About this time eight years ago I packed up my things in the paved city of Calgary, and sped to the airport to fly overseas to my mother in England; escape my woes, and find new direction and purpose in life. I fell in love with the rolling countryside, the dry humour, and the charming people that I got to meet. I spent one year in my third global home, but then missed the mountains so much I could not bear to stay another day.
Every year or two I try to make a scheduled stop in England to have a visit; this does not always happen, but I do try! This year I succeeded and spent one week in England before flying on to Germany. I called this an “on purpose” stay, as I have “accidentally” stayed in England several times, as Heathrow is not always the kindest airport…
I have been on my zero-waste journey for two years now, so first I will tell you a little bit of my trip, and then I will have to share the shocking amount of waste that I discovered; it left me feeling hopeless for our fellow ZW bloggers who live in England (I thought, how on earth do they cope here?!).
It was unbelievably hot when I arrived in England; sticky, hot, and muggy conditions did not help my migraine that persisted for two days. My mom and stepdad picked me up from the airport and we headed home. It was a short week in England, but we did get to visit all of our favourite places…
I was not used to such hot conditions in England, so I thought…hey, it’s 30 degrees, we need to hit up a BEACH TOWN! That was a very stupid idea, turns out, but it did bring us back to Bournemouth, which is a city I always found buzzingingly beautiful.
My mom knows I like farms, flowers, damn it, I can’t alliterate! I like stuff that is, like, environmental…so she took me to a lavender farm! The rows of lavender were the backdrop, and there was a beautiful garden of wild flowers next to a small cafe. The busy bees’ buzzing (nailed it) filled the air, with the scent of lavender following your every step.
We took a stroll in the New Forest, at which point we named our GPS’ voice Linda and had lots of fun as she guided us through the horse-filled forests.
One of my favourite little towns is Shaftesbury. We go there for the incredible scones at the Salt Cellar. And of course to walk the countryside and climb Gold Hill.
Though it is very touristy, I once worked there and saw it daily, I still cannot leave England without having seen Salisbury, with a lunch at Alpino’s, and a stroll through the fields of sheep, geese, with views of the breathtaking cathedral touching the sky. It is so peaceful here despite the buzz of tourism; one of my all-time favourite spots.
England is filled with beautiful places, lush countrysides, rolling hills, farmland, incredible architecture, and awesome piles of rocks… however, living a zero-waste, and very eco-conscious lifestyle, you also see the ugly side, and that uglyness is trash.
Mom and I were prepping for a family BBQ and headed to a supermarket. The produce aisle was horrendous; everything was pre-packaged in plastic. I mean, I get upset here in Canada when I can’t find a cucumber that isn’t wrapped, but in England?! Nectarines were plastic wrapped in threes, tomatoes, zucchini, potatoes, I mean everything. You could buy some loose potatoes and melons, but everything else = plastic-wrapped. And a bulk section? Non-existant!
There was some seafood you could have possibly asked to get in your own container, but the deli was relatively non-existant, and there was no bakery. I had been in other supermarkets, and they all seem to have the same theme. When we were visiting our favourite towns, I also saw no sign of organic or whole-food stores, or any specialty shop that you could possibly shop in bulk.
I started thinking… how is it even possible to live zero-waste in England?! Why are they so far behind in environmental aspects? Recently they added a 5p charge in plastic bags; fortunately, the usage has decreased, but if all of their products are wrapped in plastic, does that even make much of a difference?
This couldn’t be, I thought, so I took it to our Zero Waste Bloggers Network. I know there are a lot of U.K. bloggers in our network; surely, they would have the answers! Here is the feedback I got:
Helen from Spot of Earth has had a long and difficult journey to hunt for zero-waste options. Parts of the country, she says, are further ahead in environmental movements than others, such as Bristol, and parts of London, but it is difficult to find bulk options, and delis that allow your own containers. She says the best supermarket to sell loose fruit and veg is Morrison’s, if there is not a market near you.
After Pip from A Refuge for Daffodils chimed in on the difficulty of finding bulk shopping and having to ask many questions followed by funny looks, Kate from Plastic is Rubbish shared some helpful posts; one on refill stores, and another on shopping plastic free. Pip recently also shared a post about green shopping in London.
It was shocking to me that such a beautiful country with such incredibly lush views to offer is so far behind in eco-conscious living. Hopefully this changes, and for now I can be very happy with what Canada has to offer!
What have your experiences been regarding zero-waste in the U.K.? Where do you live and what do your towns/cities have to offer? Is it achievable? Can it be done?! Oh, I hope so!