My really first idea with this zero waste adventures blog was to focus on zero waste travels. But then after I just did not travel for a while, but now I am getting back to my most favourite things: rediscovering old places and discovering new places.
At the end of August, I had a research related conference in Thessaloniki and I took upon the opportunity and I extended my stay.
Here I summarised my 2 weeks in Thessaloniki in a zero waste point of view.
I flew to Thessaloniki from Dublin. This mean of travel has definitely not the lowest impact on our environment, but I had to be in Thessaloniki for work and staying longer made me feel a bit better about my carbon footprint from flying.
From the airport to the city centre the bus costs only 2€ and they are quite frequent so no need for taxi. Thessaloniki is really a walkable city and I used the bus basically just from and to the airport.
There area also boats and ferries what you should not miss while in town.
In Greece, it seemed EVERYONE was sucking on disposable straw regardless of age or gender. Crazy amount of plastic frappe cups with plastic straws was everywhere!!! However, I managed the whole trip without any plastic straws and with two plastic cups (one from a beer festival but that cup was reused multiple times and next day I took my reusable one with me, the other one from a complimentary shot of grappa in one of the local grocery shop)! One time we even had to go for the 1 l beer glass instead of two 0.5 l plastic cups.
Thanks to Z for the metal straws and D for the new collapsible stojo cup. The best system, in my opinion, is to have ready your cup/straw/tote bag/cloth bag with a huge smile and show and or point at and or hand over your reusable. It works even without speaking well the same language (-:
Other general issue was bottled water. I think it is a global problem that instead of saving our planet from drowning in plastic, people are afraid to drink tap water. I am a big advocate of tap water. I always have something with me to refill with water. Check out this website for refill stations in Greece.
Even though I could not find a special zero waste shop in Thessaloniki, buying package-free and bulk was super easy and helped me to create the minimum waste during the two weeks. Dried fruits, nuts, granola, beans…
At bigger supermarkets and smaller local shops, the most of the vegetables were unwrapped. Bulk legumes and rice (no pasta though) are widely available. Unfortunately, it did not seem to be a common sense to use your own cloth bag, but except of a single incident, no one complained to me about my bags.
The highlights of the zero waste shopping in grocery stores were Greek feta cheese, yoghurt and olives.
At a local shop, I could even get freshly ground coffee into own container.
In the city centre, there is a huge market area with everything you might need during your stay and so many refill, bulk and loose options.
There was also a market just outside of the AirBnb once a week with mostly veg and fruit but also some stands selling olives, cheese and fish. Here I could buy not perfectly shaped tomatoes and aubergines dead cheap.
The super bonus was a refilling station for milk and orange juice just 10 minutes walk from my AirBnB.
So many bakeries where it was super easy to buy bread and cakes without package or only wrapped in papers. I have even had mini ice cream without any package.
The negative is that the plastic bags are everywhere and comes automatically and you have to react really quickly to avoid them. I had my tote bag in my hand and by ordering I was already pointing out that I do not want to have extra bags. After the 2 weeks, I ended up with 2-3 unwanted plastic bags that got turned into bin bags.
No compost facilities. Recycling bins seemed to contain no different from the general bins. Sadly, people seemed to do not care about recycling around the area of my AirBnB.
On the positive note, I found a recycling station at a bigger Lidl where you can get 1€ for 33 glasses/aluminium cans or plastic bottles. It would be so great to have these recycling stations also here in Ireland.
Do not throw paper in the toilet! This sign was everywhere. Apparently, the sewage pipes are not wide enough and they get easily clogged with the papers. People basically use toilet paper as normal and throw the papers to the bin next to the toilet. I found this odd and not really practical but I am not here to judge (-: Luckily, last summer I spent 3 weeks in Tanzania, so washing myself with water was not a biggie (anymore) and I did not need to hunt for plastic-free toilet paper. Surprisingly, I could not see bum guns anywhere in Greece.
So that was my two-week stay in Thessaloniki… Next I will write a bit about my home town, Budapest <3Written on October 13th, 2018 by Celia Somlai