7 tips for a Plastic Free Grocery Shopping
The Zero Waste or Plastic Free Lifestyle is getting more and more important.
China is not taking our plastic trash anymore since this year (2018), that means our plastic trash is piling up on our landfills or is waiting to get burned in an incinerator. And yes, actually most of the developed countries has been sending heaps of plastic trash to China all the years...
I can remember that I before I heard about the plastic problems and went Zero Waste, I trusted the "yellow sack/gelber Sack" in Germany. Thats our recycling bag for plastics.
Now after I stopped using plastic and a lot of research I know that even Germany is called the master of recycling, not all of the stuff that I put into the "gelber Sack" will actually get recycled. A lot of it will just get sorted out and burned... Not even a chance to get recycled. And we use more and more plastic.. It is like our recycling bins makes us feel like we can use more and more plastic. Not knowing that half of it won't get recycled.
That's why we can't say recycling is the solution, not for plastic!!
While writing this I am in Los Angeles and I don't even buy anything in paper or glass anymore, because in the Apartment building we live during our stay, they don't have recycling at all! Other parts of L.A. has recycling bin's and even the one family houses across the street, but apartment complexes? No green bin, neither a recycling bin!! Only chance to get something to a recycling bin is Whole Foods, they provide recycling bin's in their stores, but the next store is a little far away.... So always remember: Every City, every country has different waste managements. That saying if you travel to countries with a bad or just an unorganized Waste management, it is even more important to reduce your waste! Travel Responsible.
Zero Waste is the intention of sending less and less to landfill/incinerator. It's about refusing as much non recyclable packaging as you can, switching to reusables or stuff that is actually really well recycled like glass and paper. It is all about the R´s of Zero Waste:
Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Recycle, Rot (compost).
Refuse what you don't need, Reduce what you need, Reuse what you have, Repair before you buy new, Recycle what you can't refuse and Rot/Compost the rest (food peels, carton with food soil, q-tips with paper shaft, tissues, etc...).
1) Get used to a plastic free shopping behavior:
This is your challenge for this month: Only buy food in plastic free and recyclable packaging.
(And if you need other things, start to check your house if you might already have something that you can use.)
It's step 2 in the 12 months challenge, one step closer to a Zero Waste/Plastic Free lifestyle.
This has actually been the easiest change for me when traveling in Europe. We have a lot of products in paper packaging or products in glass in the supermarkets. If the one supermarket you go to the most don't have any, go visit another one close by. I promise there is a Happy Choice you can make somewhere.
In northern America it's been a little more difficult to find oats or grains without plastic. But on the other hand it has been much easier to find bulk options! We don't have that in a lot of European Cities yet. There are slowly popping up some Zero Waste Stores, but in Supermarkets? Not yet!!
There are a lot of supermarkets that have bulk options in the U.S. already (Whole Foods, Sprouts, Ralphs, etc..), or in Canada you have Bulk Barn, a big chain with bulk food.
3) Cheese or meat in supermarkets:
Not easy to get without packaging in supermarkets. They have strikt hygiene rules and since more an more want to avoid plastic, so far they have no real solution how to manage this.
I am a vegetarian since 1990, so I don't have any experiences with buying meat at all. But I know it is possible with cheese in some stores and I know people have been successful with meat too.
My personal opinion for meat is: if you want to eat meat, buy less, buy organic, buy local!
For eggs, cheese and other milk products it's the same. That's why I personally only buy cheese every few weeks and if I do so, it's from an organic store or on a farmers market, and there it's easy to get cheese with my own container. In organic stores they are aware about plastic too and if they can give you less, they are happy to do so.
5) Zero Waste Stores:
This is a new awesome Trend starting in many bigger cities around the world: Zero Waste Stores.
Where you can find everything unwrapped: Cheese, grains, flour, salt, sugar, even tofu or cheese, olive oil and vinegar for refill, soap for refill, soap bars unwrapped. You will find bamboo toothbrushes, toothpaste tablets, etc...(different from store to store what they offer). It's a Zero Waste/Plastic Free heaven.
Mostly these stores have organic produce in stock. So if this might be a little too expensive for you to get on a regular basis, try at least to buy just a few things once or twice a month. If it is in your budget try to buy things like cheese or tofu, eggs (all the things I recommend buying organic anyways) or your body lotion/dishwasher soap to refill.
I have found some great Zero Waste Stores already while traveling.
6) No plastic free options at all?
7) It's a Lifestyle and a Priority Choice:
Last but not least: going Zero Waste or Plastic Free, doesn't mean you need to avoid your favorite food for the rest of your life (if it comes in plastic only) but it is all about seeing alternatives. It is about trying new things! It is about refusing Brokkoli if it comes in plastic only, and guess how happy you are if you find it unwrapped one day!
I know that might sound hard for some of you, but I am actually more grateful about things than ever since I live plastic free. I don't feel like I am missing out on something at all. (I find sweet treats like chocolate and ice cream or cakes unwrapped and plastic free everywhere!)
We are just too used to have everything, everyday, at all time... If we can't get something we want, we can easily feel angry because we are used to get everything, every day, right now... Do we really need everything, right now?
Try to make your own almond milk/cashew milk/oat milk (I haven't found any in a glass bottle so far, so I am actually not buying them anymore but making them myself if I fancy it).
You will find some recipes here-> Zero Waste Recipes. I add more and more along the way...
I myself are so sick and tired off all the plastic around me, that I am really persistent in refusing it. I haven't bought a lot plastic since I started this plastic free life in July 2017. I say no when a coffee shop doesn't have reusable cups and glasses, I leave it on the shelf and by other things when it comes wrapped in plastic, I eat my porridge with water and mashed bananas when I can't make my own plant based milk...
The only things I needed to by in plastic sometimes is toilet paper (not in the US because here you find it wrapped in paper everywhere) or medication.
It might sound like a lot for a beginner. Not everybody is ready to make all the steps at once. But thats ok, and you will see, if you take it step by step, it will become easier. It will become normal.
Like with every other habit you build: may it be regular running or yoga, or just getting out of bed earlier, drinking more water, may it be a healthy change of your diet (this is actually included in a Plastic Free/Zero Waste lifestyle ;), if you do it consistently over a few weeks, it might be challenging in the beginning, but will eventually become a habit and normal.
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