Grocery Shopping

Unfortunately the future is plastic because plastic lives just about forever and will be the death of much of our environment, and maybe us. If you have not already, please see Wall-E for what our earth may eventually look like.

We must do as much as possible to greatly reduce the use of plastic!

Here is a seagoing bird that died from ingestion of plastic in the middle of the Pacific:


See also and many other sources you can find by googling. And read the fantastic book Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too.

So my household is eliminating our need for plastic bags and other disposable plastic. No more hard copy newspaper with its plastic bag (see my separate post about my newspaper). No more disposable plastic grocery bags (thank you for the local plastic bag ban -- now we must make sure it becomes a reality for all of California!). No more produce bags. No more plastic bread bags. No more plastic garbage bags (see No more cereal boxes with their plastic bags. No more frozen foods in plastic bags. No more styrofoam meat trays. No more plastic wrap. No more ziploc bags (except for the quart size reusable one we need for airline travel).

The easiest way to do zero waste grocery shopping in the SF Bay area and Los Angeles is to use -- they deliver your food in reusable containers and take all their containers back so you are left with zero trash!

Alternatively you can also go zero waste by bringing your own containers and shopping at your local farmer's market or using the bulk food section of local grocery stores. I'm now using muslin cotton bags for our produce, bulk cereal, crackers, bread, chocolate, and more.

I transfer contents to more durable / air tight containers at home. I may start to bring some of the durable containers to stores and/or farmers market but the bags are convenient, compact, and easy to use.

For meat and fish I'm now bringing my washable and reusable containers to the butcher so they place the meat directly into these containers:

This even eliminates the need for butcher paper which is mostly paper but usually lined with plastic which makes it trash.

My reusable containers of choice are reusable plastic because they are light, durable, and easy to carry on my bike. I also use mason jars in knitted cozies to protect them and sturdy glass ones that are freezer, oven, and microwave safe from Glasslock. When bike touring I use strong nesting stainless steel containers from ECOlunchbox with silicon lids to buy food in and then eat it.

Waste reduction summary:

  1. Matter (material):

    • Big win! Only using reusables, no more trash or very little plastic recycling (which is really downcycling and has lots of side effects). The plastic containers I use are sold as "disposables" but I've used them for many years. Eventually they wear out and need to be recycled but they are polypropylene (plastic #5) which is one of the safest plastics (doesn't leach and generally easy to recycle).

  2. Energy

    • Big win. No more disposables to manufacture, transport to me, and transport to dump/recycling. Washing uses a bit of energy but is sustainable.

    • Freezing takes a lot of energy, now we are eating more fresh foods instead.

    • More local food that uses less energy to transport.

  3. Time

    • Neutral once you change your habits. Just need to be prepared and have your reusables on hand. I visit the market more frequently but my shops are shorter. Plus gives me a chance to say hi to local neighbors too. I'm also now going to our local farmers market so I can even eliminate plastic twist ties often found on grocery produce.

  4. Space

    • Big win. No more disposable plastics clogging landfills or filling recycling/trash trucks. We already had space for reusable containers that we now can just use more.

  5. Money

    • Overall seems to net out. Sometime costs a bit more to get fresh food vs packaged. But no more buying plastic bags and plastic wrap. As more people switch to it, bulk foods will end up cheaper as less waste will result in less cost.

  6. Environment/Health/Life

    • HUGE win. Eliminating the need for plastic is really, really huge. Plastic survives hundreds of years and is poisoning our ocean and land as well as people as it comes back around in our food chain.

    • Fresh local food is better for you and tastes better as well.