So its 9 days into my Zero Waste Challenge and I’m feeling uncomfortably close to having filled up the jar where I’ve been keeping all the non-recyclable and non-compostable household waste. (With the exception of the biodegradable nappies we use for overnights on our baby…I’m not storing those up until the end of the month.) Regardless of the outcome, I promise to be honest and to share with you how much garbage our household produces this month.
It has become very clear over the last week what the main culprit is for us: the non-recyclable plastic film that the big supermarkets like Sainsburys and Waitrose use to package EVERYTHING. There is no reason that this film cannot be made from a recyclable material and indeed sometimes its not even necessary at all. Ideally as a zero waste family would make the time to go to a bulk food store or join a food co-op, but its been a slightly difficult week or so for us as my husband has put his back out and I’ve been running the entire household on my own. So time has been precious, meaning quick trips to the supermarket have been the reality of the situation when it comes to shopping for food. But that’s fine because most people shop at supermarkets and it means I’ve been having to try to figure out ways of acquiring less garbage with my food while shopping in this type of environment.
Check the label:
I know, I know. You’re already checking the label to make sure the stuff is GMO-free, organic, yadda yadda yadda, and now on top of all that, you have to check whether the packaging is recyclable. To be entirely honest with you, if I have to choose between some kind of GMO, canola oil, glucose-fructose filled piece of junk food in recyclable packaging and something organic and healthy in non-recyclable packaging, I am probably going to opt for the latter, with some amount of accompanying guilt. But usually it doesn’t come down to that. Just check the packaging for what you’re buying and if it isn’t recyclable, just try to keep it to a minimum. And obviously, buying ‘real food’ from the bulk aisle helps a lot.
Take your own produce & bulk food bags:
These little produce bags are great and you can shove them inside your main shopping tote, or even stash a couple in your handbag in case you need to do some unexpected shopping while you’re out. They’re light, so they roughly match the weight of the plastic bags provided by the store, and can be used for any type of fresh produce. They’re also great in the bulk section of the supermarket because they just as easily hold dried grains, beans & pulses, nuts, flours and even dried fruits (as long as they’re not too sticky). Finally, they’re also useful in the baked goods section as they will hold loaves of bread or bread rolls and will store them nicely at home too. You will want to throw them in the washing machine for a short cycle after each use to avoid any cross-contamination. I liked these organic cotton, linen and silk ones which I found on Etsy and I’ve included the links in the photo credits at the bottom of this article:
Take your own shopping totes:
Since the introduction of the 5p per bag charge here in the UK, I think we are all getting better at doing this. I always keep a foldaway shopping bag in my handbag as well, in case I end up buying something on the hoof while I’m out. Here’s an article I found on realsimple.com road testing the various brands reusable shopping bags.
When you get home:
At this point you may wonder “Okay lady, I’ve brought home my bulk food packaged in its organic, reusable packaging…now what?” Well, now you need something to put your stuff in to store it.
Its up to you at this point, but for dry goods I recommend opting for glass storage jars for your family’s health and wellbeing for these reasons. The easiest solution for a really slick look is head on over to Ikea, choose a design you like which is going to be practical and air tight, as well as something that comes in a variety of sizes from little jars for peanut butter to mahoosive jars for flour…and then stock up. But if you are on more of a budget, you can use recycled jam jars (I love empty Bonne Maman jam jars and use them for everything) and mason jars are great too! You may find larger jars at vintage shops. I would recommend investing in a wide mouth funnel to avoid the frustration of spillage when transferring from the bags to the jars.
Fresh fruits and vegetables can be placed in the fridge, the fruit bowl or in a wicker storage basket lined with a clean linen cloth, as appropriate for each item.