A Low Carbon, Zero Waste Journey…from the UK to Trieste and Geneva & back again

A Low Carbon, Zero Waste Journey…from the UK to Trieste and Geneva & back again

This is the walking route for London to Trieste. The cycle route might be very different. There is the matter of getting over / through the Alps

I have been invited to two running events in April and May to be an ambassador as part of their sustainability development:

Both these events are being proactive to waste reduction and it is cool to be able to further help with the experience I have with events around the world. I have tried to help events remotely, but really found that being physically at the event has gone so much further and deeper. But one question that has come up over and over again from those who have looked at an aspect of my imperfect life and want to make me better is flying to events. I am now ready for this.

In 2006, people started calling me an eco-warrior. I refuted the statement claiming I was not. I was only concerned about the waste we generated and the huge amount of resources we consumed. This has always been clear to me. Greenhouse gases is an area of confusion for me as everything we do generates greenhouse gases. An example: When I put solar panels on my roof, I was told by a couple of folk that those solar panels were carbon polluting due to its formation from a coal-fired powered station in China and then was shipped over. At the time my response was we use our fossil fuels to create alternate clean energy methods that will generate more clean energy methods.

COP24 has come around and a teen from Sweden has become the voice of the young & for climate change. And her words strike with so many of us who would like to be more environmentally conscious.

Further more the climate scientists at COP24 have warned us that we now have 11-12 years to turn our societies around. But we have had over 30 years warning and we continue with apathy to speak about taking baby steps. 11-12 years will happen very fast and we need to use this time wisely just as we had done so to prepare for Y2K. The difference here was that businesses could see its immediate affect on their bottom line. Climate change on the other hand is perhaps overwhelming, its consequences are not as obvious and we are all hoping it will just go away rather than make bold changes in the way that we live.

Both the events will pay for my flight in and out of the country with me being an ambassador for their sustainable development. Though I am flattered, this no longer sits well with me and have said this year on being more Green. So I have decided to make these two events with regards to myself a low carbon, zero waste event and have made up some rules for this challenge:

Low Carbon, Zero Waste Rules

  1. Low carbon will mean I must endeavour to take the lowest carbon option available – cycling is a strong possibility. I would take a solar powered vehicle!
  2. Low carbon will mean accommodation choices should be as low carbon as possible – camping is an option where possible without being illegal!
  3. Low carbon will mean food choices must be at least locally sourced as much as possible.
  4. Zero waste means all disposables must be minimised to hopefully nothing & I will carry all the waste generated except for toilet waste
  5. Zero waste means anything purchased for the trip must either be preloved / second hand or borrowed or from what I have.

What Are the Concerns?

  • Sooooo I have not cycled for 20+ years except the occasional spin bike session.
  • From my location to Trieste will be at least 1000 miles. I need to harden my butt! Have been warned saddle soreness has even caused elite cyclists to stop.
  • I need to find a suitable bicycle.
  • As I live in the UK, the looming consequences of a political fallout from Brexit could scupper all plans.


During the Glorius Gargrave marathon, whilst running along the canal path, a woman from a canal boat yelled at me indignantly:

“Oi LOOK at the pollution you are creating dragging THAT tyre on the ground. LOOK at the dust you are creating affecting others”

I looked back and there was a small low cloud of dust about 0.5 m high rolling in the air. Embarrassed, I picked up my tyre and noticed even whilst running I was kicking up dust, so as I passed 2 women sitting on a wall, I walked.

As I passed the canal boat chugging in the water, there was a distinct smell of diesel. Perhaps she should have been told to smell the pollution she was generating and to consider the fish in the river that would be ingesting noxious nitrous and sulphurus oxide pollutants. My two take aways from that:

  1. “The worst thing about people who pass judgment on others is that they tend to act morally superior, as if they’re in a position to judge the actions of other people.”
  2. “Pollution is in 2 forms: the stuff you see and the stuff you don’t”

The Visible Pollution & Going Zero Waste

Since 2006 I have campaigned for the reduction of waste. In 2018, a revelation hit many developed countries that their recycled waste was simply being dumped somewhere else when China blocked imports of recyclables…..well China demanded that recyclables came to them with much less contamination that were being sent to them.

With more media highlights about the harm from plastic in 2018, the world suddenly became passionate about removing single use / disposable plastic from their lives and many more finally understood how broken our recycling really was. Additionally more have understood that we cannot simply replace one disposable with another material, as it has the possibility of creating resource depletion and other harmful effects. The clear choice is a change in consumerism and move towards a zero waste model.

A recent popular info-graphic that seems to promote consumerism for someone to become zero waste. Zero waste means reusing what you have rather than replacing & reducing what is un-necessary such as fast fashion!

At the end of 2018 more people want to do the right thing to stop polluting our waters, hence more willingness to take on zero waste initiatives. Of course business are going to to jump onto the band wagon and appeal to our consumeristic mentality by providing the false perception that people can “buy” themselves into zero waste. Single-use / disposable is only that because it was marketed that way. A “disposable” bag can be a reusable bag by simply reusing it. Special cutlery does not need to be bought to be reusable. Zero waste is about waste minimisation: being innovative with what you have or otherwise looking towards pre-loved / second hand items when items are required.

Some items in my bag

The circular economy and zero waste are 2 frameworks that can help everyone reduce waste generation and resource usage. Zero waste will also reduce the amount of carbon emissions with less “stuff” being bought and manufactured and new businesses / services will emerge to support this. Green Nudge in Singapore is a business that will help companies reduce waste and move towards a low carbon model, others are zero waste shops that have been popping up around the world.

The Invisible Pollution & Going Low Carbon

When I passed my mental judgement back to the canal boat lady, at that point a neurological connection was formed with greenhouse gases – our invisible pollutant that soooo many of us do not understand and I am only beginning to understand. Have put my thoughts below.

Stopping greenhouse gas generation is complicated because every activity generates green house gases and unlike litter and waste generation, the only way to stop generating green house gases is to be Amish and denounce the use of technology! This will never happen in our society that wants to evolve and progress. BUT just as zero waste actually means waste minimisation in our modern day society we need to think about a low carbon model rather than a zero carbon model.

So now with people wanting to do the right thing about their use of single-use plastic, there is a certain amount of green washing happening as manufacturers make claims about their green credentials, mixed in with what we perceive is green.

e.g. A disposable paper bag is less green than a disposable plastic bag especially when it is incinerated (Many countries in the EU are building incinerators to reduce landfill!) and a paper bag generates much more green house gases in production as well as consumes more resources.

The perception of going green now a days is to remove disposable plastic but it is so much more than that. It is a holistic approach on all aspects of a product life cycle with regards to its effect on the environment.

So just as we begin to use zero waste as a methodology to reduce waste in all areas – general, food, water, energy – it is now time for me to relook at the carbon emissions I will generate and see how I can reduce this.

I will be learning on this journey and will share with you what I learn. At the same time, am hoping to inspire others to be bigger and bolder to making changes in their own lives so that we can redefine what is normal and hopefully that will have the positive effect that we really do live and integrate with our natural world.

So onwards to the Road to Trieste……but the first thing I need to do is find a preloved/second hand bicycle….



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