This summer we wanted to go on a short flight for our holidays so we plumped for Cornwall, England, fulfilling a long-held wish of mine at the same time; a trip to the Eden Project.
We flew into Newquay spent 4 nights there, then onto Hayle for another 3 nights, then St Austell for 2 nights, then just outside Eden for 3 more and then back to Newquay for 1 last night. Our holiday was full of the typical Cornish fair; beaches, museums, amusement parks, Cornish pasties and ice cream.
Every time I go on holidays I bring way too many clothes, which I always end up washing when I get home because they’ve been stuck in a suitcase with worn clothes; not very sustainable! The bundle you see above includes;
- 2 pairs of shorts
- 2 strappy tops
- 2 racer back tops
- 5 t-shirts; 1 blue, 1 striped, 1 white, 2 black
- 1 pairs of jeans
- 2 pairs of light trousers
- 2 pairs of pyjamas
- 1 skirt
- 1 navy cardigans
- 3 swimsuits
- 1 hat
Not shown in the bundle is a pair of pumps, underwear and socks and what I wore the day we flew, which included
- 1 pair of jeans
- 1 t-shirt
- 1 pair of shoes
- 1 black cardigan
- 1 coat
- 1 belt
To be honest I could have done with another pair of jeans or trousers and another skirt but I survived and was very glad of having less washing to do when I got home.
I also packed a mini Zero waste kit, which included
- reusable bottles
- reusable cups
- reusable coffee cups
- reusable shopping bags
- stainless steel straws
- reusable plastic cutler (I’ve only shown a few here, we brought more)
- cotton produce bags
Staying in budget hotels on this trip made it nigh on impossible to holiday sustainably. Even the towels that we’d hung up to avoid being washed were taken away and replaced with new towels. We did buy our own shampoo and conditioner on the trip to avoid using the small bottles the hotels give but the one we were in used bulk dispensers so this really wasn’t necessary.
Trying to find package free food outside of restaurants was a real challenge and any food packaging that we struggled to get into the recycling stream. There was no recycling bins in the hotel rooms; everything just went into together and most public bins were not segregated. So I started stockpiling packaging and food scraps in the hopes of finding a recycling centre or recycling banks that might take them. I did find a recycling bank (see below) but unfortunately it didn’t take plastic or compostable and when we went to the trouble of finding a recycling centre it only took plastic types 7 & 9, which was of no use to us. It was only when we got to the YHA hostel in Eden we’re we able to put our waste into composting and recycling streams. Although I noticed that a lot of the residents didn’t seem to be aware of what should go in which bin and there wasn’t a lot of direction available.
I feel like I trashed Cornwall over our two-week holiday, much to my disappointment but we did what we could. Here is a list of some of things to try;
- Aim to eat in restaurants with cutlery and crockery where possible
- Buy food in paper bags, i.e. Cornish pasties!
- Buy own bottles/ jars of regularly used items to avoid using individual servings, i.e. ketchup, coffee, milk, toiletries
- Use own cotton bag for bread rolls, fruit
- Use own straws and plastic cutlery to avoid creating new ones
- Use reusable coffee cups where ceramic ones weren’t available.
- If you’re like me and don’t want to pack Tupperware for your holiday then reuse any plastic containers you can’t avoid buying as such. I found bowls you get with salads in supermarkets to be very handy.
Visiting the Eden project felt like a coming of home of sorts. There wasn’t a huge amount of evidence of environmental awareness in Cornwall so I was really looking forward to immersing myself in the sustainable bosom of this mecca. I found the setting of Eden to be very emotive, its such an unusual vista, and I loved it’s core message about careful management of resources and our planet. I felt that this very noble message jarred with the size and content of the gift shop, where there seemed to be no suggestion that you limit purchases only to what you need. Also there seemed to be a lot of plastic food packaging available on site. Maybe it’s unavoidable when you’re feeding such a huge quantity of people.
I emailed Eden about the amount of plastic food packaging and was told by reply that they are constantly looking for alternatives to the plastic packaging in the Kids’ DIY Bag Offer and the wrapping for adult sandwiches etc but that the volume of visitors that they cater for daily – anything from 3,000 to 11,000 per day – makes the disposables the best option at the moment. They added that they’d successfully introduced a hot children’s food offer and that this has drastically reduced the volume of the Kids’ DIY offer and will hopefully give them the opportunity to review some of the single use items we have relied upon until now.
On this issue of disposable wooden cutlery they said that, although recyclable, wooden cutlery should not have been used and that the hospitality manager has reminded staff that it should only be used in emergency situations. Finally they stated that during the years 2016/2017, they only sent 12% of their waste to landfill/incineration.
A lot of the stuff in the Eden gift shop was compostable, recyclable or made from natural materials with the funds of some going to charities or NGO’s but by no means all of it. I managed to resist most things but I did invest in some stainless steel water bottles at £7.50 each, some Luffa seeds – so I can grow my own, and a necklace made from coconut shelves.
We stayed at the YHA hostel on the site of Eden for 3 days. The hostel is made from a series of converted shipping containers, which my kids loved.
The YHA hostel was the only place on our trip where we could do a bit of cooking, which was a relief after all of the pre-made sandwiches we’d dined on up to then. And thankfully the hostel offered recycling and composting facilities but I’d question how successful they were given the level of contamination I witnessed in the communal kitchen. When i returned home I emailed them to ask if it was requirement to clean out recyclables or fully separate recyclables in Cornwall (it’s not in some places). They responded saying that ‘we do all the things you suggest, however trying to get that message across to some of our guests can be a bit of a problem’, which I thought was such a strange answer because I didn’t suggest anything, I only asked questions. I followed up with another email, this time with a few suggestions, but didn’t get a response, which was very disappointing.
As I’ve said, as a tourist, I didn’t get the sense that Cornwall was very clued in to sustainability but I’m happy to report that not one store blinked when we asked to use our reusable coffee cups or cotton produce bags and I did manage to spot a few planet positive initiatives, which I’ve shown above. All in all we had a fantastic time in Cornwall, the scenery was stunning, the food was good and everyone we met were amazingly polite.