Monday confessional

Filed in Blog by on June 30, 2008 9 Comments
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please take your rubbish home
Forgive us readers, for we have sinned.

Here’s our second confessional and what a biggie it is too.

Last week, we tripped off to Devon for a few days of sunshine, sand dunes and salty air. We were self catering and were positioned a mile from a rather delicious Waitrose.

Being supermarket snobs, we were kind of in our element. Our nearest Waitrose gets visited about once a year as it is too far to justify the journey. So the words ‘kids’ and ‘sweetshop’ rang true for these few days. You could see the ocean from the car park, so, not being one who enjoys supermarkets *at all*, shopping suddenly became a tad more bearable.

When you’re on holiday, you chill out, right? You eat what you want, do as you please and generally let go of any ‘shoulds’, ‘musts’ and ‘oughts’.

Well we sauntered around Waitrose in true tourist fashion and realised just how much packaging there is everywhere. I mean everywhere in a supermarket. Salad in pillow packs, cheese in plastic, ready meals galore in plastic trays and lots of delightful five-million-calories-per-mouthful husband-luring puddings.
These things were dressed to thrill – the packaging was huge, sexy, burgeoning, colourful and bold, designed to make you feel you were really getting something for your money, and of course, ultimately to increase shelf life and protect the food.

A couple of miles away, the Riverford organics shop had just opened. We popped along there too to see open baskets of loose fruit and vegetables, but most other things in plastic; including meats, cheeses and other delightful trucklements.

So when I’m packing for my hols, I’m checking off my list like so:

Pants – check.
Tshirts – check.
10 2 5 8 pairs of Birkenstocks – check.

Is it then followed with:

A couple of boxes for visiting the local deli for meat and cheese.

Not really, is it?

It’s more a case of try and remember everything you need, ensure you’ve got the child with you and mentally run through have I locked the door, was the cat out and did I remember to water the tomatoes? Do I have money, a map (we didn’t; which is why a 2 hour journey took us 3) and directions?

Being of slightly nervous temperament myself when away from home, packing my reusable boxes so that we didn’t have to buy highly packaged goods wasn’t really on my agenda. (although I did take a couple of Onya bags with me). Sniffing out the local produce so that I could make delectable cuisine from scratch wasn’t high on my list of priorities either.
I wanted a ‘bung it in the oven and forget’ few days.

So, back to Waitrose. Mr Green was miffed because they didn’t have the one type of herb salad he wanted, which really threw him into a loop. You know how that is when you’ve set your heart on something and it’s just not there.

I came out with generally helpful solutions such as ‘why not buy the lettucy-type salad and add your own herbs?’ but this was met with frozen glares, so I shut up.

What’s the nearest meal to a salad? Oh I know, chicken curry and chocolate pudding.


We bemoaned the packaging, but no sooner had I looked at my goosebumps from standing near to the fridges for too long, that I found the following shocking words tripping out of my mouth ‘Look, we’re on holiday, just buy what you like.’

And with that our trolley was swiftly filled with packaged curries, puddings, drinks, tomatoes in plastic punnets, humous in a plastic pot, ready made sandwiches, popadums in a massive plastic box and a whole plethora of 21st century landfill swelling disgraces.

We salvaged what we could of our sins for recycling and found the nearest recycling centre, but boy, how much plastic we created. We got through one carrier bags worth per DAY that we were there. We were creating as much rubbish in 24 hours as we do in one week at home.

It was a real eye opener and reminded us of how we used to be just three short weeks ago. It’s amazing how habits change so quickly, but scary how easy it is to drop back into the convenience of sending our rubbish to the mysterious place called ‘away’………..


About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (9)

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  1. LOL Mrs G – don’t fret, it’s a holiday ;-D

    But I know what you mean. It’s a funny thing about habits. After we went away at half term, it took me a whole two weeks to even start getting back into my newly formed habits of making bread rolls and three weeks to make my first batch of yoghurt.

