10 ways to reduce waste while shopping

’tis no surprise that most of the waste that walks into our house comes from our weekly or bi-weekly shopping trips.  Grocery store aisles are just one glob of trash; everything is plastic-wrapped, double-wrapped, extra-packed.  It’s yucky.  It’s messy.  And it’s a huge problem.  Here are some ways you can reduce the waste that comes into your home to begin with… by shopping consciously.

  1. Use cloth bags: go basic and forego the plastic bags that are offered in-store.  Bring your totes with you.  This is not only good for the environment (single-use plastic bags often clog waterways, local waste treatment filtration systems, as well as suffocate whales who ingest them), but will save you time and space because you won’t have to deal with the flimsy bags that end up polluting your house.
  2. Skip the produce bag: fruits and vegetables have peels and skins for a reason; you do NOT need to use plastic produce bags.  For things like peas or beans, get a light-weight reusable bag to keep them contained.
  3. Shop the perimeter: let’s be real – anything in the middle aisles is mostly processed.  The bulk of your shopping should come from the perimeter of the store, where most things are fresh and not processed.  Processed foods are often the most heavily packaged, especially in plastic.
  4. Choose the better packaging: if you cannot forego packaging completely, stick to something that is more easily and less expensive for your municipality to recycle, like glass and cardboard.  Plastics are expensive or impossible to recycle, and end up in landfill or in our environment regardless.  Glass and cardboard can be recycled to be used again as glass and cardboard.
  5. Bakery items: Save on Foods at least has paper bags for bakery items, which can be composted; use the pencil to write the bin number directly on the bag, or note it on your phone.  You can also bring a cloth bag to most bakeries and put the loaves directly in, leaving you with nothing but bread and your own bag to take home.  Ask bakeries and vendors for UNPACKAGED goods; the more we talk about it, the more will be offered unpackaged.
  6. Meats and cheese: bring your own containers to purchase your meat and cheese.  I do this at Rick’s Fine Meats in Cranbrook, and they use my reusable containers to fill up on chicken breast, sausages, and deli meats.  You can also take containers there to buy cheese off the block.
  7. Dairy and eggs: dairy is mostly plastic-packaged, but there is one company that uses returnable glass bottles for their organic local milk, and that is Kootenay Meadows from Creston.  Return your bottles to any location that sells them; help the cycle.  Egg cartons need not be recycled or thrown away; they can be composted, used as a seed-starter tray, or returned to farmers or businesses like Kootenay Farm to Folk who need them.  Reuse is better than recycle!
  8. Bulk aisle: arm yourself with light-weight cloth bags to use in the bulk aisle.  I write the bin numbers into my phone (or memorize) so I don’t need to use the annoying twist-ties.  Fullfill, Bulk Barn, and most grocery stores have a wide range of items in bulk, such as pastas, rice, baking supplies, legumes, spices, etc.
  9. Stickers and twist-ties: bleh.  I dislike stickers and twist-ties!  Try to find fruits and vegetables that got missed, buy the single bananas, and choose fruits and veggies that are not twist-tied or elastic-banded together (a household only needs so many elastic bands…).
  10. Farmers’ markets: the best option, especially for package-free fruits and veggies, is the farmers’ market.  By supporting local farmers, we support food sustainability, the local economy, and we can get numerous items without any packaging, making it easier on ourselves, as well as our environment.  Bring your own bags, ask for things without packaging, and even return those cardboard boxes (in good condition) to the farmer to use again.  I have also developed a positive connection with some vendors and asked them to bring some unpackaged goods so I can buy them, like microgreens from Three Crows.

Do you do any of the above?  What did you find easiest to implement?  What do you struggle with most?

In love and compost,



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