This beginner’s guide will prepare you for a zero-waste lifestyle by focusing on your waste that accumulates from the grocery store.
We will look at every section of the grocery store and how it produces waste so we can start to identify zero waste alternatives.
What is Zero Waste?
“Zero Waste is the conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health.”
6 Types of Grocery Store Waste We Produce
First, start to think about all the waste that accumulates in your trash bin. Ask yourself, What am I throwing away? And how can all this trash be avoided?
Let’s go over the 6 categories of grocery waste and the options that create zero waste:
1. Plastic Grocery Bag
“Plastic bags can take between 400 to 1,000 years to break down in the environment. As it breaks down, plastic particles contaminate soil and waterways and enter the food web when animals accidentally ingest them.”
We all make the mistake of pulling in the parking lot, rushing in the store, and forgetting all about our bags in the car.
The zero-waste journey requires a lot of discipline. You need to teach your brain how to go zero waste without having to think about it. Just like brushing your teeth or buckling your seat belt. It has to become an unconscious habit that we just get used to.
Here are some tricks on how to remember bringing your own grocery bags:
- Keep them handy in your purse. Like these Baggu bags.
- Put a sticky note on the steering wheel.
- Push through the lazy barrier and just go back outside to get your bags.
2. Packaged Produce
There is a lot of produce that is pre-packaged in all different forms of plastic.
Test out shopping at different grocery stores to see which store has the most produce that is not wrapped in plastic. But the best way to avoid all of the pre-packaged produce is to either shop at a farmers market or grow it yourself.
Also, make sure you avoid the plastic produce bags by coming prepared with reusable cotton produce bags in all sizes.
3. Packaged Processed Foods
Next, let’s go over-packaged processed foods. Since this is such a large category the zero waste solutions are going to depend on what you buy. But the easiest solution is to start shopping in a bulk food section.
The bulk food section carries most of our essentials like nuts, seeds, flour, grains, beans, spices, peanut butter, dried fruit, candy, and more. This is another section that you will need your reusable bags of various sizes or glass jars.
Note that any packaged goods in a glass jar or aluminum can are considered zero waste as long as it is properly cleaned and recycled. Rather than choosing a plastic bottle, better options are a can or glass bottle.
4. Animal Products
Animal agriculture strains resources such as land, water, and energy. Animal food products cannot be considered zero waste because of the implications that the industry as a whole has on our environment.
But if you are a meat eater then the best way you can reduce your impact is by asking if you can use your own containers in the meat department at your grocery store or at local meat suppliers.
Also, use your own containers for bulk cheese from the Deli. And start buying your eggs at the farmers market with your own container.
If there is any way you can start to cut back on animal products then that will have the most impact on your health and the health of the planet.
5. Food Scraps
Organic food scraps are another form of waste that is wreaking havoc on our planet.
Any food scraps that are thrown away in a landfill does not have oxygen to properly decompose so it creates harmful greenhouses gases. This can be avoided if you start composting.
Composting is a significant solution for our food waste and it is essential for a zero-waste lifestyle.
6. Packaged Non-Food Products
This is another large category of products that takes time to switch over to zero waste.
What you will have to consider replacing with non-toxic, bio-degradable options is hygiene products such as soap, shampoo, conditioner, etc.
Also cleaning products like laundry detergent, dryer sheets, and more. Then there is food storage such as plastic wrap.
Re-usable and biodegradable alternatives can be found all over online. But try to do the best by using what you have. And then make smarter choices when buying these products by choosing a plastic-free alternative.
There is a lot to consider when you start to go zero waste at the grocery store.
Depending on your lifestyle and where you live the zero waste journey can quickly become inconvenient and almost impossible. But we have to remain determined and creative if we want to start to reduce our impact.
Do your best to not get discouraged and give up. If we all start with one thing to reduce our footprint on this planet then we will start to undo the damage and start to create a better future for every living thing.