How to Shop with Zero-Waste

Everyone has a favorite supermarket they like to go to. Here in Florida, ask anyone and they can tell you a specific Publix that’s their Publix they absolutely love visiting for all their grocery needs. What if there was a way you can reduce your carbon footprint from a trip to the grocery store?

Single-Use Plastic Stores

Walking down an aisle in any grocery store throughout the country almost every item on the shelf is packaged with wasteless plastic. In some products, it feels like you’re opening more and more layers of plastic just to get to your food. 

Everything is packed with plastic, from the meat you purchase, the produces you hand-select to the bread you needed to grab real quick. In fact, in 2015 nearly 50% of the plastic waste generated globally was from packaging according to the United Nations.

With all this wasteful packaging it feels impossible to avoid especially when shopping at these big grocery stores. As a consumer, you can take small steps of bringing reusable bags to stop the wasteful use of usual shopping bags or even ask for paper instead of plastic as most stores provide that option.

However, there have been many grocery stores recently that have made the switch from single-use to with their packaging and overall policies.

Waste-Less Groceries

  1. Bulk Nation Foods: Sort of a spin of BJs and Costco, Bulk Nation Foods, a Florida based store,  allow shoppers to bring in their own containers when purchasing their groceries. Not only does it cut down on packaging waste but it allows consumers to purchase exactly how much food they need and cutting down on food waste as well.
  2. Waitrose & Partners: A UK based store, Waitrose has started to cut back on plastic packaging usage. They hope by 2023 to eliminate all useless plastic packaging and replace them with eco-friendly and biodegradable wrappings throughout all their locations. They currently encourage their customers to bring their own containers from home and in turn, people only have to pay for what they want. While simultaneously providing only paper bags if customers don’t bring in their own renewable bags.
  3. Trader Joe’s: As of 2018, Trader Joe’s has started to reduced plastic packing within its products and has instead opted for biodegradable alternatives. Not only is plastic waste being reduced but also they’ve asked vendors to avoid using packaging that contains BPA. 
  4. Whole Foods: Since 2008 Whole Foods has been leading the way in sustainable shopping. They stopped offering plastic bags as an option and they package all deli products in paper wrappings as if it is 1950 again. Not only that but customers can most certainly bring in their own containers for produces, kinds of butter, nuts and grain items. If you forget your own containers that are no problem they have paper bags for just the thing. 
  5. Farmer’s Markets: When in doubt, you can always head to your local farmer’s markets. Not only do you help out your community when shopping locally but, you can help reduce carbon footprints with the needless fueling consuming that usually occurs when shopping at a market. Not all grocery stores get their produces locally and tend to seek their items cross country or even outside of the US. 

Regardless of where you shop, there’s always an alternative solution to the single-use plastic problem. What more can you do?

Ways to Reuse Your Grocery Waste

  1. Items that are recyclable:
  • Plastic bags (Yes, you can take these single-use bags to local stores that collect them for recycling like Target.However, paper or reusable bags are preferable.Double check with your area’s recycling practices)
  • Certain food packing, you really want to focus on the Ziploc type of bags
  • Bread bags
  • Cereal Bags
  • Produce bags
  • Case covers (like the ones from soda packs or water bottles)

2. Turn cartons into planting pots

  • Milk jugs, juice cartons, and egg cartons can all be used as a pot for young seedlings that aren’t ready to be transplanted to the ground yet. These can be used continuously and once you’ve run out of a use for them they can be recycled. 

3. Don’t throw out your six-pack rings!

  • Instead of tossing these pointless rings that could potentially harm future ocean life, turn them into something new!
  • These durable rings are useful for gardening (make a trellis)
  • Clean up closet clutter by providing alternative hooking space for hangers, belts or ties.
  • Future Halloween costumes. If your home goes through a ton of six-packs, collect the rings and turn them into your kid’s future knight armor for Halloween.

4. Paper bags are multi-useful

  • If you’ve started collecting multiple paper bags don’t worry, first and foremost modern paper grocery bags are sturdy enough to be reused for another shopping run! Just make sure there aren’t any tears or delicate spots from wet items.
  • Use them as wrapping paper. Save on wrapping paper by reusing your paper bags. Paint them with a personal message or just go with the classic brown bag look they can be used for any special occasion as wrapping paper or as a gift bag.
  • Collect your recyclables in them! What better way to recycle then collecting your recycled items in a recyclable bag.
  • Use them to collect your compost, if you’re composting. When you’ve collected a good amount of items that are ready to join your pile you can also shred up the bag and add it to the mix.
  • Turn them into confetti! It’s an easy and cheap way to add some extra flair to your gift baskets or parties.

5. Hold onto paper rolls!

  • They’re useful in crafting projects with kids. Turn your paper roll into an imaginary monster or the periscope used while playing pirates. Make stamps with them!
  • With a good bundle of rolls, they can turn into cheap storage helpers. Make a toy car compartment or a wire and charger holder.
  • They can be kindling for campfires or your next BBQ.
  • Want curly hair without using harmful heat? Use paper rolls! When your hair is damp cut a few rolls in half, wrap strands of hair around them, clip them down and let dry. When completely dry remove the rolls and you get nice bouncy beach curls without damaging your hair.

Try to see how many different ways you can reuse your grocery waste. Check out to find a waste-free store within your area. 

8 million tons of plastic waste enters our oceans each year. With small lifestyle changes and conscious decisions of how we reduce our waste production, we can start reversing the damage that’s already been done.

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