A few years ago a new market moved into town. It's called Roots Zero Waste Market off of Chinden in Garden City, ID. I had vaguely heard of the zero waste trend prior to the opening of this market, but I had never really fully considered what it meant to be 'zero waste'.
The idea is simple: waste as little as possible. Shop in bulk using refillable jars (I always bring my mason jars with me when I shop), purchase produce without plastic packaging, and reuse packages if possible (they sell Dr. Bronner's in bulk, so I can take an old, empty bottle in with me and refill it for years to come).
The zero waste market got its start in progressive Austin, TX nearly a decade ago. Since then, numerous zero waste markets have opened up around the globe. Of course the idea of wasting as little as possible has been around much longer. Local Co-Ops have sold food in bulk and encouraged reusable packaging for years. And some people have been shopping with the zero waste mentality long before there were small markets 100% dedicated to this concept.
Whether you live in a town with a zero waste market or not, you can still embrace this trend. There are a few simple things you can do to make sure you are wasting as little as possible.
Bring Your Reusable Bags
I love canvas bags for shopping. Nearly all major grocery stores sell them, and some of them are quite cheap (Trader Joe's has some for under $3). This is probably the easiest thing you can do to reduce your waste consumption. While paper bags tend to be compostable, they can still lead to waste. Plastic bags should never be an option. I keep my canvas bags in the back of my car so that I don't forget them when I go shopping. I also have some wine carriers for larger glass jars. These can be found in a wine and liquor department of a grocery store.
Purchase Reusable Produce Bags
If a produce item has thick skin that I won't be eating, I don't even bag it. However, if I know I'm going to consume the skin, or if there's no skin on the produce in the first place, it gets put in a produce bag. Reusable ones are nice because they don't create plastic waste. I purchased these bags because they're light, breathable, and easy to keep clean. Consider using these when shopping in the produce or bulk section of your store.
Shop the Bulk Section
Not only are items from the bulk section more cost-effective, they are more environmentally friendly too. I often bring mason jars or glass baby food jars to the store with me to fill with bulk items. The store will have instructions on how to tare the jar before filling it so you aren't charged for the weight of it. If you are confused about how to do this, ask an employee. They are happy to help you out. Don't forget to write the sku number of your item on the jar to save time at the register.
Save and Reuse Old Containers
As I mentioned above, I use an old bottle of Dr. Bronner's soap and refill it as needed. I do this with other jars as well. An old ghee jar now becomes a jar for my bulk items. And I can use an old Primal Kitchen sauce jar for maple syrup. My local zero waste market accepts donations of used glass jars if they are clean and in good condition. You can also donate your old jars to the store so that someone else can reuse them.
Choose More Sustainable Packaging
It's not always feasible to be 100% zero waste. And some items don't come in bulk yet. One such item is yogurt. I've seen yogurt in glass jars, which would be a much better option than purchasing yogurt in plastic cups. The same goes for condiments. Glass jars are always a better option than plastic squeeze bottles. But I get that sometimes people prefer the taste (and the price) of the items in plastic containers. So you do what's best for you. This is just an option if you are trying to be more sustainable. No one is asking you to be 100% compliant.
Natural Grocers has switched over to compostable produce bags. And I'm sure some other organically-minded markets have done the same as well. So if you use one of their bags, you can throw it in your compost bin when done. The city of Boise started a compost program a few years ago (probably right around the time we got our zero waste market). If your city has a compost program, collect your food scraps and put them in your compost bin when done. That way people form your community can drive to the compost site and pick up whatever amount of compost they need for their garden. You can also purchase your own countertop compost container and do it yourself. I'm no expert on this since I'm a novice homeowner without a garden at the moment. But I know it can be done.
Use Stainless Steel Water Bottles and Silicone Bags
Plastic water bottles need to go. Not only are they major endocrine disruptors, they are also bad for the environment. I love using my stainless steel Hydroflask. It provides a pop of color and I've decorated it with stickers to make it uniquely mine. Plastic ziplock bags need to go as well. Single use plastics are not great, but I admit I do use them as freezer bags sometimes (reusing them as much as I can). However, for snack and sandwich bags, it helps to switch over to silicone bags such as these ones from Stasher. These are great for kids' lunchboxes and adult lunches as well.
These are just a few of the ways you can embrace the zero waste trend. What other ways do you know about? Please let me know.