When I first heard of the Zero Waste movement, I was intimidated.
Aiming to fit all my trash into a mason jar in one year was setting me up for failure. But the more I got to know about the movement, the more I realized that trash happens, everyone will be in a different place in their journey of reducing waste, and that it was better to start sooner rather than later. Don and I are no Zero Waste experts, just a regular couple trying to take responsibility for our actions and “be the change we want to see in the world.”
Our world is drowning in plastic. The predictions of global climate change are now occurring. 40% of Food in the United States is never eaten, amounting to $165 billion a year in waste. We can no longer wait for the government or big business to make the changes necessary to save us from this mess we're in. We have to take a bottom-up approach and all do our part in creating less waste.
As we shared in our “Reducing Our Waste” video, living close to the beach and seeing the trash washed up onto the shore inspired us to learn more about plastic’s effect on our oceans and ecosystem. A big motivator for our choices was learning about the 5 giant islands of plastic waste that are floating out at sea. There are a few environmental groups working hard to find solutions to collect and recycle these islands of plastic like The Ocean Cleanup Project. But even in it’s recycled forms, that plastic will still be around for up to 20,000 years. We need to find alternatives so that we don’t heavily rely on plastic anymore, if at all.
Step 1: Changing Our Consumer Habits
Before any purchase, we now ask ourselves ”Do I really need this?”
The first step is to change the way you shop and make conscious decisions about purchases. We’ve been so conditioned to just purchase stuff, feeling like we can’t live without all this stuff, like this stuff will make us happy. So next time you want to buy something, take a moment before throwing it in your shopping cart and think about it.
If you do need it, then ask yourself what will happen to it after you’re done with it? Is the product or packaging it comes in reusable? Compostable? Recyclable? Or does it just become trash in a landfill?
Step 2: Reusable Shopping Bags
This is the most basic step you can take at the Grocery Store and it’s easy! Just make sure you always have some bags in your car to be prepared. If you use public transport, create a travel bag. Cloth bags can easily fold up. Take these shopping bags to clothing stores, restaurants for takeaways and any other store you shop at. Just say no to the plastic bag.
Step 3: Reusable Produce Bags
Put your vegetables, fruits, bread from the bakery and bulk items like nuts, dried fruit, trail mix, flours and more into reusable bags instead of using a plastic bag. I’m a big fan of using what you have first, so if you save your plastic bags, use those and clean them to reuse first. You could make your own bags out of old cloth too.
I found these cotton produce bags which I love, because they have the tare weight of the bag listed on them so you don’t have to tare them first. Tare weight is the weight of the empty container/bag.
When you check out, the cashier will have the gross weight, however with the tare weight listed they can easily subtract it to calculate the cost of the goods only. Plus the bonus of this is that they are made of cotton, which is compostable. They should last a long time, but at the end of their life all you need to do is remove the metal clasp to reuse or recycle and compost the cloth. Just be sure to wash your reusable bags as needed to get rid of any pathogens.
Step 4: Reusable Containers
Bring your containers to the grocery store for fish and meats from the butcher. You can also bring your own containers for cheese and olives from the deli. With meats they weigh the meat before putting in your container, and then can place the sticker on your container for check out. However for something like olives you will have to tare your container before checkout. I like to keep the tare weight on my phone for easy reference at checkout. Yes, at first you may be met with confusion by your butcher, but it’s a great conversation starter. Don’t be afraid to say “I’m trying to reduce my waste, please don’t use a plastic bag or sheet to place my meat on the scale”. I was terrified the first time I took a stainless steel pot to the grocery store and asked them to put a whole chicken in it. But it was not such a big deal and the butcher was friendly, helpful and chatty. People may be confused at first, but then inspired by your efforts. You can do the same with takeaways or to go food from restaurants.
Changing habits is hard. We still slip up sometimes and forget to take containers or bags to the store. But you have to start somewhere!
In our next video, we share some of the ways we are implementing reusable containers into our lifestyle.
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Reusable Bulk Item & Produce Bags
We use these cotton bags for bulk items and produce eliminating our need to use the plastic bags at the grocery store or market. The bags we have come with the tare weight listed on each one. which allow the cashier to easily deduct the bag weight from the purchase price.
The Ocean Cleanup Project
Cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch using conventional methods - vessels and nets - would take thousands of years and tens of billions of dollars to complete. The Ocean Cleanup Project is trying to remove half the Great Pacific Garbage patch in just five years.