1Thing: Creating Less Waste at the Grocery Store

The grocery store can create more plastic waste than you realize...here's how to do better.

August 16, 2018

When it comes to grocery shopping, a quick stroll through the aisles will tell you one thing immediately.  We love convenience.  Food items are broken up and packed in easy to identify, easy to use packaging.  From plastic bags, to Styrofoam bases with plastic wrapped meat at the butcher shop, all our food comes in “something”.

What happens when you get home with all your groceries?  All that plastic and packaging has to go somewhere, and that somewhere is straight to the landfill.  Or perhaps worse, straight into our oceans and waterways.

We know plastic takes a long time to break down.  Do you know how long?  The truth is, we aren’t even sure.  Plastic as it exists now, has only been around for about 50 years.  That means we haven’t lived long enough to know if it will even begin to break down.  

As responsible stewards of our planet, we should do our best to avoid single-use plastics.  They are being discarded at an alarming rate.  Americans alone use 500 million drinking straws every day.

With this in mind, here are some easy tips for avoiding the plastic trap at the grocery store.

  1. Bring your own bag.This is the easiest thing you can do.Keep cloth bags in your trunk.If you do leave with plastic bags, consider recycling them (Lowe’s has plastic bag drop-offs).
  2. Invest in some reusable produce bags.The truth is, those plastic bags help vegetables go bad quickly anyway (moisture is the enemy and plastic doesn’t breath).They’re easy to find on Amazon for $10.Have some old pillowcases around the house?Sew a drawstring into them and make your own!
  3. Start shopping with jars.Your grandma has them all over her basement from when she was canning pickles 30 years ago.Now they’re collecting dust.Fill them with groceries!Some butcher shops will even put meat products in them for you.
  4. Buy spice jars you can re-fill.First, you’ll save an incredible amount of money by buying spices in bulk.Bulk spices (the bins where you scoop your own) are infinitely cheaper than the jarred or plastic containers at the store.If you bought bay leaves in the jar, you’d pay over $300 for a pound of them.But, in bulk, bay leaves cost around $20 a pound.Seriously, this is fact.You also get to store the spices in jars that will keep it fresher for a longer period.Don’t overlook the bulk bins of: Flour, sugar, oats, olive oil, honey (mega-savings there) and more.This is smart shopping and you’ll save on your trash.
  5. Consider joining a CSA.What’s is a CSA?It’s Community Supported Agriculture.Simply, you buy a share of a farm’s annual harvest.You reap the rewards of their farming (you also take the risk).CSA’s deliver a box each week, usually to a few convenient drop-off locations, with seasonal vegetables and fruits.Each grower offers different packages depending on the growing season, what the farm grows, cost and location.Generally in Minnesota, these run 14-20 weeks.You can also get special offers from the farm such as activities, weekly newsletters and other benefits.With a CSA, your box of veggies comes virtually unpackaged, straight from the farm (most farmers love getting any boxes, bags or packaging back for reuse too).The added benefit, of course, is you are getting the freshest, healthiest produce possible (nothing from Mexico or California here).Eat great food, create less waste, support local businesses?This is a win all around.You can find Minnesota CSA’s here.

These are some easy first steps in reducing the waste from grocery stores, and is something everyone can do with some simple planning.  Any up-front costs would easily be made up with what you save by shopping in the bulk section, and you’ll enjoy food that is fresh and more vibrant than it’s packaged cousins. 

Make this the 1Thing you can do to help make our world a better place!