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Tips on how to shop for zero waste

 
pollinator
Posts: 146
Location: Hilversum, Netherlands, urban, zone 7
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The Zero Waste Chef is a brilliant blog, go check her out.

She has a great post on practices to shop for zero waste: 'Good, Better, Best Zero-Waste Shopping'.

It varies from buying practices, storage, extending the season (fermentation! hurrah!) and generally being permie about it all. I would also add composting to zero waste lifestyle.

Tips from the post:



Best practices

Bulk Food

If you have access to bulk bins in a store that allows you to bring your own containers, then you can shop with:

Glass jars. Just make sure you get these tared—in other words, weighed—before you fill them with food. You don’t want to have to pay for the weight of the jar, especially if you buy tea that costs $40 per pound. Where I live, some stores set out scales and you weigh and mark the jar yourself with a sticker (or with a china marker on the glass). At other stores, customer service will weigh and mark the jars for you.

Metal containers. Get these tared also. My small LunchBots are a good size for bulk candy😉

Cloth produce bags. These work well for “chunkier” food, like bulk pasta, beans, rice, popcorn, oats and granola.


 
steward
Posts: 3328
Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
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That's a great blog, that's for the pointer!

I need to sew some bags for food, maybe that would help decrease my plastic use.  I already have a nice selection of canvas shopping bags, and I'm lucky that I can buy delicious milk in reuseable glass jars.
 
gardener
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I use old sheer curtains for all sorts of things for growing, and sewed a large selection of produce bags with yarn drawstrings. That way I have useful 'me size' bags that can be used again and again. As well as my assortment of jars and bottles for bulk.

Though these days I tend to buy a lot of my staples (cashews, nutritive yeast flakes, soybeans (non-GMO organic and gluten free), coconut oil, etc) direct ship bulk. I get a better price, I don't pay tax (this state still taxes food), it comes to my door, and I know who had their hand in it last. (I have seen kids wipe the bulk chutes with their hand and lick off the powder-many times), so I would rather buy prepackaged (back room) bulk or get it myself.

Sheer curtains, are very versatile. I use them for bloom/fruit bagging (I want to control a pollination or protect a young fruit while it sets from insects...this year I had to bag my tomatoes to get any, the grasshoppers ate them as fast as I got some). Lay two panels together and sew long strips, double seam, then cut apart and sew again, rows of double seams, to make individual pockets. Cut apart, turn the top and run a seam, then thread in a scrap of string or yarn. Wash them between uses and you will have a much better tote-it than the store produce bags. I attached a tag to each one and had them tared so that can be adjusted (when buying expensive per ounce stuff you want that bag tared out).
Bagettes.jpg
[Thumbnail for Bagettes.jpg]
 
gardener
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Produce that is packed in the field like cabbage and celery ar packed in waxed cartons so that they can be cooled with water and ice. This paraffin soaked paper can not be recycled so the supermarkets send it to the land fill. I ask for these when I am shopping and cut them in pieces for fire starting. The paraffin soaked paper burns like a candle until it brings the wood up to kindling temperature.
 
steward
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...packed in waxed cartons...


Most of those waxed cartons are quite durable.
They make great storage bins, particularly for damp locations.

(I have also used them for tents over tender plants if it is expected to be frosty overnight.  They can withstand a fair amount of drizzle before they become useless.)
 
steward
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When I go to the grocery store, and buy fruits or vegetables, I typically don't put them in a bag. I hold them in my hands, or put them in a shopping basket without bagging.

It's rare for me to bag anything for customers at the farmer's market. If I just plop things un-bagged onto the table, that encourages people to bring their own bags. It certainly saves me the expense and labor of putting things in bags. Besides, non-bagged produce seems healthier to me. Less chance for microbes to grow if things are drier.
 
gardener
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Maybe it's because we live in a really hot and dry area, but if I don't put most veggies in bags, they will be rubbery, wilted or dried out in less than a day.  Right now I reuse plastic bags over and over, but that only lasts so long.

