Today, we’re starting our life on the road. We spent the past few days visiting family and saying our goodbyes.
We were lucky to be invited for lunch and dinner quite often, and haven’t cooked in the van much just yet. Before we set off, we stuffed the fridge with some leftover fruit, vegetables, and other lovely food that Jordy’s parents gave us.
A few days ago however, I was craving something tasty to drink – a switch from water really. We also needed some extra items for lunch and dinner the next day.
So, I went to a grocery store, the only one I could find in the small village we were staying at.
As I was walking through the supermarket, once again it dawned upon me just how many items are packaged in plastic. I was determined to find a nice drink that didn’t create unnecessary waste.
Well, that was easier said than done. I was up for a challenge.
There was an entire isle of sodas, conveniently packaged in plastic bottles of any imaginary size one could ever wish for.
After a good search, I settled on a small can of iced coffee. I could have opted for a cheaper version packaged in Tetra Pak, but that package is made of mixed materials and contains plastic. The can I chose is made of aluminum and is fully recyclable.
For lunch and dinner, I found some tomatoes and an avocado. The only waste this created was a small ‘Eat Me’ sticker on the avocado shell.
Small steps towards a plastic free lifestyle
I could have put my knowledge aside for a second and bought a bottle of Coca Cola, simply to satisfy my soda cravings.
We have done that in the past. Though we were aware of the downsides of single use plastics, we still came home with a bottle of soda after our weekly trip to the supermarket.
Over the past few years however, we have made quite a few changes to limit our plastic consumption. It follows us wherever we go. We have replaced single use plastic bags with reusable linen alternatives; our toothbrushes are made of bamboo; we use safety razors instead of plastic ones that have to be discarded; we use package free soaps; and we do our laundry with soap seeds that were bought in recycled paper.
After excluding plastic packaging in our household items it’s starting to feel odd to still buy products that do have plastic packaging.
Why would we draw the line at one specific thing? Why would we still buy almonds and pasta in plastic packaging if we know the waste it will create?
Zero waste living is difficult
Well, the answer would be simple. We could still keep buying these items for convenience (spoiler alert: we’re not going to). Switching to a zero waste lifestyle is not at all easy, especially when you’re living in a camper van, traveling the world.
Our camper van is small, it really is a tiny home on wheels. This means that we don’t have much storage space. But that doesn’t seem to be the problem.
Living as nomads comes with one main issue if you’re switching to a zero waste lifestyle: finding the right stores to visit.
Larger cities often have smaller supermarkets that mainly sell organic and local products (such as WholeFoods). Some even have stores that offer oils and dry goods in bulk where you can fill up your empty jar of pasta or bottle of olive oil.
But when you travel through Europe and change locations every single day, it can be difficult to find places like this.
We plan to live day by day. Determining each destination just before we set off, and selecting that destination on the surroundings rather than the supermarkets that we can find. Although we’ll try our hardest to visit the best stores that offer what we need, we know that at times we’ll have to settle for less than we came for.
And that’s most likely what zero waste living will be like for us. Instead of choosing an item that’s packaged in plastic because we can’t find an alternative, we might have to refrain from buying that item completely.
But we’re not afraid of changes, and we’re in for a challenge!
Zero waste shopping in a grocery store
It seems that we’ll mainly be dependent on common supermarkets.
Though they are different in every country, we spent an hour in a common Dutch store called ‘Jumbo’ yesterday to share just what type of items we (and you) can expect to exclude from (y)our diets if we were to stay in a Dutch village.
The store we visited was quite large, yet the options were very limited. Package free fruit and veg were easy to find, but most other products were packaged in some form of plastic, without recyclable alternatives.
We actually realized that day, that we will have to exclude non-dairy milks from our diet if we want to eliminate plastic from our grocery hauls.
We’re very curious to see what supermarkets in other countries have to offer, and will share our findings with you as we learn all about it on the road. We expect that whilst some countries might have more to offer, most places we’ll encounter might actually prove to be more limited.
Only time will tell!
Although regular supermarkets will be the main source for our shopping, we hope to be able to visit farmer’s markets on the road.
The options for package free fruit and vegetables are often far greater at markets, and we might be able to find some package free nuts, herbs, and spices every now and then. Fruit and veg are not always shaped perfectly, and that’s just what we like. Quirky food is just as delicious!
Aside from that, the items are often more affordable, and it offers us a chance to get to know the community.
Thinking twice before we buy
With every item we buy, there are three major questions that we will ask ourselves from now on:
- Do we need it?
- Is it healthy?
- Is it free from plastic packaging?
If any of these questions are answered with ‘no’, we will refrain from buying the item.
And that resolves my issues in finding something nice to drink. Do I need it? No, I can make something delicious myself (such as a fresh cup of ginger and lemon tea). Is it healthy? No, packaged drinks are often unhealthy (and that fresh cup of tea is actually great for my body). Is it free from plastic packaging? It might occasionally be packaged in glass with a metal lid, or a recyclable aluminum can, but plastic will be the main type of packaging material I’d be able to buy it in.
We’ll keep you guys posted on our switch to a plastic free life on the road. Who knows, it might be easier than we think!