When it comes to grocery shopping, there is a plethora of waste involved in every trip we take to the store. In 2018 The Guardian revealed that big UK supermarkets generate more than 800,000 tons of plastic packaging waste every year. This is a rather unsettling statistic, but the good news is that much of this waste can be minimized or eliminated completely. The issue lies not in some insidious desire in humanity to watch the world burn but rather, in a lack of knowledge and education around the concept of zero waste shopping.
Now that we know how badly the environment is affected by poor consumer habits, let’s look at some tips for minimal waste grocery shopping.
1. BYOB – Bring Your Own BAGS
In 2002 the Irish government introduced a plastic bag levy in an attempt to discourage the use of plastic bags around the country. Although the levy has greatly reduced plastic bag waste in Ireland, it hasn’t eradicated it and many supermarkets sell more substantial plastic bags that are exempt from the levy. Reusable plastic bags are obviously better than their single use counterpart but the best way to reduce your waste at the checkout is to bring reusable bags made from durable material such as jute or organic cotton.
2. Buy in Bulk
No, I am not referring to the wave of panic buying that we witnessed at the onset of Covid-19. Many shops have bulk sections, where the produce is sold in large dispensers or often, the containers which the supplier delivered it in. the concept is similar to a farmer’s market, they supply the food and you supply your own means of packaging. Mason jars are very handy when it comes to bulk shopping – you simply weigh the empty jar, fill it up, re-weigh it and off you go.
Here are some Irish shops that offer bulk sections:
3. Opt for Non-Plastic Packaging
An enormous amount of food produce is sold and distributed in plastic packaging. This is very concerning because according to National Geographic, 91% of plastic worldwide is not recycled. A simple way of tackling this from an individual perspective is to avoid plastic packaging where possible. If you don’t have access to a bulk section in your supermarket, perhaps try opting for a more sustainable form of packaging like glass.
4. Choose Local Products
Choosing local foods over imported ones will help to reduce your carbon footprint. The energy required to package, transport and refrigerate foods that are imported is immense. When you switch to buying local produce, you eliminate the ‘food miles’ and storage energy associated with fruit and vegetables that have been imported from abroad. Try getting into the habit of reading food labels to find out where they were produced or check out your local farmer’s market and meet the producer for yourself!
5. Look for the Largest Option
When it comes to the health and hygiene items on your grocery list, it can be trickier to ditch the plastic packaging. Since most cleaning products come in plastic containers, the best way to minimize your waste is by choosing the biggest possible container available – that way you can refill smaller containers that are lying around the house. For example, EcoElite offer a 5 litre container of multi-purpose cleaner & sanitizer. Alter/Native is another example of an eco-friendly brand that offer 5 litre options for shampoo and conditioner.