I like the idea up above about making your own bags, which are basically like little pillowcases. I'm going to try that, but I think I'll dip some in beeswax and see how those compare for vapor conservation.  You've all probably seen the waxed cloth storage covers now?  Here is a blog with a description of them: DIY Beeswax Wraps for an Alternative to Plastic Wrap

Seems like this should work for produce bags...but I'll tell you how it turns out!
 
pollinator
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I have a pretty good one.

Whenever I go to a grocery store, the produce comes in large, often sturdy cardboard boxes. There is positively nothing--unless you stop using grocery stores entirely--you can do to prevent this cardboard from being produced and shipped. Usually on a shelf in the produce section, there is a big-ass box with one head of lettuce, or one canteloupe left in it. I flip the melon on the shelf and put the box (or two) in the lower cradle of the grocery cart. I put my goods directly in the basket, then at checkout I refuse all bags.

I pack the crap out of those boxes, which are built to handle it, then straddle the front of the cart on the way to my truck, and load it in.   Unpacking is also alot easier and faster since I have no bags to deal with, everything in one shot. Then I burn the box in a burn barrel, but it could be composted if you have the free time and inclination.

I also secretly enjoy frustrating cashiers.

When I tell them no bags and I will pack it myself, their brain explodes and they hate me. Oh...and when they don't know what ginger looks like and they ring me up for a potato....I let them.
 
master steward
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I've been exploring Zero Waste Chef's website (she recently did an interview with Paul Wheaton), and she has a page about 50 ways to kick plastic

Here's some ideas of her's that I hadn't thought of:

9. Shop at thrift stores and yard sales. Opt for second-hand kitchen wares (and other wares too) rather than new. New items require energy and raw materials to produce and they almost always feature at least some plastic packaging.



I've always shopped at thrift stores (SO much more affordable), but I never thought about how much it saves in packaging. Almost everything you buy at the store--even a pan!--comes with some sort of packaging attached to it. Not so at a thrift store!

19. Keep a zero-waste kit packed and ready to go. Into a small bag, pack your travel mug or thermos, a metal container or jar for leftovers, a napkin and real utensils. When you’re out, if you want a cup of tea or coffee, a snack or a meal, you’ll be prepared to both enjoy them waste-free and bring home whatever food you couldn’t finish. Learn how to pull together a zero-waste kit for zero dollars in this post.



I kind of already do this, but only to a slight degree. I always have in my purse these little bamboo sporks, and they come in really handy for picnics and munching on food when we're on the go (kids somehow always get hungry in the car...). I hadn't thought to have napkins. I think I'm going to do just that! Even a small little flannel piece of cloth will fit nicely in my purse and will come in handy for wiping up the kids. It's far more absorbent than paper napkins!

30. Freeze food without plastic. Use glass jars, cloth bags and metal containers. Take a few precautions, and you can safely freeze food in glass jars. Always leave headspace when freezing liquids. Be careful about how you stack jars in your freezer so they don’t fall out when you open the door. To thaw, transfer your jar or container to the refrigerator the night before you need it. For more information, read this post.



I've actually tried doing this in the past, but ended up having a hard time storing them, and things like frozen berries can be really hard to get out of a jar without breaking the jar. I think I need to read her tips...

43. Shave with a safety razor. Replacement cartridges, such as those from Gillette, both contain excessive amounts of plastic and are packaged in excessive amounts of plastic. Safety razors, on the other hand, shave with actual metal razor blades. When the blade becomes dull, you replace only the thin, inexpensive blade. Life Without Plastic carries these razors.



I did not know about these razors! I've actually been using the same gillette venus razor for a bit over 13 years. But, I only shave my armpits every other week or so (I don't like the feeling of long hair in there!). It takes a few swipes to shave, but it gets the job done (fun fact. I did buy a new razor like 3 years ago. It only stayed sharper for about 4 shaves, and then it was just as sharp as my old one, so I went back to using my old razor). But, we need something better than a dull razor for my husband's face. He tried doing the straight-blade razor, but it didn't work out. I like the option of an all metal razor!
 
pollinator
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I can see a few problems with trying to freeze everything in glass, the biggest one being the space required I would probably need to double my freezer space and buy at least 1200 jars. Another one is you can't get a joint of meat or a portion of gnocchi into a jar and that is what our freezers are full of.

