Like most of the country, the last few weekends have been all about seeing the family we’ve missed for months.
So last Saturday we set out on what would be an hour and a half’s dash up the M6 for most people. Except that took us almost twice as long.
Sure, part of the reason was that the rest of the world had the same idea and it was stop start all the way. But the other reason was that we had to stop to charge the car mid-journey for 40 minutes.
Critics throw the classic greenwashing accusation at the zero waste movement because cutting out the plastic from your life – from pre-packaged food to nappies and synthetic clothing – isn’t enough to be properly green. They’re absolutely right.
But once we took on the plastic in our lives and started winning we got a taste for the empowerment buzz that came at us out of a sea of eco-anxiety. We felt like we could make a difference for once, so we made more changes. There’s plenty more to get our teeth into yet, but we now don’t fly for example, our diet is at the vegan end of flexitarian, we’re careful with our water consumption, our energy is from renewable sources, our possessions are second-hand, and our car is electric… and a total pain in the arse.
When we first bought it around 18 months ago, the only one we could afford was a very second hand model with a battery life to match. After the first long journey I was so frustrated about the number of times we had to stop to charge up again I had to be held back from re-enacting the tree-branch-vs-Mini Fawlty Towers sketch.
But two things have changed. First, the world has moved on dramatically and range really isn’t an issue for the latest generation of electric vehicles. And second, we’ve learned to embrace the wait – even to search out places to stop, to stretch a bit or eat that we’d never have otherwise noticed as we thundered past in a gas guzzler.
I’m no blissed-out hippie. My to-do list is as long as the next person’s and the available slot to achieve it all in is tight, so if you had once told me I’d be perfectly to pull into a busy services less than an hour after leaving home with a full battery last weekend, I’d have questioned your sanity.
But it gives us back other things.
I certainly don’t miss the eye-watering cost at the fuel pump or the road tax for that matter. The priority parking comes in very handy. And on those longer journeys I’m not tempted to sit in the same position for hours behind the wheel. I have to get up and move about regularly and the kids get an even more important break from their spine-crunching car seats.
Meanwhile, instead of throwing down a slimey overpriced, plastic-wrapped sandwich from the services and spending the next hour with crippling indigestion, there’s a far cheaper homemade picnic stashed in the back and a piece of time carved out of the day to eat it.
Before Covid struck we occasionally pushed the boat out to find pubs and restaurants to eat at along the route for an actual, real meal. With crockery and everything. It’s no surprise that increasing numbers of pubs now have chargers in their car parks. Publicans know what a captive audience the growing EV (electric vehicle) crowd is.
I’m not pretending we weren’t late for everything while we got our heads around the adjustment and built the longer journey time on top of the sat-nav predictions.
And I’d obviously part-exchange in a heartbeat for a newer model that could actually get us there in one go, but there’s definitely something to be said for an enforced slowdown.
The other thing about travelling zero waste – at least after the first couple of head-scratching attempts at packing for self-sufficiency – is that we know we have the things we need with us.
We’re also less likely to pack the kitchen sink when we do venture away. When everything is reused there isn’t the same tendency to take a jumbo pack of those disposable nappies just in case the way we used to. Not least because the extra weight would destroy the distance we could cover on a single charge.
Aside from the range anxiety then – which genuinely haunts my dreams - zero waste travel is quickly becoming an unexpectedly liberating experience.