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

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Grocery Challenge (Week 1)

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Today’s haul: pasta, bread, carrots, ginger, leek, broccoli, baker’s flour, toilet paper, three kinds of cheese, pasta sauce, dish washing liquid, coffee.

Hi peeps, look what I found! Most of it came from Piedimonte’s supermarket. Wild Things Grocer coughed up toilet paper, bulk flour and dish washing liquid (I brought the old milo tin and jar from home). The huge wheel of cheddar, coffee and large bread came from the old-school Italian deli on Miller Street in Fitzroy North. That old deli is the best. The bread is so cheap ($2.50!) and the coffee was reasonable at $7, freshly ground on the spot.

I found all this within a 15 minute walk from home. Hey, you pay more rent, you get to walk to places – gotta be some perks, right?

(Partial) success … bread, pasta and cheeeeeese

  • I brought a paper bag with me just in case. Ended up using it for some of the bread. No strange looks from check-out person. Excellent.
  • Margaret River cheddar is wax coated. What is wax anyway? Who knows?
  • Taleggio seems to be wrapped in paper. How is this possible? I will find out. It came all the way from Italy though. Boo. Many carbons. Poor choice.
  • Barilla fettuccine is just sitting in a cardboard box – no sneaky plastic inside. It’s much cheaper than the organic macrame version at Wild Things. Correct.

All the cheeses have stickers on them, but whatever. Also, the deli man felt obliged to give me unnecessary deli paper (which I discovered is plastic coated … whyyyy?)

I’m not at the stage of making my own tomato pasta sauce from scratch. Don’t even go there. I need to level-up before that can happen.

Happy no plastic month to my friends who are also having a go at this!

 

One Day to Go

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Stocking the Plastic-Free Pantry

The shit gets real tomorrow. I can’t believe it’s June 30 already! In the last two weeks, I’ve made some discoveries:

Secret plastic-free shopping

Westfield Doncaster (or ‘Shoppo’ for those in the know) is a secret plastic-free haven. On the ground floor, you can buy soap with no packaging at the health food store. Then scoot about three metres to the Nutshack and fill your bags with nuts from the bulk bins. Upstairs, Spudbar serves baked potatoes with plates, knives, forks and tables: everything you need for a quick lunch. Here in consumer heaven, we have one of the best plastic-free food courts I’ve seen. I know, it’s very confusing.

When life gives you dragon fruit

School holidays started last week. I had half-prepared muffins but ran out of time to bake them. Not wanting a half-baked result (god, I’m hilarious), I searched the house desperately for a last-minute solution, when my eyes fell on that dragon fruit. I bought it in a spontaneous plastic-free frenzy a week before. Ridiculous pink-flame skin and bright-red, black dotted interior that bleeds profusely when cut, subtle sweetness like pandan; that’s what I brought my classmates for our end of term party. And they seemed to like it. Either that or they were very polite – I only had to eat half of it. Thanks to this little experiment, I’ve discovered I’m a fan of this impossible cactus fruit.

Recent failures

  • Panic-purchasing: spices for mulled wine, crumpets and peanut butter for dinner. You know, the usual.

It’s all about habits

I have a few bad habits that feed off each other and make it harder to stay off the plastic:

  • having no idea what’s in the pantry
  • waiting until something completely runs out before buying more
  • rushing off to the nearest convenience store whenever I need something

I am thirty-two. I have been adulting for fourteen years. Don’t say it.

If I’m going to make this work, like, really work, I need to make sure we always have stuff in the house. I’ll start with the seven essentials for hopeless vegetarian cooks: milk, bread, cheese, mixed herbs, oil, red lentils, tomato pasta sauce: not hard. I also need to make time to shop and cook (not much time but, you know, more than zero). I’m going to block out some time in my calendar. Maybe I can fit it in somewhere between re-runs of Crownies and Game of Thrones. Maybe I can make my own pasta. I’ve done that three times in the last fourteen years. Should be a doddle.