The Norway files

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It’s now three weeks since I returned from Norway. I’ve missed writing about sustainability and I’ve been reflecting on some of the failures and challenges I experienced, as well as some of the joys.

The first thing I will say is, Norway is a fabulous country for cycle touring. We climbed fjords, zoomed along rail trails and camped alongside mountain lakes and snow drifts watching reindeer zigzag across the far away hills.

It’s also a fabulous country for electric cars (we saw numerous charging stations in Oslo). And it has a pretty good recycling system, including a container deposit scheme where you earn small change every time you drop off your plastic bottles for recycling.

Having said that, prepare yourselves for a few challenges: overseas travel is damned difficult when you’re trying to go low impact or plastic free. I didn’t do nearly as well as I’d hoped. So, I thought I’d tell you a few of the struggles I have had. Here we go:

  • In-flight meals and kits: there’s no escaping these and they are jammed full of single use plastic. When you’re tired and grumpy after ten hours of flying, you’re not going to want to save your plastic packaging to recycle on arrival. If you have to change planes, you’re not going to want to explain it to the airport staff who go through your bags either. I doubt you’ll be quick enough to pull out your keep cup when the coffee cart comes around. And those airline blankets look pretty tempting when you’ve been up for 24 hours and have lost the will to live.

At the very least, you can bring your own snacks, headphones and water bottle. That’s about all I managed, despite my good intentions.

  • Carbon offsets: properly off-setting the cost of your flights is expensive. Like, really quite expensive. My goal for this blog is to come up with affordable solutions but there’s no getting around it: flights spew out a sh*t tonne of greenhouse gas and that is going to cost you.

Factor it into your budget and look at alternative means of travel if they exist. Otherwise, suck it up, do your research and pay for some genuine carbon offsets like I am (eep).

  • Shopping: even with good preparation, things don’t always go to plan. On our third day in Oslo, we rocked up at Mølleren Sylvia ready to stock up on couscous, nuts, chocolates and red lentils for our cycle tour, only to find the store was closed for the whole summer!

Luckily, almost all Norwegian supermarkets sell some nuts and sweets in bulk, but we went through plenty of packaging to round out our meals. If I had my time again (and was organised) I would consider dehydrating meals to bring with us.

  • Recycling: In theory, it should be easy to recycle in Norway but the reality wasn’t always so straight forward. A lot of the camping grounds had just one bin and we couldn’t carry all our rubbish as well as our cycling gear. Unfortunately, we put quite a few kilos of waste into landfill, especially since we couldn’t find enough un-packaged food to keep us going.

My hot tip: bring some colour-coded, sealable bags or containers to help you sort your waste. If you’re cycling, save some space so you can transport your recycling and dispose of it responsibly.

Do you have any travel tips? Let me know in the comments.
– DG