The ‘zero waste’ lifestyle embraces minimalism and is all about living a simple, waste-free life. A big part of achieving waste-free living is by shopping with no packaging. Easy, right?

Actually no, it’s really quite difficult to shop in a way that creates no waste at all but there are plenty of little changes you can make to your shopping habits, to get yourself closer to living as near to waste-free as you can.

So why should we be trying to create less waste? The statistics on waste are actually quite frightening. Britain hasn’t earned its reputation as the waste bin of Europe for no reason, and we Brits throw away 30 million tonnes of waste each year, a quarter of which is unnecessary packaging. In fact, not only do we throw away this unwanted packaging but we pay for the privilege too! For a weekly shop of £100, a whopping £16 of that pays for the packaging which means that over a year, on average, £832 is spent on packaging alone. The charity Waste Watch estimates that the rate at which we generate rubbish in the UK would fill the Royal Albert Hall in less than two hours.

We need food but it generates a lot of waste, especially when shopping in supermarkets. Packaging is often helpful, and sometimes necessary for keeping food fresh, uncontaminated and easy to transport home but there is also an awful lot of unnecessary packaging that we can avoid, as long as we are prepared and organised. You might get a few strange looks, but once you explain most people are completely understanding and very supportive!

  1. Make lists. This might be something you do already, but if you don’t I urge you to start. Not only does it make sense to make a list of everything you need (hence not forgetting that all important item) but it also saves you money, as you won’t find yourself mindlessly picking up whatever you think you need off the shelves and popping them into your trolley.

  2. Take cloth produce bags with you every time you shop. Even if nothing on your list requires them, you’ll be prepared if something takes your fancy but requires a bag.

  3. Take large glass jars, or other reusable containers with you for any items that need to be weighed for example, cheese, meat, fish, olives and other deli items. The shop assistant can weigh your jar first and take off the weight of the container to calculate the cost of your food.

  4. Have a selection of reusable shopping bags, and never ever forget them. If you do, don’t accept a plastic carrier bag, instead ask if the supermarket or shop has a spare cardboard box you can use instead. Quite often, there are empty fruit and veg boxes which make a perfect solution to carrying your shopping home.

  5. Keep all your shopping bags, produce bags and clean empty jars in the car so that you never forget them and they are always available if you stop for an impromptu shop!

  6. Shop local! Although supermarkets do offer some fruit and veg loose and they do have fish, meat and deli counters, there is no comparison to shopping in your local greengrocer where pretty much everything is unpackaged (and also a lot fresher!). If you are lucky enough to live near a loose produce store that sells grains, cereals, flour, lentils, beans and plenty more then use it! Another perfect place to shop without packaging is your nearest farmer’s market where you can shop your fruit and veg seasonally, buy freshly baked bread, cakes and biscuits, not to mention meat, fish and flowers.

  7. Refuse products that come in packaging. This can be the hardest part of all; especially if you have your heart set on making tzatziki for your dinner party, and can’t find any yogurt or cucumber that isn’t packaged in plastic! Think of an alternative, it’s fun trying new recipes!

Making changes takes time, but the key is to be organised and prepared and I’m pretty sure you will enjoy the zero waste way of shopping, seeking out alternatives, refusing things you don’t need and most of all putting your reusable shopping bags and reusable containers to good use!

October 20, 2016 by Jyoti Shaw