaned. And then there are those face masks we’re all wearing; reusable masks are better for the environment and more fashion-friendly, but does anyone have enough time to wash and dry them between each use? Thanks in large part to COVID-19, though clearly needed long before any international outbreaks, ultra-violet sanitization kits are finally coming to market, offering portable pouches that kill 99.9% of common bacteria, coronaviruses and, potentially, novel coronavirus, all within minutes. Phuong Mai, founder and CEO of P.MAI., recently released the travel-friendly Violet Clean Kit, which may be the very best way to sanitize your face mask, phone, keys and more.
The partially collapsible, plug-in bag uses UV-C light in a fully-reflective interior to sanitize any small device, gadget or accessory in 3 minutes, and is equally as convenient on the go as it is for daily use in your own home. Here, Mai discusses how and why her successful women’s fashion brand created the unisex Violet bag, how it works and why it’s the best for keeping your daily essentials safe.
What are the origins of P.MAI?
P.MAI was born out of a personal, metaphorical and physical pain point. After years of traveling as a management consultant, I ended up injuring my collar-bone as a result of carrying a heavy laptop bag over one shoulder. I couldn’t believe it. I was literally jeopardizing my own health simply by carrying my stuff to work. When my doctor told me I should switch to a backpack, I was disheartened. Most of the women’s bags on the market were either too casual, sporty or masculine, and the ones that were fashionable simply were impractical for work. I knew there had to be a better way.
I decided to start my own brand with a simple philosophy: Combine luxury and utility into products that inspire women to look and feel their best. We believe women should be comfortable and confident without sacrificing style. We value equal parts form and function. Our bags offer women sophisticated utility for life on the go.
So how was Violet born?
The Violet Clean Kit is what you call a business pivot. We were negatively impacted by the COVID environment—everything from factory capability and freight delays to fulfillment issues and a decrease in demand as consumers were no longer traveling or commuting. We wanted to stay relevant, but also still be true to the fact that we were a bag brand; we weren’t an apparel company that suddenly was going to sew face masks. Moreover, we wanted to highlight our roots in creating a product that provided functionality while still maintaining a clean aesthetic. Thus, Violet was born.
How does Violet’s design fit within the P.MAI brand?
Violet was designed specifically with a minimalistic appeal. We wanted it to be a unisex product with a modern grey color that was versatile. The magnetic tab, reflective insides, lightweight body and partial collapsibility were designed for practical use and travel. We’re not a “loud” brand and you’ll never see massive logos on our products. We prefer an understated classiness.
How does Violet work?
Ultraviolet light kills or inactivates microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, other pathogens, etc.) by destroying nucleic acids and disrupting their DNA and RNA, making it impossible to replicate or reproduce. The light acts like molecular scissors that cut the genetic material. The Violet Clean Kit effectively kills 99.99% of common bacteria, including E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and Candida albicans, using UV-C light.
UV is used today in hospitals and labs to sterilize facilities and has been historically used for sanitization since the mid-20th century. UV-C light has been proven effective against coronaviruses, such as SARS, and while it hasn't been confirmed against COVID-19 yet, UV-C does have that potential.
Is it safe for humans to be around Violet?
The Violet is completely safe when used properly. The light itself should not be used on human or animal contact (skin, eyes, body parts) as that would be harmful. But when using it to sanitize your personal items, it is completely safe. It’s an FDA regulated industry, and the CDC recommends UV disinfection as one of the best defenses for “cleaning” face masks right now.
There are a lot of UV sanitizers coming into the market rapidly. How is Violet different and better?
Many of the other sanitizers have fewer and less powerful UV lamps than we use. We use 12 powerful UV-C lights powered at nearly 10 milliwatts. Our Clean Kit has been specifically engineered for optimal UV-C light at germicidal wavelengths. The reflective interior and magnetic zippers ensure the light stays in and does not leak, and the convenient size makes it easily portable. The bag's modern design is also waterproof and oil-proof. Plus, you can use the charging cable and dual power adapter to charge your phone at the same time. While some products use a 1 amp or 1.5 amp power adapter, we specifically use a 2A/5V to ensure optimal output and efficiency.
What items do you suggest sanitizing with Violet?
I recommend personal items that you frequently use or touch. Specifically, I would sanitize your phones, keys, wallet, face mask and sunglasses after being outside or around people. It’s alarming how gross our phones are. They carry 18 times more germs than a public bathroom. Regardless of pandemics, it’s a good idea to be disinfecting our phones regularly.
Any items that are not safe to put in Violet?
UV-C light is harmful to bacteria and living organisms. As long as you don’t have contact with the light and put any live creatures in it, then it’s completely safe to use on all objects including electronics, utensils, baby products, toys and even underwear!
Is Violet carry-on friendly?
Yes, lights and light bulbs are listed as TSA-approved. By the way, Pittsburgh International Airport was the first airport in the United States to use UV-cleaning robots!
It sounds like UV light is the future of travel sanitization.
UV-C as a method of cleaning isn’t going away. We’re going to continue to see it in hotels, airports and other public places. Some companies have invented portable robots that use UV-C light to clean your bed while traveling. The Violet Clean Kit is the ideal travel companion because it doubles as storage as well as keeping your items safe and clean without needing to pack sprays or wipes. In that regard, it’s eco-friendly, too, because it can be used literally hundreds of thousands of times while eliminating the need for single-use PPE or wipes.
P.MAI Pioneer: Beau Wangtrakuldee
Beau Wangtrakuldee is the founder & CEO of AmorSui, the first safety-certified workwear designed for women from eco-friendly fabrics and processes. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, she has been sheltering in place at my apartment in Philadelphia with her husband Craig and dog (Corgi) Butters.
