Zero Waste Grocery Shopping

On average, Canada generates 720 kg of waste per capita (see the average by province).

Yikes!

The grocery store is one place you can quickly reduce that number by making some simple changes.

grocery cart with item

Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

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)!

thomas-le-pRJhn4MbsMM-unsplashPhoto by Thomas Le on Unsplash

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.

nathan-dumlao-tCddc_YOGRQ-unsplashPhoto by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

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.

Up-Cycling Fashion PowTown Style: A Review of Eunoia

assorted-color clothes lot

Picture by Photo by Shanna Camilleri on Unsplash

Visiting Powell River this past weekend, I was stunned to find up-cycling in the heart of the town site where the pulp and paper mill has been the dominant industry since 1912.

Walking into the new Townsite Market, freshly opened on December 9th 2018, I came upon Eunoia, a fibre studio and gallery filled with up cycled fashion and ideas for the home.

In a society driven by the economics of mass production like the town’s local mill, time slowed down as we walked the a gallery of beautiful items, rescued and re purposed from clothing castoffs. One of a kind hats, shirts and jackets hung among the hand made felted jackets and aprons. A favourite that stood out were pop can earrings: literal pop art! Circular discs of aluminum cans with patterns from bright craft beer designs and well-known logos like Coco-cola sparkled on the shelves.

I found myself re-thinking the idea of simply donating clothes to thrift stores and imagining what could be when older clothes, sheets and hangings come to the end of their original lives. The textile artists at Eunoia, embracing “beautiful thinking,” have gone beyond simple re purposing, and created an entirely unique fashion line.

The closest I’ve come to up cycling clothing is beginning work on a t-shirt quilt, an idea first seen in our house on the first Twilight movie (a guilty pleasure for sick days spent on the couch with broth based soups in hand!). We’ve also used old textiles as cleaning rags at home and in the studio, and taken some to be recycled at H&M.

For now Moon Snail Creative is content to up cycle old pillow cases into reusable shopping bags. We don’t have the sewing skills to work on clothing…yet! For now we’ll leave the wearable up cycling to the professionals, some of whom you can find in Powell River at Eunoia.

The Last Straw: Zero Waste at Home, a Quick Inventory with Solutions

assorted plastic bottles

Photo by mali maeder on Pexels.com

We continue our journey to living a cleaner life and we’ve been inspired by the recent decision in Vancouver to ban all plastic straws. Single use plastics are the latest thing under scrutiny, so aiming to live clean we took an inventory of the single use plastics in our apartment and have begun compiling a list of ways to reduce. The goal is to cut them our altogether.

The inventory and the solutions

Kitchen

Plastic bags

  • Take your own reusable bags to the super market.

Plastic and foil single use food wraps.

  • We’ve tried reusing paper bags which we can then compost, and are going to give some of the beeswax reusable wrap products we’ve seen advertised a try.
  • Use existing jars and containers to store food in rather than wrapping it up
  • Use a lunchbox that you take to and from work instead of Ziploc bags.

Food and beverage containers of almost every kind, bottles, containers, bags

  • Save jars and make condiments like salad dressings, ketchup & other sauces from scratch.
  • Purchase grains, pasta, cereal, beans, herbs, spices, vinegar and oils from refill centres like The Soap Dispensary in Vancouver and reuse existing containers.
  • Instead of buying drinks in cans or bottles, take an on the go bottle with you whenever you are out and about. Keep a cup in the car for water, coffee or tea, so there’s no excuse for using a disposable cup.
  • Craft beer lovers, buy a glass growlers and then get it refilled with your favourite brew. It’s reusable and more affordable! Our favourite Brewery? Storm Brewing in Vancouver

Cleaning supplies for surfaces and dishes

  • Get refills in existing containers for dish soap from dispensaries. If there isn’t one near you, look up local places that sell unwrapped soaps.

Plastic bags on fresh produce

  • For fresh produce, don’t use a plastic bag to separate ranges, apples etc. It will take a bit longer at check out to get everything on the scale but not by much.
  • Some places will let you use your own bags. It is better to check with the store before you check out.
  • Go to a farmers market to get your fresh produce, you can put it straight into your reusable shopping bag!
  • For smaller produce there’s a simple cheat. Go to where the mushrooms are in the supermarket. There are generally paper bags available there. Use those and write on the bag what’s inside ready for check out. Then re-use, recycle or compost the bag.

Garbage bags

  • Compost, if you’re doing all the recycling you can and refilling other containers, there should be nothing to put in the garbage. Zero Waste is the goal.

Take out containers and plastic cutlery from delivered and takeout meals.

  • We’ve trialed this where we live. If you take your own container to places you order food from, we have found that the restaurants are generally happy to put our food in them instead of using their Styrofoam or plastic take out containers.
  • Carry a spork or pair of reusable chopsticks with you and you can say no to single use cutlery.

Living Spaces

  • Packaging on hard and soft goods

Contact your local municipality about recycling Styrofoam and plastic bags. It is possible, but you can’t put them in your recycling bin (Vancouver).

Bathroom

Shampoo & conditioners

  • Refill shops like The Soap Dispensary let you refill shampoo, conditioner and body wash! Stores like LUSH have shampoo bars that have no packaging, take less energy to make and as there’s no bottle, there’s nothing to recycle. If you’re traveling, pop the bar in a tin, it takes up less space in your luggage and won’t explode all over your clothes in flight!

Face and body wash, toothpaste containers

  • Refill on the body wash
  • Toothpaste? Open to suggestions on this one. I’m going to ask my dentist because I can’t find a refill for this. If you know of one, please let me know in the comments!

Vacuum packaging on soaps

  • Don’t buy soaps with vacuum packaging!

Toothbrushes (while we use them more than once, they are disposable)

  • Toothbrushes! Try these bamboo toothbrushes – sustainable, non-plastic from Giving Brush We’ve tried these brushes and love them. At first getting used to the feel of them on the inside of the mouth while brushing was a bit weird, but that passed. Highly recommend these.

Cleaning supplies

  • This one we’re looking at refills as well, but you can make some of your own cleaning products that have the added benefit of being natural and thus safer for pets and children. Keep the spray bottles you have and reuse with your home made cleaners. Yet to try this, but this looks like a good place to start if you are going to try and make your own.

The list isn’t exhaustive, but we had to start somewhere so this is what we’re doing! As we go, we’ll share any up-cycling tips we discover. So far cleaner living feels pretty good. We’re also going to take the Zero Waste Pledge Come join us!