Conscious travel

We have been extremely fortunate to be able to visit family in Europe five times in the last 8 years. Over the last few visits, I have been more aware of our environmental impact as well as aiming to decrease it.

We have brought our ONYA recycled plastic produce bags which are brilliant for everything to putting dirty washing in, using as a sock bag, storing snacks or even as a mini nappy bag. I always pack at least a couple of reusable cotton bags which fold down & take up minimal space. We took 2 reusable stainless steel bottles, a glass reusable drink bottle & a reusable coffee cup (usually I use glass but I took my Frank Green). In anticipation of our trip I bought myself & each of the children a Kathmandu fleece & made from their “replas” technology – made of recycled plastic water bottles.

We did Secret Santa to minimise the volume of gifts & I received a trip to a vegetarian restaurant in Edinburgh rather than a “thing”. Father Christmas brought around 10 gifts each to the children, predominately games which have been used on the trip.

Every time I come I spend a lot of time trawling supermarkets, health food shops & even gift shops for options that complement my conscious lifestyle. This includes everything from reusable coffee cups to steel water bottles to low plastic options.

I am always impressed with the UK.

  • Multiple yoghurts in glass jars in both supermarkets (Sainsbury’s) & WholeFoods Market is a serious lesson to Australia.
  • We stayed with cousins in Edinburgh – they have compostable bags which all food scraps go into & are collected separately.
  • If you buy a pre-packed sandwich (I know – but sometimes you are stuck in a situation where that’s an option – hello Gatwick Dronegate), there is a tab that allows you to pull the plastic off so the card can be recycled.
  • A hotel we stayed in in London didn’t offer little plastic bottles of toiletries, but a refillable unit.
  • On EasyJet I received a 50p discount for using my Frank Green for a cup of tea.
  • In Pret a Manger there was a sign which I LOVE with “thank goodness our unsold food goes to the hungry at the end of the day & not in the bin. But some plastic bottles, coffee cups & napkins will do. We have to start asking questions…what if we stopped selling plastic bottles? We made our coffee counters out of old coffee grounds? We used less packaging? There’s lots to do & we need to move fast”

I’m saying this, there were also a lot of eco fails. Airlines I’m looking at you: trays with SO. MUCH. PLASTIC. Granted I could have brought all our own food but for 5 people to bring 24 hours worth of food plus contingency (delays), it was relegated to the too hard basket. Add to this every pair of headphones on the international flights being wrapped in plastic – for a family of 5 on Sydney-London return, that is potentially 20 pieces of plastic. Or just BYO headphones?

The volume of fruit & veg wrapped in plastic in mainstream supermarkets in the UK must have been above 90%. The volume of fruit & veg that is imported is incredible. Would there really be an outrage from customers if they couldn’t get a pineapple at Christmas in the Highlands of Scotland? Would a sign along the lines of “we try where possible to provide food that is both in season & locally produced. To minimise impact on the environment, we try not to import food which is why you won’t find pineapples here in the middle of winter”.

A few times we were caught short & had to buy plastic water bottles – we brought our own water bottles but had to empty them before passing security & some (smaller) airports didn’t have refill stations past security. Thumbs up to Heathrow & Gatwick for both having clearly labelled water bottle refill stations which we were able to use.

I encourage all of you to embrace travel as much as possible, it it literally a priceless experience for all of the family. On the flip side, we all know air travel has an environmental impact so let’s try to minimise this where we can.

Low environmental impact travel with kids

On a double edged sword, all of my Mum’s family are in Europe meaning we don’t have them nearby BUT on the plus side, we are incredibly fortunate to be able to travel to visit them.

I am aware of the environmental impact of flight & on this trip, I was much more conscious of the impact of the trip overall.

The things I highly recommend packing are: recyclable bags (thankfully in the UK free single use plastic bags don’t exist anymore) – I packed 2 cotton bags.

Second of all my ONYA bags – they are made from recycled plastic & are like mesh bags to put anything in – I’ve been using them for fruit & dividing up snacks for our daily outings. Third is reusable water cups – I brought our Frank Green cup which normally is for my coffee but the kids are using it; as well as my Klean Kanteen coffee cup, plus a baby sippy cup.

I brought my Nourished Life stainless steel straws although I’ve found that we haven’t used them often, perhaps as we always have our water with us.

As a side note, I’ve been disappointed with the lack of places offering water to refill. Big thumbs up to Pret at South Kensington & Borough Market for their well signed spots to refill water bottles.

For my baby, I brought about half a dozen reusable baby spoons to use anywhere we went to eat.

We’ve eaten apples & pears off a cousin’s tree. We’ve enjoyed freshly laid eggs from my Aunt’s chooks & stuffed kilos of brambles straight off the bushes into our mouths!

I’ve refused bags more often than I can count & even after saying no, some retail teams have automatically (habit?) just gone to put my purchases in a bag….until I bark at them “no bag thank-you!”.

I have been really shocked at how dirty London is & how rubbish is (depending where you live) just thrown outside the front door. No wonder the foxes are thriving! On the flip side, I am impressed that degradable compost bags are provided & collected. In Edinburgh, you need to buy your own “green bags” but food scraps/compost is also collected. How about that Australia??

Another huge area is transport. Admittedly there have been occasions where we have caught a taxi – with 5 people, 4 suitcases, 3 backpacks, a pram bag & almost always another bag we have accumulated on the way, the stairs/escalators leading to packed tubes are not always a viable option. We also flew from Sydney to London; then London to Edinburgh. We drove around the Scottish Highlands in a rental car. We caught the train from Edinburgh to London.

