By Anjali Rajani
When it comes to grocery shopping, I recently started realizing how much plastic I was recycling every week. I started paying more attention to what I was buying in the grocery store and where I could perhaps cut back on the use of plastic with everyday products. I also started finding that a lot of businesses right here in the Glebe were very accommodating to customers who bring in their own containers.
I am still a long way from being zero waste, but I am trying to be more conscious of my choices when shopping. It has taken some time to become accustomed to the habit of bringing my own mug or container, but gradually these practices do become easier as you get used to them.
Below I have listed different categories you may find on your regular shopping list every week, as well as where you can find it in “naked” packaging in the Glebe.
Preparation is key
The first step in reducing waste is to have the right equipment and ensure that it’s conveniently located for your daily errands.
Reusable shopping bags: leave them in areas where you will remember to take them (in the garage, coat room, back of your car, etc.).
Reusable containers: I find that containers that are collapsible make a big difference when I go out to get deli meats, for example, as they are lighter and occupy less space when empty. It’s helpful to keep a few in the reusable shopping bags so you have them with you while you are out at the store.
Grocery list: An essential component to reducing waste is to plan what you need before going on your errands. It helps you stick to your list, but also lets you plan how many containers and bags you might need to bring with you to carry all your items.
Open mind: Sometimes you will have to be open to trying a new product or brand that comes in alternative packaging to see how this may (or may not) work for your family
Fruits and vegetables
Cloth or mesh produce bags help group your produce together instead of single-use plastic produce bags. We also try to avoid buying fruits that come wrapped in plastic already, which means our out-of-season berry purchases are usually saved for special occasions (but sometimes you can find them in paper baskets at the Ottawa Farmers’ Market!).
As for staples like cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans – we try buying those that are loose on the shelf and not wrapped in extra packaging. McKeen’s Metro and Il Negozio Nicastro tend to offer a lot of veggies this way that you can place in your own produce bag.
Dairy and deli
My family consumes a lot of yogurt, so we made the switch to the glass yogurt containers available at Metro (as an added bonus, you get a $1 deposit back when you return the jar!). This has probably reduced the most plastic in our family.
We have also recently started buying milk in glass jars. I was only able to find organic milk in glass jars at Metro – this does make this option a bit pricier if your family tends to consume a lot of milk, but the cost is comparable to organic milk in plastic packaging, once you factor in the $2 deposit.
Many cheeses such as feta or fresh mozzarella are available at the Nicastro deli counter and you can put them straight in your own containers. McKeen Metro also encourages you to bring your own containers for meats and cheeses at the deli counter.
Personal care products
I was also finding that our toiletries (shampoos and soaps) were generating a lot of plastic waste. Purple Urchin offers a couple of items in paper or “naked” packaging.
The recently opened All Eco store has been a welcome addition to the Glebe providing a refill bar for soaps and cleaning products such as hand soap, shampoo, conditioner, body lotion as well as cleaning supplies and detergents. All you need to do is bring in any container from your home (I use all my old shampoo bottles), and they fill up your bottles and charge you by weight (subtracting the weight of your empty bottles, of course).
All Eco also has a selection of harder-to-find products like natural dental floss and bamboo tooth brushes.
Hopefully some of these suggestions may appeal to you so that our daily choices can collectively have a larger impact on our environment!
Anjali Rajani is a Glebe resident who lives and plays in the neighbourhood with her husband and toddler.