As you may have noticed yesterday during Baby Step #2 (Eat Down the Pantry) food packaging probably makes up a very large portion of your weekly garbage.
The other day, I walked into a traditional grocery store and just about fainted when I saw some of the packaging being used for produce – single tomatoes and cucumbers shrink-wrapped in plastic? Really?
Grocery shopping is something we tend to do on a weekly basis. This makes it one of the easiest and most accessible ways to reduce your environmental footprint!
Ready to track down some alternatives to traditional grocery stores? Let’s get started!
Where To Buy Package-Free Groceries
My absolute favorite place to shop for groceries is the farmers market. It makes me feel like a crunchy, eco Audrey Hepburn and I like that.
Our Cheyenne Farmers Market may not be huge by any means, but I’ve found that it has all the produce I ever need in a given week. Plus, the selection is always seasonal, which is something I’ve been a big fan of lately!
Over the summer I did all of my shopping at the market, usually walking away with lots of greens, fresh veggies, a loaf or two of artisan bread, and maybe some local honey. Now, during the winter months, I look primarily to our closest food co-op for produce: the Fort Collins Food Cooperative, a bit south of us in Colorado.
Shopping at farmers markets a lovely way to get connected to the community while reducing food packaging and food transportation. I highly suggest supporting them!
Find a farmers market in your area:
Bulk Bin Locations:
While most of my produce is found at the farmers market or co-op, I still have a need for pantry staples like grains, pastas, oils, and cereals. Where do you find these things package-free? Bulk bins!
Now, when I refer to the term “bulk” I’m not talking about Costco or Sam’s Club. What I really mean is any grocery location where you can buy product from a bulk bin by measuring it into your own, personal container.
Here’s what they often look like:
For more information on how to grocery shop at a bulk location, read my post “Zero Waste Bulk Shopping” right here.
All of our pantry staples are bought at our food co-op. So far we’ve been able to get everything from peanut butter to protein powder! It’s actually pretty impressive.
Find a bulk bin location in your area:
If you buy meat or cheese, you’ll need to get a little more creative. We’ve been able to convince our local Albertson’s to pack meat for us in our own glass container, but it took a little bit of sweet talking and reassurance that we are hygienic people. You may have better luck at a Whole Foods or Sprouts; we just don’t have one near us.
If you are fortunate enough to live in a larger city, I would seek out a local butcher or specialty cheese shop who can meet your needs. Or, if you really want to be eco-friendly, pass on meat all-together. It’s honestly one of the most sustainable actions you can take.
I’m slowly working my way toward a more plant-based diet for this very reason. More on that later!
What to Do if You Don’t Have Access to Bulk Options
Trust me, I know the struggle.
If you live in a more remote location or just don’t have access to bulk, here are some other actions you can take you reduce your food packaging waste:
- See if you can make it yourself. Can’t find products like peanut butter, pesto, or chicken broth package-free? Try making it at home.
- Look for returnable options. More and more milk producers are offering bottle return programs for reuse. Keep an eye out!
- Opt for the product in compostable packaging. Just about anything that comes in a paper bag or box (think flour sacks or pasta boxes) can be composted with your food scraps.
- Choose the product that comes in recyclable packaging. Can’t avoid packaging? Pick the product packaged in glass over plastic, then recycle it or – better yet – reuse the container!
- Check the plastic recycling number. Stuck with plastic? Make sure it’s a recyclable kind. Here’s a quick guide to the number symbols and what they really mean. Still, avoid it if you can.
- Buy in larger amounts. This is a last resort. If you can’t satisfy your Zero Waste criteria, try to buy the product in a large pack so at the very least you get a discount and reduce the packaging you throw away. Freeze extra or pack in airtight containers if you worry about spoiling.
Now go be an eco Audrey Hepburn!
See you tomorrow,
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