There are areas I have failed in include single use coffee cups. We have consumed many pre-packaged sandwiches (non-recyclable packaging) – I’m not proud of it & put it down to convenience. We have purchased 3 or 4 single use plastic water bottles in the 4 weeks we’ve been here, but have refilled them daily. I have seriously stood & had internal debates about produce in supermarkets: do I select organic (my preference) when it is inevitably from somewhere overseas & i try to minimise food miles? The organic fruit & veg also seem to be packaged in more plastic (not able to be purchased as loose individual items). I had a royal f**k up when I bought organic apples, not looking at the origin thinking apples are in season now (I’d eaten some fresh off a tree in the Scottish Highlands) & realised once home they were from New Zealand. Pathetic as it sounds, I was disappointed & angry at myself. I pride myself on making my consumer dollar count. On the flip side, big thumbs up to Tesco in Dingwall who have a clearly marked produce section of fruit/veg grown in Scotland. We were fortunate to be there for the tail end of the berry season & took full advantage of it.

So I want to know for our next trip, what other tips do you have to lessen or offset our environmental impact?

Healthy eating while on holidays

You’ve heard the story a thousand times of people putting on weight & eating whatever they feel like over Christmas.

I’m all for a bit of indulgence when it is served. Literally. If you are a guest at Christmas & you are offered a pudding, it’s ok to say yes. Getting in the car especially to buy a box of chocolates or tub of ice-cream for yourself is not ok. 

For me, being at the 22 day mark of our holiday have decided it IS possible to not only eat healthily but also to get other people on board. We have been fortunate in that we have been staying with family in London & Edinburgh, rented a house in the Scottish Highlands & stayed with a friend in Dublin. This meant visits to the supermarkets – which happens to be one of my favourite things to do in a foreign country!

Our bodies thrive on food specific to the climate – to give you an extreme example, do you think Eskimos would thrive on a diet of mangoes & pineapple? For me this means big leafy, green salads complimented with lots of roast veg – sweet potato, parsnip, cauliflower, broccoli with sprinkles of roast nuts & seeds. It also reiterates to me that the import of tropical fruits is unnecessary on so many levels – our bodies don’t thrive on tropical fruits in winter weather of less than 5 degrees. The fruits are often picked very early, meaning they don’t ripen properly & are devoid of taste (coming from a spoilt Aussie used to locally sourced fruit & veg). For breakfast, we have been enjoying locally sourced eggs – a lot from my Aunt’s Hens, tomatoes, some wholemeal bread (I was 95% gluten-free for 5 months leading up to this holiday but found most of the gluten-free bread in Tesco was packed with sugar).

So get in charge of the shopping list & make some suggestions for meals.  

    
    
   

Air Travel with wild boys 

My Dad is famous for his story of taking a sleeping pill (or two) every time he got on board an international flight, writing seat numbers on the back of our hands & then passing out. With his (nearly flawless) logic, where the hell could we escape to?! In his defence, apart from losing a shoe, a few hundred matchbox cars & infinite coloured pencils, we never lost a family member.
We’ve been talking about this trip since we booked it 9 months ago but it has really only dawned on me now that we are leaving tomorrow night & I am petrified of how my ‘spirited’ (I prefer plain old naughty / wild / feral, but this doesn’t sit well with everyone) boys will behave. 

To put it in perspective, on our last trip to Europe about an hour into the flight my then 2 year old (who still has an explosive temper), threw his drink bottle. Which landed in the lady in front’s dinner. When we had 20 HOURS OF FLYING TO GO. 

So I haven’t packed Valium or ear plugs for the surrounding passengers. I’ve packed ear plugs for the kids so they can listen to whatever crap is playing on the screens. We are borrowing an iPad. I have books for my 6 year old which will no doubt go untouched, just wasting space in my bag. 

We have Ninja Turtles UNO although with my competitive streak & the boys unwillingness to lose anything, it could turn ugly. 

We have Despicable Me & Ninja Turtles activity books, which needless to say they will fight over, scribble on each other & throw on the floor. Coloured pencils will no doubt come in handy for creating lovely artworks with (oh come on, we both know they will attempt to stab each other with them). 

We have travel monopoly – which will no doubt be the source of some form of tantrum about who gets the dog & who gets the battleship. 

We’ve been given a ’50 Things to do on holiday’ which I’m pretty confident won’t include annoying every person on the plane, talking in the loudest possible voice & making inappropriate comments (last week’s was “Mum did I have milk from your v**ina?”

I’ve wrapped for each of them three little ‘build yourself’ minions with minimal pieces (as much as I enjoy attempting to be a contortionist & extracting miniature pieces of toys from between airplane seats). 

My Mum thought it would be a great idea to buy them each a watch where the time lights up when you press the screen. Fabulous for passengers who will be trying to sleep nearby.
I’ve brought one spare pair of clothes each & considering their aversion to underwear, they can just go without when they inevitably spill something over each other because I wanteddddddd the reddddddd one.

Anyone who knows me will expect there to be snacks hidden in the bag & you aren’t wrong. Organic freeze-dried Apple, freeze-dried mango, Whole Kids popcorn & of course (for me) some of my fave Conscious organic raw chocolate, y’know for emergencies – like when I haven’t slept for 36 hours straight

But hey, I wouldn’t be doing this if there wasn’t something special at the end (I’m not talking about vodka…yet). I get to see my little sister who I miss like crazy & haven’t seen in nearly a year. My cousin & her family. My other cousins who we are staying with in London. Plus other cousins (one of which was only born a few weeks ago). And some more cousins who are on our flight to Scotland (thankfully less than 2 hours for their sake). Because family is everything to me. So bring it on.

DISCLAIMER: no compensation will be provided to nearby passengers privy to my Gemini’s outbursts

POST-SCRIPT: hard to believe but they were amazing. I don’t sing my kids praises unless it’s genuinely deserved & in this case it was.