Interview with Philippa Alexandre, founder of Parkup Pickup #EcoGreenChampions

Parkup- Pick up

Philippa, can you tell us more about the concept of Parkup Pickup? Is it a long term project or is it only linked with Plastic Free July?

My husband & I left Jersey in September 2019 to travel Europe in our motorhome (with our cat). We were excited to have so many beautiful places to see but unfortunately along with that came SO much litter. After the crisp, clean mountains and forests of Germany, Austria and Slovenia we found this to be especially true heading along the coast of Croatia, through Bosnia Herzegovina, Montenegro & Albania south towards Greece. We absolutely fell in love with Croatia & Greece; their natural beauty, crystal clear seas, long, winding coastal roads and incredible mountains were breathtaking but the litter, especially at the sides of the roads, made us sad, angry & very frustrated. Along the way, we pick up rubbish and clean up where we stay; from small areas to whole beaches. Picking up litter is just something I’ve always done, including other people’s litter- often picking it up and putting it back in their hand with a “I think you dropped this”. As a child carer for nearly 20 years, all the children I’ve looked after know that “rubbish goes in the bin”. If a 2-year-old can do it, us adults have NO EXCUSE!! During #plasticfreejuly, we launched our new initiative ParkupPickup to encourage van-lifers, motor-homers, campers, dog walkers, hikers and anyone else who stays in nature to help clean up our planet. It is a long term plan, which has already gained momentum.

How many people are involved with Parkup Pickup at the moment and what is your ambition with the movement?

We have only just launched the ParkupPickup initiative this week so it is still small, but growing fast. It’s just myself doing the marketing with advice from my husband, Callum, who is a freelance digital marketer. With over 150 interactions since yesterday, including #keepbritaintidy & truck drivers, I’m hoping it will grow rapidly within the vanlife & motorhoming community and with it, the reputation that those of us who live full time in a vehicle keep places tidy.

What has been your experience with litter as campers, motorhomers, RVers and vanlifers?

As with every community, there are people who think about others and those who only think of themselves. Unfortunately, littering affects us all and the nature that we love so much. I can’t get my head around why anyone would think it is acceptable to leave their used toilet paper, cigarette ends or any other rubbish anywhere else but in a bin. There are even those who empty their toilet cassettes in bushes and at the side of the road. Can you imagine that?! Hopefully this campaign will help people find a sense of pride in the areas they use which in turn will encourage them to keep those places clean.

Where are you based at the moment? How did COVID-19 influence your choice of holiday destinations?

We are currently pet sitting in Belgium, including 2 dogs & 3 cats so your biodegradable dog poo bags are important to us. We spent 9 weeks of lockdown in Spain then another 4 at a friend’s house in northern France. Coronavirus has changed a lot of things for us; it meant that we moved into a studio flat in Spain, instead of living in the motorhome. We have to keep an eye on reports of outbreaks and second waves as we plan our next moves and obviously the different rules for masks & movements as we go through different countries.

Staying in a van can be logistically difficult, which is why many resort to single-use plastic cutlery, cups etc. What is your approach?

I was already involved in our local zero waste community in Jersey before we went travelling. Part of our daily lives was trying to live sustainably; thinking about what we use, how we use it and if we really need it. A large part of that was reducing our use of single-use plastics. Moving into the motorhome just highlighted how little we actually need to live happily. Nearly everything that we own fits in the motorhome, apart from a few boxes stored at my in-laws. One of the most important roles I have is in the kitchen. Home cooking and your choice of kitchen resources are a really easy way of reducing your waste. We use wax wraps, bamboo plates & cups, lots of tubs & jars for storage of leftovers, we take reusable cutlery & water bottles out with us when we are sightseeing or hiking. We have 2 e-bikes which have been one of our best purchases. I keep cotton shopping bags & net vegetable bags for when we need groceries & I waste nothing! No food is thrown out. I put recipes and tips on my Instagram @philyabelly

What was your experience with the accessibility of litter bags in the holiday parks?

We don’t really use ‘holiday parks’ but at campsites & camper stops it is important to note who recycles what as that changes depending on which country you are in, even which district/area within the same country. It’s our rubbish and it’s up to us to dispose of it responsibly.

Would you say that campers are actively encouraged to maintain the cleanliness of the site or is it omitted?

As I said above, it’s our rubbish so it’s our responsibility. Having more bins around definitely makes things easier. We try to keep our waste to a minimum and also keep bin bags, gloves and a handy litter picker in one of our outside storage lockers so it is easily accessible when we pull up somewhere. BONUS: children LOVE using the litter picker!! Take it out for a walk with your children, there will definitely be something you can pick up and bin. To make positive changes starts with how we raise our children. Many of our followers are planning to use their motorhomes to travel across the UK this summer. How could they join your movement? We have the luxury of parking up at some of the most beautiful places in the world but they’re not always left clean. With the rise in the number of people living the #vanlife, using their motorhomes and campervans instead of flying or taking ‘staycations’, especially after Covid-19, we CAN change that. It’s easy: park up, take a look around, pick up any rubbish & help make the world a better place! Take a before and after photo and use, #parkuppickup to help create this movement. You can find us on Facebook on Parkup Pickup, or Instagram @parkuppickup. For any more information about our adventures, including zero waste tips and ideas, our travel blog is Thank you Philippa and good luck with your project!
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