Plastic-free holidays


I just came back from a vacation on Madeira, a beautiful, sunny island located 1,000 km southwest of the Portuguese coast (yes, I know… flying is not good for our planet). As always, I brought my plastic tools: stainless steel bottle, lunch container, spork, snack bag, produce bags, and shopping bag.

At first sight, supermarkets in Funchal, the island’s capital, were a plastic nightmare. Many items were hard to find plastic free and the consumption of plastic bags appeared enormous. Many consumers used a plastic bag for just one or two items. And some even used two bags on top of each other, out of fear that one bag would break.

Nevertheless, during the week we discovered more and more plastic-free options. We had a self-catering apartment so we’d cook our own meals. Already on our first day, we located a market with a large selection of fresh veggies and fruit. We tried to eat local food as much as possible. I ate MANY sweet potato’s!

In the supermarket, I choose cornmeal (in paper packaging) instead of oatmeal and we bought only a few different spices and herbs. The store also sold dried beans in bulk! I bought some, using my own produce bags. The ladies at the cashier were totally fine with it.

As for snacks, I ate ice cream (in a paper cup, brought my own spoon), roasted chestnuts (came in a paper bag), nuts (brought my own produce bag), and some local pastries. One day I bought a piece of chocolate cake and asked the saleswoman to put it in my lunch container. She stared at me and smiled for a second, but put the cake in it anyway.

Of course, we weren’t completely plastic-free. After a few days I really felt like eating oats, so we bought oats in plastic. We also got some salt, cinnamon, and some herbs, all in plastic packaging. And I bought a bag of local cookies.

I also had to try bolo de mel, a local honey cake. After days of looking in different stores, I finally thought I’d found a plastic-free honey cake on a Christmas market… Turned out that there was a layer of plastic under the paper packaging… Well, at least I tried…

Next time I go on holidays, I will not just bring my plastic-free tools such as my bottle and lunch container, but will also bring some salt and spices. These can be really hard to find plastic-free, but take up very little luggage space. Overall, although we weren’t completely plastic-free, I think we did pretty well and actually managed to avoid a lot of plastic.

What’s your strategy for plastic-free holidays?


About Author


In 2013, after reading yet another article about plastic soup, Annemieke started her Dutch blog Plasticminimalism where she documented her small steps towards life with less plastic. To create more awareness about the adverse impacts of our plastic consumption, she launched Plastic-Free Tuesday in spring 2014. She strongly believes that building a better world starts by changing our own behavior. Annemieke is trained in environmental science and policy. She alternates living in the Netherlands, Sweden, the US, and China.

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