Green Tourism has been promoting plastic free July, and so I thought I would highlight a few things – good and bad, that we have experienced. Apologies if you have read previous posts and hear some of it again, but I think it is worth repeating!
We have rescued the single use plastic bottles from guest’s recycling bins and have turned them into seedling cloches – very valuable to protect from slugs! We can also turn them upside down into water funnels for our polytunnels – this directs water straight into the compost and protects from possible spreading of things like tomato blight as the spores splash up from the soil.
We do get fed up with finding them to be honest, especially arriving at somewhere that is so concerned with environmental concerns – but it does put us in the ideal place to do something about it. Our solution is to offer a single plastic ‘Amnesty’ to our guests – if they hand in their bottles, we will exchange them for a metal reuseable 500ml bottle. They are being printed, so will take about 2 weeks to get here – we were going to offer the amnesty for July, but have decided to do it indefinitely. If guests would like another one they will be able to buy them as well!
When Covid restrictions and concerns came in we were unable to offer the usual buffet breakfast, so came up with the solution to present breakfasts on trays, individually made up, but we didn’t want to use those little tiny plastic portion pots. So, we got lots of tiny glass kilner jars so we could put marmalade etc in them, small recycled glasses for yogurt, large glass jars for muesli, so no plastic on the tray. The worst offender is the butter portions which are in foil – butter is a bit more tricky to portion – if we do butter curls there is likely to be more waste. Our borehole water is very good to drink (filtered and tested) and we leave that in the rooms in large, recycled glass bottles.
We have also bought tins (I love Emma Bridgewater designs, so any excuse!) for guest’s afternoon cake – they used to be in a glass cake stand in the breakfast room for guests to help themselves, but the tins work well. We also bought some more to use as picnic boxes for packed lunches if needed. Glass containers with bamboo lids are great for storing leftovers.
We have a large supply of waxed cloth for wrapping cheese etc which is great for stopping them drying out. This is a useful alternative to cling film, although I still do use it I get a recyclable PVC free one from Bacofoil. I have made them with our own beeswax in the beginning, and offcuts of fabric. Now I buy the wax from a wholesaler, but I don’t think I’m likely to run out of fabric any time soon!
I’m always a bit wary of bamboo alternatives to plastic, as they can be mixed with glues and all sorts of other things which can be misleading, but I am trying Beco Pets food and drinks bowls (www.becopets.com) which are made from bamboo fibres and rice husks. They do mark after a while, and one of the early ones developed a hole after 2yrs, so I have smashed it up to try it in the compost heap! Still better than plastic I feel.
In the kitchen, we have a glass pump dispenser for washing up liquid (marked just in case guests think it is hand wash and don’t use it!) We started off with recycled plastic washing up brushes with replaceable heads, but have switched to wood ones as I can compost the heads. We are trying loofer pads as well and compostable kitchen cloths.
So that’s all good, but what about the negatives? Well, I have milk and yoghurt from the local dairy company, and although the containers can be recycled, they are still plastic. Until Covid I was getting milk in self serve large glass bottles which was great, although I can freeze the plastic ones for emergencies. Fruit juice mainly comes in Tetra Paks and although they are recyclable, they have to be taken to the local tip site, which has had up to an hour of queuing, and only on your number plate day, so that’s not exactly encouraging convenient recycling! Some of the cheese comes in wax paper, but the rest is plastic.
The worst one is all the soft fruit that we serve at breakfast and the plastic containers that they come in. I have used many as seed trays, but I would have to running a commercial nursery to use them all! I have planted over 100 fruit plants and bushes which will eventually help cut that waste down, and will be as fresh and nutritious as possible – I am already harvesting tayberries from right outside the breakfast room.
I think I need to have a word with my local dairy and see what I can do…..