So, I packed my reusable bags and the suitcases and hopped into the family car for the start of our great adventure....
...driving from the UK to Switzerland to visit my sister and her family.
I know, I know, driving all that way is not the most sustainable method of getting from A-B but it's better than flying and we're doing it in the knowledge that we're saving diesel as a result of broken air-conditioning, sweltering away in a mobile greenhouse through France with temperatures of 30 degrees.
I would love to reassure everyone that our choices of travel and accommodation were deliberately chosen following Zero Waste principles but the truth of the matter is that I'm terrible at travel arrangements at the best of times, and for such a long journey we needed to get our family of four to Switzerland in the most comfortable way possible.
However the pro-active Zero Waste decisions that I made were to limit the snacks that we bought for in-car travel and to make sure that we ate the perishable contents of the fridge before we left. I suppose bringing several of the kids' toys and books with us also contributed as far as entertainment was concerned.
But it was in true haphazard style that our journey across the channel and through France turned out to be pretty successful as far as Zero Waste is concerned.
As it happens, we travelled from Dover with our usual ferry company, SeaFrance, which in the last few months have upped the ante on the recycling front. I used my best French to chat up the staff to ask them about their Recyclage activities (I even learned a new word there).
Although there are no recycling bins for passengers, the great news is that behind the scenes they recycle plastics, metals, paper and even food waste.
Looking at the SeaFrance website reveals that the company does take its environmental impact seriously and with regard to waste measures, the company seeks to:
- reduce consumption of resources and raw materials
- minimise waste from its activities and recycle wherever possible
- purchase from suppliers who share its concern for the environment
- whenever possible purchase and use recyclable products or products from sustainable sources
- promote good environmental practice within the industry
So having felt happy that I could suitably dispose of our recyclables on the ferry, we then set off for our 4 hour journey to Troyes, the location of our overnight stop to the South-East of Paris.
Our first pit-stop was at one of the many "aire de services" dotted along the auto-route, where we were greeted by a public recycling point, featuring huge containers for verres (glass) and emballages (including cans and plastic packaging).
By now we were gathering a suitable number of empty plastic bottles, despite having several reusable containers. So again we could happily dispose of them properly before travelling on to the hotel in Troyes.
Finally we arrived at our splendid hotel, where we quickly slipped into the land of nod.
Having had a great rest, thought twice about using the toiletries and indulged in an amazing breakfast, I happily made the greatest discovery...revealed by a poster displayed on the wall...
It stated that the hotel, which is part of the Accor chain (and includes Novotel, Ibis, Mercure and Etap) has signed up to the group's Environmental Charter, which amongst many other glorious things features a promise to...
- Recycle paper/cardboard packaging
- Recycle papers, newspapers and magazines
- Limit the use of disposable packaging for the hotel supplies
- Recycle glass packaging
- Recycle plastic packaging
- Recycle metal cans
- Organise sorting of waste in bedrooms
- Limit individual packaging of hygiene products in bedrooms
- Recycle restaurant organic waste
- Recycle garden green waste
- Dispose safely of hotel batteries
- Dispose safely of guests’ batteries
- Recycle electrical and electronic equipment
- Recycle ink cartridges
- Dispose safely of fluorescent bulbs/tubes
Phew. What a relief!
It may have been purely coincidental, but this fine piece of news certainly makes me a happy bunny that our travel accommodation was perfectly aligned with my overall attempts at Zero Waste.
...based on our travel so far and and having experienced what's really possible, when making holiday plans in future I will most definitely make the effort to track down hotels that actively seek to reduce waste, and will be delighted to give them our business.
After all, if it's been so easy to come about by accident, just imagine what you can find if you really look.