I can certainly see that the little bit of lemongrass/coriander root I have the freezer could be in a glass jar and I think next time we have a small glass jar I may swap them round. (this could be several months away though, we don't buy much in jars)

I also wonder about the extra energy cost both embodied in the jar and every time you freeze it you are doubling the amount of stuff you are freezing adding more power use, (and probably the need for an extra freezer) this is a major issue with reusable bags they need to be used several hundred times before they are "cheaper" energy wise than a single use plastic bag. There are reusable silicon bags you can buy for the freezer but I suspect these would need to be used many many times before they become energy efficient. and freezer paper is actually coated in plastic so that doesn't help.


What we do (or try to do) is loose freeze everything even blocks of mince, and then put them into large thick plastic bags. so instead of having 12 blocks of mince in 12 4L bags, we have 12 blocks of mine in one large bag with a clip on it. The bag can be used for many sets of mince unless it gets damaged in some way. The bag is also recyclable after (here) where the small bags are not.
 
pollinator
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I did not know about these razors! I've actually been using the same gillette venus razor for a bit over 13 years. But, I only shave my armpits every other week or so (I don't like the feeling of long hair in there!). It takes a few swipes to shave, but it gets the job done (fun fact. I did buy a new razor like 3 years ago. It only stayed sharper for about 4 shaves, and then it was just as sharp as my old one, so I went back to using my old razor). But, we need something better than a dull razor for my husband's face. He tried doing the straigh-blade razor, but it didn't work out. I like the option of an all metal razor!



I've been using these for over a decade now - so happy with it.   I got so sick of the concentrated plastic & marketing gimmicks, the inability to separate metal from other waste. I've been using the same Merkur 23c since I bought it (~$30) - I like the weight and feel.  I use Astra Platinum blades - they come in boxes of 100, I buy several boxes every five years or so.  Its a cardboard box with paper-wrapped blades - and when I'm done with a blade I drop it in a little tomato paste can.  Eventually that can gets full and I squeeze it shut with a pair or pliers and then the can and blades gets tossed in the municipal recycling.  Oh, and 100 blades is $18, or 18 cents a blade.  Good for about 4 shaves for me, no problems with quality of cut.  Those fancy 5 bladed Fusion heads are presently $3 each at Costco ... which I'd have to use 70 times to make it the same cost per shave!  And no plastic anywhere.

There is a surprising range of razors and blades.  The lovely thing is that a handle is compatible with all blades.  The handles vary in weight, length, diameter, etc.  And people say that you even need to match the blade to your skin - all I know is I tried a Persona blade and didn't like it, stayed with Astra - and there are all sorts of blades out there.  This does mean that if at first you don't enjoy success you may need to sample some other blades.  West Coast Shaving offers starter kits with an assortment of blades to help figure out what works best (https://www.westcoastshaving.com/collections/safety-razor-kits).  

The downside of safety razors?  Airport Security / TSA HATE the things.  So I either have to pack it in checked luggage or have a crappy plastic disposable in my carry on.

There's also a whole discussion on using shaving soap with a brush instead of whatever comes in a can...suffice it to say I think its far superior!
 
pollinator
Posts: 297
Location: Southern Germany
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Thanks for the reminder on razors!
I have been wanting to buy one for husband but had delayed it and almost forgotten.

One thing to add:
At least here in Germany you can get those safety razors on the equivalent on Craigslist very beautiful vintage razors, sometimes complete with the stand including brush and the bowl for soap. Double waste-saving!
 
Eliot Mason
pollinator
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Location: Beavercreek, OR
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Good call Anita!

Yes, the razor handles can last forever and the basic technology is the same (blades may have gotten better).  Previously loved works well here!

Links to catalog sites are just more useful since they persist : )
 
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