How has the pandemic impacted you personally?
I actually feel like the impact of the pandemic to my health and work-life balance has been positive. AmorSui is a virtual company, so our team is efficient at working remotely. If anything, my commute to meetings has decreased significantly in the past few months, which I’ve enjoyed. Driving from one location to another can feel like wasted time, so being able to solely run the business from the comfort of my home has allowed me to get more things done and get more sleep. In addition, I am a homebody introvert by nature who enjoy binge watching TV on the couch in my spare time. Being stuck indoors have served me well.
What are you doing (or not doing) to personally weather the storm?
Personally, the challenges I have struggled with during the lockdown are not gettingenough sun and fresh air, and not being active enough. My husband and I make efforts to drive out to parks once a week to go for long hikes. I have also been incorporating online workout classes into my routine, which has been key in keeping my morale up during this time.
How has it impacted you professionally?
As I mentioned, AmorSui operates virtually, so I am used to back-to-back online meetings. However, I have seen myself working longer hours with fewer breaks while being stuck inside. Because of this, I have made a conscious effort to schedule breaks for lunch, exercise, and personal time. I also have this big water bottle that I fill daily to make sure I drink enough water each day.
How are you evolving your small business to meet changing demand? Why is it relevant right now?
There is a growing concern that standard PPE, which often has a unisex design, doesn’t always fit women properly. In a hospital where over 77% of staff are women, only 29% wear PPE designed for women, and 57% say that such PPE hampers their work. AmorSui has broadened our product lines to address this gap for female essential frontline workers, creating masks, eye protection, and gowns in women’s forms and sizes. Our products are also made using eco-friendly fabrics and processes. Their antimicrobial and antiviral properties are active after washes, or in some cases for the lifetime of the garment, like this face mask that kills up to 99% of well-known microbes and viruses for up to 75 washes. The world has generated over 240 tons of waste from disposable PPE during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are on a mission to provide alternative options that are sustainable, well-fitted, and comfortable.
What widespread societal or economical changes do you foresee post pandemic?
With the global shortage of PPE during COVID-19, the world has relied on disposable PPE options to prevent infections, generating over 240 tons of waste. With a potential second surge of COVID-19 in the fall and winter and businesses reopening, we anticipate renewed demand for high-quality PPE. This time around, I believe corporations and manufacturers should consider buying and producing eco-friendly and reusable options to mitigate the creation of more medical waste. AmorSui is contributing to this solution by using our textile technology, design expertise, and manufacturing capacity to create reusable PPE products, that are just as effective if not more.
Any resources that have been particularly useful to you?
For me, sustaining my health, both physical and mental, is important to me. I have leveraged online classes using Classpass and Headspace to incorporate these essential activities into my routine.
Thanks for sharing Beau! You can learn more about her company AmorSui at: AmorSuiclothing.com
Shop With Stacy London
We're so excited to share our products will be featured on Dough's Block Party, hosted by Stacy London, former co-host of What Not to Wear, and Brandon Holley, former editor in chief at Lucky Magazine. Stacy & Brandon will be live styling callers with products from women-owned brands and boutiques across the country, including P.MAI. Join us via Zoom on Thursday at 7:30PM EST. RSVP here: https://bit.ly/stacylondonpmai
We'll be in the inspiring company of women-owned brands including, 337 Brand, 84 Gem, Bagtazo, Coco's Musings, daph., Fool's Gold, Jam+Rico, Kitty & Vibe, Koko Celeste, LeftEdit, Lordess, Majas, Meyari Jewelry, Neva Opet, Norie Shoes, Olori, Ora Ana, Softwear, Tribe Alive, Wildfang, Hi Wildflower, Winifred Taylor, and more.
Meet Violet - Ultraviolet light that kills 99.99% of bacteria
Things are uncertain and unprecedented times. Even as parts of the world start to "open up", we will continue to practice safe hygiene and take precautions to slow the spread of COVID-19. This pandemic has and will continue to change how we behave and industries from healthcare systems to sports and entertainment are forever changed.
If you're like me, you may be a little OCD when it comes to cleaning and wiping down all the things you touch. When I enter the doorway, I immediately take off my shoes and throw my clothes in the laundry. I used to disinfectant my phone, keys, doorknobs, and anything else I might have touch. But using a cleaning wipe every time felt wasteful and also, hard to come by in stores.
Enter the Violet Clean Kit.
I decided to launch this clean kit to help prevent the spread of bacteria and common germs that thrive on everyday objects we touch—from TV remotes to our wallets. It uses 12 powerful ultraviolet LED lights to kill 99.99% of bacteria in just 3 minutes.
How Ultraviolet light (UV-C) works
Ultraviolet light kills or inactivates microorganisms by destroying nucleic acids and disrupting their DNA and RNA—making it impossible to replicate or reproduce. The light acts like molecular scissors that cut the genetic material. The Clean Kit effectively kills 99.99% of common bacteria, including E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and Candida albicans.
UV is used today in hospitals and labs to sterilize facilities. It has been historically used for sanitization since the mid-20th century. UV-C light has been proven effective against coronaviruses such as SARS and even tuberculosis bacteria. While it hasn't been confirmed against COVID-19 yet, UV-C does have that potential.
Goodbye wipes. Hello sanity.
Now when I get home, I just throw my stuff inside the kit, turn it on, and have the peace of mind of knowing my personal items have been sterilized. It's so simple and easy to use. Germaphobes unite! Perfect gift for parents with young kids or elderly folks who may be more vulnerable.