On average, Canada generates 720 kg of waste per capita (see the average by province).
The grocery store is one place you can quickly reduce that number by making some simple changes.
Re-usable bags have been a staple in Vancouver Grocery stores for a long time, but you can still choose to buy a plastic bag for 5c. if you need one. In Canada, the town of Leaf Rapids, Manitoba banned plastic bags in 2007…countries like Italy, China, and Bangladesh have done the same (Read more), but Canada wide it hasn’t happened yet.
Here in Vancouver, I’ve found that reusable bags at the grocery store cost between $1.00-$5.00. You can buy fancy ones from lots of places now, garden centres, farmers markets, even our local library has them (generally more expensive)!
For fresh produce you can choose net bags. They are sometimes on sale in the produce section. We use a cheaper version: small laundry bags for separating delicate items. They are made of nylon usually, which is obviously a plastic but you can reuse them for years if you’re careful.
The completely plastic free option is to use paper bags. When you’re at the store, the mushrooms often have paper bags with them for packaging to stop them going soggy. I’ll grab a couple of these and write the bin number of bulk foods on the side to avoid the plastic bags. The checkout assistant has yet to complain.
Tea bags are no longer compostable in many cases! I know! I didn’t know either! To make the bags more durable and to stop them splitting, many companies have incorporated plastic into the fine mesh of the bags! You can check with the manufacturer of your favourite blend or try loose leaf teas.
Coffee can also be bought at bulk stores, you can also visit smaller chain coffee shops like Bean around the World or independents and many of them will refill your coffee bag and give you a discount for doing so! This is also a great way to check that you’re buying free trade ethically sourced coffee.
Change your habits
This is a big part of it, the COVID-19 pandemic has given me plenty of time to reflect on this. We all want convenience, but it’s not difficult to make a few small changes.
If it’s bagged in the fresh produce area, don’t buy it. This may require a change in your shopping habits, but the truth is, there are plenty of smaller grocers (independent and family run) that sell their produce unpackaged. Coleslaw mix is convenient, but you’ll save money and get better flavour if you by the carrots and cabbage and shred them at home yourself.
Boycott Styrofoam – mushrooms and meats seem to be the main offenders here. If you go to a local butcher or the butchers counter in the supermarket you can get your meat hand selected and wrapped in paper if you ask.
Bagged frozen fruit and veggies: instead by fresh and freeze them at home yourself. Buying bulk dried beans and peas will save cash and save on plastic. They keep longer and you won’t get freezer burn!
In the cosmetics aisle avoid scrubs and washes with plastic beads in. They get washed out to sea are contaminating oysters, clams and other sea life, limiting their ability to reproduce (Read report here).
Cleaning products, this is a tough one. We’ve yet to find a toilet cleaner at the bulk store, but you can buy laundry detergent at places like The Soap Dispensary (Vancouver), or try making your own (see post).
You can also select shampoo bars instead of bottles. Looking for more tips? Take this quick inventory at home.