We live in a world that runs at a fast pace to meet our large population demands. Throughout the years meeting these high demands have led to a huge production of waste. As I dove into my own research about wanting to help save our environment from all this waste, the leading answer was to reduce my own plastic consumption. This was a very daunting task to me, but the statistics of the amount of waste being produced are significant. According to Plastic Oceans.org, “we are producing over 300 million tons of plastic every year. More than 8 million tons of plastic is dumped into our oceans every year.”  I began my own no waste journey by first reducing my plastic consumption with the foods that I buy and I wanted to share Ways to Reduce Plastic at the Farmers Market and Grocery Store with you.

Ways to Reduce Plastic at the Farmers Markets: A great place to start to reduce waste is buying as much produce and goods as you can from farmers markets. You can bring your own reusable bags and most, if not all, of the products available are not wrapped in plastic. Bringing your own cutlery and tupperware is also an easy option if purchasing ready-to-eat food at the farmers market.

Quick Tip: Bring your own tote/shopping bags, reusable produce bags, mason jars/containers, and beeswax wraps.
*Beeswax wraps can be used to wrap cheese and meat products.

Ways to Reduce Plastic at the Grocery Store: Grocery stores contain an abundance of unnecessary packaging, especially within produce. Ever notice how so much produce is wrapped in plastic? Some fruits and vegetables come in plastic packaging and the best thing to do in these circumstances is to find the free-standing individual fruits and vegetables and purchase those. If you feel uncomfortable placing the fresh produce straight into your cart, bring your own reusable produce bag to put them in.

Quick Tip: Buy free-standing fruits and vegetables. Refrain from using plastic bags to store the produce in.

When inside the grocery store stay on the outer perimeter, where fresh ingredients such as produce and deli items are stored. When going to the deli ask the employee if they can put your freshly cut meats and cheeses into your reusable silicone bag/tupperware or beeswax wrapping.

Quick Tip: Know the weight of your silicone bag/tupperware so that they can discount it when weighing your items at checkout.

Understanding that not everything can be put in a reusable dish. Try to buy items in bulk. For example, instead of purchasing the single-use yogurts, buy the bigger tub. Some grocery stores even have bulk bin sections where you can find nuts, granola, flours, and seasonings. These are another place to bring your own reusable bags/containers. And if there is an option between a pre-packaged item in a plastic jar and glass jar, always pick the glass. You can also rip off te labels to use the glass jar again in the future.

Quick Tip: Purchase items in bulk. Opt in for glass containers to reuse again.

Ways to Reduce Plastic at the Grocery Store During COVID: If this wasn’t already a daunting task, COVID has definitely made things even tougher. But don’t let that interfere with your perseverance to do the best you can do for the environment. The first tip I found is to find long lasting produce and other foods like pumpkin, squash, and wheels of cheeses. Also, you can buy fresh veggies and blanch them to freeze them for later use. Many bulk bins have been closed during these times. Luckily, grocery stores are now letting people bring in their own bags again. This is where you can get creative and think of items you can buy in bulk rather than individual plastic wrapping. These small changes still have an impact. Refrain from wrapping your produce in the individual plastic bags. Do your best to use a reusable shopping bag, even if you have to bag your groceries outside at your car. You can also wash and reuse the plastic bags the grocery stores are providing. Just making that conscious effort until things begin to change.

A great rule of thumb is knowing your 6 R’s:

Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, Rot and Recycle (and only in that order).
Refuse items that are wasteful.
Reduce your consumption of plastic.
Repurpose things like glassware.
Rot your scraps in a compostable bin.
Recycle.

These are perfect Ways to Reduce Plastic at the Farmers Market and Grocery Store for a beginner ready to start a no waste journey but not knowing where to begin. Remember: It’s not about perfection but about progress.

For more posts about reducing waste, using food scraps, and composting, check out these past articles:

The Secret to Successful Home Composting
7 Creative Ways to Reuse Food Scraps and Reduce Waste
27 Dietitian-Approved Recipes Using Leftover Foods To Reduce Food Waste

By Hailey Brandel, dietetic intern, IG: @enlightenedbyfood