The Supermarket: A party of plastic. A lover of landfills. A Cathedral of Commercialism!
So, is it even possible to reduce our waste if we shop at the supermarket? Or do we need to traipse to the Bulk Store, the Farmers’ Market, the butcher and bakery to really live that sustainable life ?
Despite not being able to walk more than three steps in the supermarket without being confronted by plastic (I actually counted! The alcohol aisle was the only exception), it is possible to significantly reduce your waste while shopping at the supermarket alone, because, let’s face it, while in an ideal world we would avoid the supermarket altogether, most people don’t have the time or inclination to spend their weekends visiting all the alternatives (and huge kudos to those who do!).
So here we go: ten easy tips to shop more sustainably at the supermarket!
1. Fruit and veg. This is probably the easiest department to reduce your waste. Quite simply, ‘no plastic
produce bags’. You can take your own produce bags (Oh Natural have a great range!)
, if you’re handy with the sewing machine you can whip some up yourself, or just go without! We only put our fruit in bags and then take most of them out again when we get home. An hour or so of rubbing up to their fellow fruity counterparts is not going to do them any damage. Also, look for products that are not pre-packaged. Try to shop in season, to avoid the carbon footprint, and look for the imperfect items that are likely to be left behind and wasted. Pick a lonely banana!
2. Deli and Butcher. Ask if you can bring your own containers. Its a bit hit-and-miss, and the answer can vary from day-to-day, branch-to-branch, and even employee-to-employee! There is certainly no harm in asking. My local Pak’n’Save and New World have started accepting them, but my local Countdown doesn’t. If the answer is no though, don’t be disheartened! Ask them to wrap in paper (goodness knows why you have to ask!?) Another option is to buy in bulk and freeze the extra. You would be surprised how many things can be frozen, like shredded chicken, salami, ham and other lunch meats, sundried tomatoes, olives, bell peppers and sauerkraut. By buying one big batch and freezing in your own containers you can save on a lot of packaging.
3. Bakery. Once again, take your own bags for loose rolls and loaves, or use paper bags if they provide them. Ever tried making your own bread? Give it some thought.
4. Bulk bins. Check out the bulk bins in your supermarket, you’ll be surprised by the range of products you can get there! Nuts, seeds and dried fruit, pasta, couscous, quinoa, shredded coconut, ground almond, lollies, chocolates, popcorn and other and snacks. By taking your own bags (lightweight mesh ones or just reuse their ziplock bags!) you can ditch a lot of single use plastic. Some supermarkets will even accommodate you taking your own containers. You can write the reference numbers on your hand or phone.
6. Look for non –plastic packaging. Here are some ideas to get you started (lots of these were supplied by wonderful people who follow The Great Eco Challenge on Instagram – thank you all!)
-Sugar, flour and oats in paper bags
-Butter in paper rather than plastic containers (did you know the paper butter wrap is compostable?)
-Refill cans of tomato sauce, or sauce in glass jars
-Couscous, lasagne sheets or cannelloni in boxes
-Felafel and frozen fish in boxes
-Yogurt and milk in cartons (milk is only available in 1L, or in a glass bottle)
-Anything in a can or jar!
Also look for brands committed to plastic–free, like Aunt Jean’s, Raglan Coconut Yoghurt and Ceres.
7. Make your own. Items like crackers, muesli bars and biscuits can be the worst waste-villains at the supermarket, not just in a box, but then individually wrapped inside. The best way around this is to try making your own. You don’t have to set up your own catering business, or spend your entire weekend slaving away in the kitchen. What about just trying to make one thing from scratch that you haven’t before and see how it goes?
8. Buy local. Items that haven’t traveled as far have a smaller carbon footprint, so look for items made closer to home.
9. Toiletries. The toiletry and cleaning isles are gradually displaying more eco-friendly products. Check out bamboo toothbrushes and cotton buds, soap in boxes, Eco-planet washing powder and liquid, recycled toiletpaper (unfortunately still wrapped in plastic at this stage) or EcoStore products which are packaged in Sugar Plastic. You can also recycle toothpaste tubes through Terracycle. Alternatively, bypass the health and beauty aisles altogether and just head online to Oh Natural!
10. Bring your own bags. A bit of an obvious one for someone trying to reduce their waste, but there you have it.
Bundle up all your plastic
goodies (and your plastic
ones too, because it’s about #progressnotperfection
!) in your own bags, and walk out of the supermarket feeling the glow of eco-warrior goodness!