When starting a more sustainable lifestyle, you begin to notice just how much plastic is out there. Going shopping can be an absolute nightmare and can sometimes be a little overwhelming, especially if all you really have at your disposal is a bunch of Walmarts and Hy-Vees. Here are some tips on how to avoid plastic when shopping and what to do if you can’t.
BYOB: Bring Your Own Bag
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This is sort of the no-brainer first step towards sustainability. In order to stop accumulating those thin plastic bags, just bring your own.
Plastic bags are among the most common sources of marine debris, where they can be mistaken as food by birds and fish. Plastic bags don’t biodegrade, meaning it will take hundreds of years for them to decompose in a landfill. Earth911
So what if you forgot your own bag?
There are three possible solutions:
Ask for paper, a biodegradable and friendlier alternative
See if you can buy a reusable, canvas bag in the store
Take the plastic
Number 3 may be a shocker to you, but I assure you that it is an okay option. Contrary to popular belief, plastic bags are recyclable. Most plastic bags are made from a high-density polyethylene (#2 plastic), but the thinner-material bags like produce bags are made from a low-density polyethylene (#4 plastic). You can recycle them mostly through collection bins at grocery stores that will take them for you. You will want to make sure the bags that you are recycling have that #2 or #4 on it in order to be sure that your bags will be recycled properly.
Look for Glass Containers or Cans
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When actually getting to shop for things like food, it can be important to look for foods in glass containers, since glass can be reused in the home easily. Materials like glass and aluminum cans also have the potential to be recycled almost indefinitely, while plastic can only be recycled about 7-9 times before being no longer recyclable.
I personally love to buy pasta sauce and jelly, since the jars that they come in are great to use for storing other things in the pantry and around the house. Aluminum cans are also great for reuse in the home, especially if you have a love of plants. They can easily be reused to make a cute pot for a plant or a utensil holder.
So what if you can’t find what you need in glass or aluminum?
My two solutions are:
Find whatever you are looking for in a plastic container that you could reuse in the home.
Find the product in a container that is easily recyclable.
If neither of these things is possible, you could go to the lengths of looking for it somewhere else, or you could take the loss and buy a product with some waste. And that is okay! No one is perfect in this journey.
If there is a brand that you really like, but wish that it came in friendlier packaging, write a letter to the company expressing your ideas. A ton of food products come with the company address on the labels somewhere.
Remember the R’s of Recycling
I have a whole post devoted to the R’s of recycling and how they can help you reduce waste here. If you need some help with figuring out ways to shop zero waste, try looking at other blogs and videos of how other people do it. You can always take tips from anywhere in order to create a routine that works for you.