summer vacation- healthy eating & the waste after it
While on summer vacation with my friends, I wrote down all the money, I spend for anything. Not only did I do this to be able to get control about my money in general, but also was I interested in seeing, how expensive it is to eat on vacation- vegan. As this was the first vacation, I really paid for my own food completely for a longer time, the result kind of surprised me.
When buying food, I (recently) do not only pay attention to whether it is vegan, but also how much waste it creates and whether I can avoid this waste by buying something else/ differently/ in another shop/ another kind of food.
In the youth hostel in Berlin, we had a free breakfast buffet. Recently, there were also vegan vegetable pastes. While this was a positive surprise to me, they were, like all pastes and cremes, packaged in small plastic boxes. These plastic boxes included more or less one portion and were definitely not reusable. What I have seen in other youth hostel as a good alternative are "portion boxes" made out of the the dough, ice cream cones are made of. They taste a little sweet but almost like nothing and one can just eat them after having used the portion it was filled with. There is, however, another problem with those kind of portion boxes. As people have different tastes and different food choices, more often than not, half of the portion is not getting eaten up. Unless, other people on your table are interested in eating the other half of your portion, it has to be thrown away. A solution may be using bigger glasses of jam or paste, that everyone can take out the cream with a spoon or knife. The issue, this way triggers, is obvious: people spilling cream, taking the spoon with them and creating a sticky mess around the bottles. Cleaning this, however, will still be a less environmentally harming way than wasting loads of plastic for just one meal. For me, however, this issue means avoiding this kind of food. After having tried a paste, they were not even incredibly tasty. So, what I ate at the breakfast buffet was basically bread, fruits, vegetables and cornflakes. I think that putting vegetables on your bread is very tasty as well.
For the days in Berlin, we had mainly three options for food: 1.) Buying it at a supermarket (either creating a great amount of packaging waste or being so raw and fresh, that you could hardly eat it without a proper table and knife) 2.) eating at snack restaurants (maybe a waste issue, but the most comfortable choice, also because you can take the food with you somewhere) 3.) eating at restaurants (what may create the least visible waste, but is often more expensive and also requires all people to have roughly the same food preferences) What we did was number 1.) and 2.). As for veganism, both were no problem, There were always easy vegan options in snack restaurants and also supermarkets had a lot of tasty, vegan food. What I, however, recognized, was that eating at a snack restaurant is often creating less waste (and often being healthier) that buying food at a supermarket. One example: On one day, the vegan friend and mine went to buy lunch. While I went into the supermarket to get guacamole and sesame crispbread, she went to a nearby kebab store and got a vegetable kebapb, As for me, the crispbread was packed with a white plastic- paper packaging and a plastic label, the guacamole was packed into a plastic bottle and a paper box. Her food, however, was just rolled into one slice of paper and a napkin. Moreover, I feel like a lot of vegetables, sauces and bread are more varied and healthy than a lot of slices of dry bread with avocado paste. This is, however, only the case, because I am not a raw vegan. eating only raw fruits and vegetables would have made zero waste shopping a lot easier. Snack restaurants, however, create waste as well. Even after asking for it, the man in a kebab shop refused to give me the kebab without rolling it into a slice of paper and two napkins. After eating it, I could kind of understand it; not using a bag for the bread would have spreaded half of the vegetables on the ground. I am wondering if there is a reusable alternative to this kind of paper. Although I had reusable lunch boxes with me, those were not big enough to fill in a whole kebab bread.
As already mentioned above, it is not that difficult, if you only buy vegetables and fruits. In that case, however, a table and a knife to cut and prepare the food is necessary. As we spent most of the day far away from our youth hostel, this was almost all the time impossible.
Sharing the food makes it easier. One evening, we bought a lot of different fruits that we then brought into the youth hostel, cut and ate together. Although some of the foods were packaged, it was definitely a decrease of waste, also because the fruits were enough for two meal. Traveling together, however, also occurred as a problem. As none of my friends seemed concerned about waste too much, they did not mind buying packaged fruit. I did, of course, mention the waste aspect and volunteered to take unpacked food with me in my hands (to avoid it getting crushed, but after all, I was just one of three people.
Our eating habits changed when we changed locations. As there was a comprehensive supermarket near the campsite, we drew all of our food there. We bought all of our food for the day in the morning and the situation slightly changed. Compared to Berlin, it was definitely less waste produced. Again, we bought quite a decent amount of vegetables and fruit for breakfast and dinner, but, of course, of food did not consist of it completely.
For breakfast, we had bread with spread or coating. Apart from bread rolls, all bread was packaged into a plastic bag with a plastic clip. At the last day, I, however, noticed a bakery next to the supermarket where unpacked bread may have be available. But, again, I forgot bringing fabric bags (zero waste kit), what would have made it difficult. The spread (I do not include the cheese and salami coating (obviously packaged in plastic), the other friend ate) was filled in reusable glass jars. As glass is recycled here in Germany, this may have been fine. If we separated out waste. What we did not do. When bring our bin liner of trash to the big bin on the campsite, I recognized that there were different garbage cans for paper, plastic, glass, organic and rest garbage. But before this moment, I completely faded out this aspect of waste handling and we threw all trash into one bin liner. So, also the glass jars went into the general waste and will be treated like it. I may have also used the glass jar for my own uses, but after the unpleasant incident with coconut oil, that I had filled in one of those, I kind of lost trust in them.
For lunch, we bought noodles with vegetable. The noodles were obviously packaged in plastic bags (I have honestly never seen a shop where one could buy noodles in bulk) as well as some vegetables. Moreover, we had some vegetables (like corn) packaged in metal cans. I cannot assess whether this is less environmentally problematic than plastic. Dinner consisted of the same products as breakfast. For snack, we bought some kind of fruit bars, that I liked because of their taste and disliked because of their waste. Each bar was packaged in plastic and only 5 bars then were packed into a bigger box of paper. I really wonder whether there is an alternative. These fruit bars are really delicious, but I do not think that the waste they cause it worth it.
What was good about our shoppings though was that we never used plastic bags to carry the food but instead packed the stuff in our bags or just carried them n our hands.
In addition to that waste, I also could not refuse sherbet candy that were each packaged in a small piece of plastic. What I also recognized as a waste source in Berlin were bus tickets. This small pieces of paper may not seem like a big issue but 1.) they are not completely made of paper and therefore not recyclable like it and 2.) they really add up when you spend some days in the city. Although I was not the responsible person for our train tickets, I wondered whether you could also have them online. I printed out the tickets for the youth hostel. To my knowledge, I had no alternative.
So, in general, the main source of waste was, as always, food. Especially while traveling, I do not really want to spent a lot of time preparing my food. On the other hand, most fruits and vegetables are not only healthy but also tasty when eaten just raw and fresh.
So, for my next vacation trip, I definitely want to take better care of my waste and take a zero waste kit (I am currently working on it) with me.
See you soon,