Meaner Greener Me: Self catering holiday

Sometimes I seem to spend a lot  of time thinking about my blog and, most frustratingly, not managing to do so much writing of the darned thing…

I haven’t posted for almost a fortnight now because I’ve been on a family holiday. Admittedly we were only away for just under a week but, because it was a self-catering vacation and because I was responsible for most of the packing, shopping and laundry, there were a few days of hard graft before we went. Inviting 14 people round to the house two days after we came back for food and drink didn’t really help with the work load… I’ve had a great break but now it’s time to get back to real life. On the plus side, I’m excited to be back on the blog and am working on tying up my plastic-free to do list from this post plus of course preparing to give up supermarkets for lent.

First though, let me tell you a bit about my holiday…

We decided to go on a short break at a complex which boasted hundreds of chalets plus a good variety of shops, restaurants and other leisure facilities. We have been several times before but not since I’ve become interested in greener living.

This holiday was going to require a fair amount of preparation, driving and then physical activity once we reached our destination. I was therefore well aware of the limits that I’d have in order to keep up with the recycling, plastic reduction and ethical consuming that I’ve been working on at home. I decided that it would be okay to slack off a bit and I’d just do what I could and allow myself to enjoy a break.

My first challenge was while I was still at home and packing up small portions of things I’d need in our chalet – such as a few dishwasher tablets, tea bags, sugar etc. On our last visit, I just chucked these all into freezer bags (which I’m almost certain I threw in the bin after use) and thought no more of it. This time of course, I actually considered my actions and I just couldn’t do it! The guilt! I therefore found small cloth bags and tupperwares in my cupboards to package everything up and it was almost as easy.

Having stopped at a service station on the way down to the complex last time, I decided this time to pack a picnic. It was really to bring a better quality of food for us to eat (and to pay considerably less for it!) but there was also an environmental aspect in there as I have got into the habit of making packed lunches most days, simply to save on plastic waste (see this post). I did however ease up on myself and packed our sandwiches in cling film so that we wouldn’t be carrying around dirty reusable sandwich wraps for hours. Plus I had a loaf of bread I’d made at home with us that was also wrapped in cling film so that we weren’t stuck with a huge tin on holiday. The irony is that when I made the decision to just use the cling-film, I couldn’t bloody find the stuff as I’ve been using alternatives for so long! (see this post).

On arrival at the complex, we had a few hours to kill before we got into our chalet so we headed towards the restaurants for a cup of tea and some cake. Despite my shiny green halo having slipped already, I became jumpy when I discovered that everything was given to us in disposable crockery and served with plastic cutlery. It felt as if the staff had been given some kind of challenge to over-package every item – we had a cups of tea in cardboard with a disposable lid and a muffin (already in a cake case) served on some kind of fake-bamboo (!) dish. The kids had drinks in cartons with plastic straws and ice cream in paper cups with plastic spoons.

It turned out that every restaurant we went to for the rest of the holiday had a similar ethos and we were collecting plastic bottles all over the place. I didn’t have my phone with me on the particular outing (below) but my other half kindly (while wearily muttering something about the next table looking at us) took a picture of this spectacular waste we managed to create.

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To balance it out, here’s a picture of some of them getting washed out in our chalet sink – I just couldn’t leave them all, holiday or not!

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The complex however seemed to be keen to advertise its eco-friendly policies of which, admittedly, there were quite a few. Staff drove around in electric cars and holiday makers (with the exception of those with disabilities) were not allowed their cars on site and everyone travelled by foot, bike or scooter. Recycling facilities were everywhere and were reasonably impressive but there was nowhere to compost food which made me twitch a bit!

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Children were catered for beautifully on this holiday but although we welcomed soft play rooms everywhere and lots of opportunities for exercise, we also found that packets of new crayons in plastic packaging were handed out on a regular basis which would just be left on the table and presumably binned.

On the journey home, due to a lack of planning, we succumbed to a service station lunch. Amazingly despite fruit shoots and similar sugary processed food, the children said that they preferred the picnic on the way…Also positive, I was hearted to see impressive recycling facilities. These are either new since our last visit or had totally escaped my notice previously – which is entirely possible!

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Will I do it differently next time?


I actually found throwing away things that would normally be recycled and accepting plastic bottles a bit stressful. I am all for having a break and relaxing on high standards on holiday if that’s what it takes to wind down, but it felt that I was undoing the effort that I put in at home to do my small bit for the environment. Granted, I have a long way to go and lots of improvements to make but it felt wrong to be taking steps backwards.

Next time I’ll be taking my reusable sandwich wraps, reusable hot drinks cup, ditching the cling film, carrying water bottles and crayons and declining straws.

Oh, and maybe I should be drop the complex an email with some friendly feedback and eco-friendly requests. After all….if you don’t ask, you don’t get!

6 thoughts on “Meaner Greener Me: Self catering holiday

  1. Great post! I love the comment that you couldn’t bring yourself to chuck things in freezer bags and throw them way afterwards – I know exactly what you mean. Plastic truly takes over your mind and thoughts, don’t you think?! It truly is everywhere!

    • Thanks. Yes, it absolutely takes over your thinking. Hopefully it’ll soon become second nature and I’ll know how to find alternatives for everything or at least how to dispose of the unavoidables responsibly!

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