Thinking ahead. Making a list. Not waiting until the last minute… These are all things I used to not do when I went grocery shopping. When I realized I could at least try to have a zero-waste shopping experience, I wised up.
Yes, I’m a recycler, and yes, I write about sustainability for a living. So, I’m ashamed to admit that in the past, I chose convenience over earth-friendliness when I shopped for food.
So, how did I become more conscious about my grocery purchases and end up wasting less? It took some time… and a few phone alarms.
1. Hit up the farmers market
Farmers markets are filled with wonderful, in-season goods. The farmers at the market are incredibly aware of waste and will gladly sell you items sans-packaging to keep waste down.
So, next time you get flowers, bring your own rubber band. Buying eggs? Bring your own carton. And make sure you bring enough disposable (or reusable) bags to easily carry and separate your fresh produce, bread, meat, soaps, etc.
2. Find a store that sells bulk items
This is not difficult because almost every grocery store has a bulk items section. But if you want to buy a lot of bulk “stuff” all at once, visit stores that sell local produce—think Whole Foods, Natural Grocers, and Sprouts. Looking for spices and olive oil? Search for specialty stores in your area. Often times, these businesses sell items with less packaging and carry fresher product.
3. Set an alarm
I don’t know about you, but whenever I set an alarm, I typically respond. So, I set an alarm that goes off on the day I grocery shop to remind myself to bring reusable bags. I also set an alarm on the day I clean out my fridge to remind myself that old produce goes in the compost, and anything in plastic or glass gets cleaned out and goes in the recycling.
4. Don’t forget the pets
One of my favorite items at a local pet store is its bulk cat litter. And if you really want to cut down on packing, consider cooking your pets’ food from scratch.
5. Say no to plastic
Believe me—you don’t need to use plastic produce bags. These bags are basically useless and typically end up in the trash. There are reusable produce bags, or you can simply forego the bags all together.
6. Think about packing
Try to buy items that are in recyclable containers. Avoid packaging that can’t be recycled, such as Styrofoam.
7. Talk to your housemates about zero-waste shopping
Yup, this is a difficult one.
If you’re going to waste less, you have to talk to the people you live with. Getting your kids and sig-O educated will help keep the house’s trash bin nearly empty.
Now, I’m not perfect—I still buy produce that’s not in season and get packaged goods—but I’m proud I consciously try to reduce waste in my house, and always strive to achieve that zero-waste shopping goal.
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Image of bulk food via Shutterstock