If you've been reading my blog for a while, I’m sure you are tired about hearing how reusable grocery bags are great at reducing waste, but I have failed – until now – to mention another lingering plastic waste in the grocery store. Plastic produce bags, though smaller than regular grocery bags, largely remain unnamed when discussing how to limit plastic waste at the grocery store. My guess is because produce bags become part of the weight per price at purchase with reusable alternatives actually costing the consumer.
Luckily, there are some options that make buying produce, and bulk items eco-friendly.
The easiest and most simple? Skip the plastic bag when purchasing produce and avoid individually wrapped products. Veggies and fruit come in a handy bag already. They naturally have a thick skin or peel that protects the goodness inside. If you feel uncomfortable with what your food might pick up while being “naked” in the grocery cart, consider that they have potentially traveled hundreds or thousands of miles without the “benefit” of a plastic bag. They should be washed regardless of how you handle them in the cart. By giving them a vinegar and water bath when you get home, you will clean the skins, and often times help the produce last longer.
Look for a store that is willing to join you in your waste free mission. Find a store that sells dry goods in bulk, package free produce or even a local butcher. The Bulk app has a search feature that can locate stores near you that sell bulk products. Yes, I know, these places have those pesky little plastic bags too, however many of these retailers are more likely to work with you if you bring your own reusable containers.
No joke – bringing reusable jars shopping is not easy. Sometimes even finding a market that is willing to let you use them without charging for the container’s weight can be trying. Just remember, if more consumers ask for sustainable, waste free options, the more these options will become available.
My first stop was Buy n’ Bulk’s Anaheim location. The gal behind the counter was super patient and willing to figure out how I could make my purchases with jars without charging for the extra weight. Since it was both of our first time, it wasn't very smooth, but she made it work and that’s what counts. The next time I came in she was able to help me just fine. Buy n’ Bulk even rewards their customers that bring their own jars and containers with 10 percent off their purchase. Why? Because you are also helping them be eco friendly. Adam from Buy n’ Bulk shared that “when you do use our bags they are brown paper and recyclable. Our main focus is to be eco-friendly, economical and a health alternative to the traditional grocery items.” Shopping with jars was bulky and heavy, but it was convenient to purchase bulk items in the container we were going to store them in.
My second stop was to Sprout’s Farmers Market. I already knew to leave my jars at home because their current Point of Sale isn't able to avoid charging for the weight of the jars. Instead I brought reusable produce bags made from cotton muslin. I had just finished sewing them and was excited to see them in action. To keep the weight down, I used the least amount of fabric with the most room for what I would purchase. I haven’t quite figured out the best way to close and label the bags, since Sprouts has you write down the SKU number of what you are purchasing. For now I am planning on reusing their twist ties. That works for me since I always purchase the same foods from their bulk bins. I’ll keep thinking of a more waste free option.
Do you have tricks for waste free shopping?