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.