    As the famous saying goes…it’s the thought that counts ;-D

  2. Mrs Green says:

    Thank you Mrs A. I’m glad you’re back into making bread rolls and the yogurt.

    now yogurt; I’m *really* procrastinating with this one. I don’t know why; I know it’s easy to make.
    It’s just easier to buy it in a pot ready made, then have to search around for organic milk.

    Ho hum.

    Excuses, excuses………

  3. Poppy says:

    I struggle to throw things when we’re away from home. Papers, cans, bottles! The very basics of recycling! I have been known to bring them home with me … mutter, mutter, mutter!

    I also confess to being a litter bug. No amount of signs will stop me from stashing banana skins and apple cores under the nearest bush. By-Laws may say it’s wrong, but I say it’s common sense.

  4. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Poppy,

    Great to see you again. Yep, we litter things like apple cores as well. In fact, we put them in the front garden here and within a few seconds the blackbird has come down for his lunch each day 🙂

    So not only do I have this wonderful image of your ‘Good life’ lifestyle, Poppy, but of your boot load of recycling on the way home from holiday. Most people bring home touristy memorabilia, but you bring tins, cans and bottles 😀

  5. Jane says:

    And you can’t even decide to go for good old fish and chips as the paper can be recycled because they tend to be in polystyrene, so even worse than plastic! Argh….

    Whenever you want convenience (unless it’s bananas, although even they are packaged sometimes) it seems it comes with plastic… if we’re feeling lazy, then we’ll only use one particular place for take outs as their food comes in foil trays that can be washed and recycled. Having all of that washing up does spoil the whole experience a bit though! At least it’s better than ready meals in plastic trays.

    Something else that has often made me wonder… M&S are moving more towards recyclable or biodegradable packaging, which is great. But… many of the containers are cornstarch. Surely, as with everything else that biodegrades, they wont in landfill as there isn’t the air to assist them… so should they all be going on the compost heap? Just a thought….

  6. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Jane,

    Those polystyrene containers are a menace aren’t they? And the food doesn’t taste as good from them anyway! 😉 I’ve seen seagulls in Cornwall who have learned how to open those containers to eat the leftovers that people have discarded. It takes them about 5 seconds to break into the packs (shredding bits of polystyrene as they do it).

    I think the idea of cornstarch packaging is to put it in the compost bin. I know that organic veg from sainsburys comes in this type of packaging and they say it should go in the compost bin, in small pieces.

    I will look into it further though, as there is a lot of confusion over this issue.

  7. Kris says:

    I’ve just looked out these posts as next week we are off on holiday – hurrah!

    You know what? I *am* going to take some tubs with me, and my trolley dolly bag. And what I can’t recycle onsite (I think they have plastic bottles/glass/paper bins) I will wash and bring home.

    We are self-catering and have fluid plans generally so I suspect there will be a modicum of eating out (happily the Eden Project should be a stress-free day as they are pretty good themselves with what they provide) which may salve our own waste tally but I’ll have to watch what it’s like for the provider. We will be in Cornwall though, so the expectation of the odd pasty in a paper bag is good!

    The nearest supermarket is a Somerfield – but I’m not sure I expect to go there, it’s just a possible if we do eat ‘at home’ some of the time.

  8. Hi Mrs Green,

    It is oh so easy to return to the bad old ways. After doing without food for a full 1/2 day when accompanying my aunt to hospital, I took a wrapped egg and ham sandwich and a plastic cup of tea, with plastic spoon and milk pot. Truth be told I competely forgot about Zero Waste.

  9. Mrs Green says:

    Oooo Kris – have a wonderful time on holiday. Cornwall is magick. It sounds like you are going with full preparations for a zero waste holiday – well done you. Much better than us! It sounds like you are going to do really well, and yes, you can’t get much better than a pasty in a paper bag. The seagulls make a good job of any crumbs around there!

    John, interesting isn’t it; as soon as we are outside of our ‘control zone’ or comfort zone all these habits creep back in. I think it is safe to say you had more pressing things on your mind while nursing your Aunt than what rubbish you were creating. But you realised afterwards, so the new habits are well in place now. We’re hoping your Aunt has a speedy recovery and you can rest too.

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