August brought a great new zero-waste asset to Clonakilty – the new BYO packaging shop Twig opened in Spillers Lane! You can refill bags, bottles and buy unwrapped, and they all-at-once sorted our snack, cereal and sauce struggles. We filled up our little cloth bags with dried fruit and sesame sticks before heading off on the ferry to France with our bikes.
By boat, train and bike we are following the plan to carry any rubbish we make with us to add to our small stash in the shed back in Clonakilty. To aid the plan we brought a hard plastic plate, a tupperware box, a knife, two stainless steel drinking cups and travel mug all of which have helped enormously, especially the cups when, on a particularly long day of cycling, we came across a pop-up bar serving €1.50 beers in plastic at a local boules tournament. The man serving was happy to oblige and cold lager is even more delicious from stainless steel!
10 days in and we have about a quarter cup of that thin metallic-y and plastic wrap that has come out of boxes and off butter… butter is my main struggle now, on the road and at home. I am also now making more of an effort to cut back paper waste too, after reading that Bea Johnson book last month, so we have been reusing our baguette bags and saying ‘no merci’ to paper bags for loose fruit and veg (of which there is a plenty). A country’s infrastructure can contribute enormously to the creation or reduction of plastic waste and here, in France, refilling our water bottles from home has been so easy we have never been stuck thirsty: drinking water taps and fountains are found along cycle paths, next to playgrounds and on town squares so that has been easy. We brought a hard-plastic straw with us for Ari to avoid the thin disposable ones but a couple days in and I was told that those straws are now actually banned in most of France!
We have been cycling the South-West coast of France from Bordeaux to Biarritz and have been absolutely amazed by the cultural shift created by good cycling infrastructure. With good cycle paths come such a wider range of people on bikes, so many young kids, so many commuters and so many adventurers; on bikes, scooters, skateboards and any electric combination of imaginable. The cycle ways and towns have been pristine and there is clearly major investment in keeping rubbish out of public spaces; billboards showing local 7-to-12-year-olds holding up bits of plastic rubbish with words like ‘My name is Emilie/Zoe/Charlie, I live here, please help keep our beaches and streets clean’ have been in most towns we’ve passed through. I think, like the Tidy Towns movement, having pride in one’s town, and seeing the streets clean, encourages those passing through to think twice before littering.
All that said and there is still so much plastic in the grocery stores, so much choice, so many options that we want to avoid that we try to keep to the fruit and veg shops, ice cream shops, bakeries, butchers and markets instead. As long as I can remember I have been amazed by the way mother nature manages to create the perfect transportable, sealed and biodegradable packaging for all of the plethora of fruit and veg on this planet from oranges to grapes to tomatoes to peaches, why mess with perfection? The nectarines in France are particularly amazing this time of year and will beat a juice box on any hot day… So onwards we go and each time we take a dip in the sea and find bottle tops floating we are reminded of the bigger picture, let’s help encourage the big manufacturers to change by cutting off their income stream… simple oui? C’est tout pour le moment, a bientot!