What we eat every day has a tremendous impact not only on our health but also on our environment.
A vegan diet tends to be a lot kinder to our environment than an omnivorous diet.
Environmental advantages of a vegan diet are, for example, that growing and producing vegan foods
- requires fewer water resources
- emits fewer greenhouse gases
- doesn’t promote deforestation
- needs less farmland
While all these benefits make an important difference for our planet, there is so much more we can do.
For example, we can take steps to reduce the amount of plastic we use.
While we’ve all heard about the negative impact of plastic, we often hesitate to take action.
Common reasons are that using plastic is convenient and aiming to reduce plastic usage sounds like a huge lifestyle change that requires a lot of work, money, and effort.🤯
I get that. Setting the goal to reduce the amount of plastic waste you acquire can be overwhelming. Especially since almost everything comes wrapped in plastic nowadays.
I’ve certainly felt the frustration of wanting to take action but, at the same time, being paralyzed because it’s such a vast undertaking.
To break out of this cycle, I decided to make this reducing plastic project more manageable by breaking it down into small steps.
Instead of vowing to never buy anything made with or packed in plastic again, I decided to reduce plastic waste when I go grocery shopping.
Like many others, I go grocery shopping at least once a week. Limiting the amount of plastic I accumulate during these trips can ultimately make a big difference.
And if we start purchasing fewer products in plastic, think about the huge impact we can have and how much plastic we can save.
To encourage and inspire you to join in, I’ll share 6 easy things you can do to reduce plastic waste when you go grocery shopping in this post.
Before we get started:
The methods you’ll learn here are super easy to implement and don’t require a large investment.
And the few investments you might have to make will save you money in the long term.
Moreover, you can implement all the strategies you learn here at your regular grocery store. There is no need to visit specialty stores, unless you want to, of course.
Also kept in mind that it is not about perfection but about giving your best to avoid plastic waste when you go grocery shopping.
Okay, we are finally ready for the tips; let’s get started! 😀
1. Bring your own grocery bags to the store
Let’s start off very simple by building the habit to always bring your own shopping bags or shopping baskets with you when you go to the store.
You probably already have suitable bags at home. If you don’t, purchasing a few is an inexpensive one-time investment.
While this tip is super easy and doable theoretically, the tricky part often is remembering to bring your bags with you.
So here’s what I recommend: if you drive to the grocery store with your car, always store the grocery bags in your vehicle.
It can be helpful to carry the grocery bags back to your car right after you unloaded them to ensure you’ll have them with you for your next trip.
If you do your grocery shopping by foot or bike, always keep your grocery bags in a spot close to your keys.
This way, when you head out the door, you notice them and remember to take them with you. Or you could put a sticky note on the door or a reminder on your phone.
Additionally, I’ve found it handy to always have a small foldable grocery bag in my purse. This way, I always have a bag with me when I stop by a store unplanned.
2. Buy fruits and veggies unpackaged
Thus, a simple trip to reduce the amount of plastic is to do your best to purchase fruit and vegetables that come unpackaged.
Unfortunately, this is often easier said than done because many regular stores don’t offer a lot of produce unwrapped.
If purchasing all your fruits and vegetables unpackaged isn’t possible right now, I recommend you pick 2-3 fruits and veggies that you buy regularly and set the goal to always buy these few plastic-free from now on.
Every piece of plastic you save makes a difference.
And as more unpackaged produce becomes available, you can always add more items to your list.
Some produce also comes packaged in biodegradable plastic.
Although this solution causes some waste and needs to be produced before it can be used, it has a few benefits in addition to being, well, biodegradable.
For example, if an unpackaged tomato goes bad, it can “infect” all the other tomatoes, resulting in a lot of food waste.
However, if the moldy tomato is packaged in bioplastic, it doesn’t spoil all the others as well, and less food has to be tossed.
Another benefit is that most people are used to purchasing produce packaged. For that reason, they may be hesitant to buy unpackaged produce.
But biodegradable plastic offers the familiarity of packaged foods while being more environmentally friendly.
Unfortunately, package-free or bioplastic packaged produce tends to be a bit more expensive than conventionally packaged one, which can be a hindrance. So, do what is possible for you.
3. Use reusable fruit and vegetable bags
Yay for you choosing fruits and veggies that come unpackaged, but where do you put those now?
I know you wouldn’t be tempted to put them in those plastic bags available in most supermarkets’ produce section.
Instead, you bring your own produce bags, duh!
These bags are usually made from very light fabric, so when you weigh your product to determine the price, it doesn’t significantly impact the cost.
Many stores have started to sell their own reusable produce bags to encourage customers to move away from plastic.
But if your store doesn’t sell them, you can always head over to amazon or visit a health food store.
Though these bags tend to be very affordable, you can be even more frugal by sewing your own. You can, for example, use an old pillowcase or fabric scraps from curtains.
Putting your fruits and veggies into reusable produce bags may feel strange, particularly if no one else around you does it, but don’t let that stop you.
You never know how many people you might inspire to start making more environmentally friendly decisions.
4. Enjoy more environmentally-friendly beverages
The consumption of bottled water and soft drinks is associated with additional costs and causes enormous amounts of plastic waste.
So choosing more environmentally friendly beverage options not only reduces plastic waste but also saves money #doublewhammy.
A simple thing you can do is move away from bottled water and instead switch to tap water.
Tap water costs almost nothing, and in many countries around the world, you can safely drink it (but always check if you are unsure).
If you don’t like the taste of tap water, you can use a water filter.
There are some additional costs associated with water filters and also some plastic waste. But all in all, the amounts are much much smaller compared to plastic water bottles.
If you prefer sparkling water, investing in a SodaStream (or similar) can pay off. It’s an excellent tool to make your own sparkling water without a lot of effort.
Again, there are additional costs associated with a SodaStream. Still, they are much lower than what you pay for bottled water. Plus, you can drastically reduce your plastic waste.
Another advantage of a SodaStream is that you can use it to prepare all your favorite soft drinks.
Not only does this save money and plastic, but you can also say adios to carrying heavy bottles! #triplewhammy
Some stores also offer deposit systems.
So instead of purchasing your bottled water or soft drinks in plastic bottles, you buy them in glass bottles that you return once you’ve emptied them. These bottles are then cleaned, refilled, and reused!
5. Bring your own bread and pastry containers
Purchasing bread and pastries from the store can result in a lot of plastic trash. Many products come fully wrapped in plastic. Others come in paper with a plastic lining.
Either way, there are ways to reduce your plastic waste when you purchase these goodies.
How easy or hard it will be depends on where you live and where you shop.
But the idea is that instead of choosing bread, rolls, and pastries that are already packaged, you go to the counter where you can get these items unpackaged.
Then, instead of putting your products in the paper/plastic bag provided by the store, put them in your own reusable bag/container.
If you have a hard time finding bread, rolls, and pastries unpackaged, you may have to try bakeries or health food stores, if available to you.
Moreover, you can always opt to bake your own. You can even get a machine that does all the work for you (Kneading and baking). One of my best investments ever!!!
6. Minimize food waste
Since so much food comes packaged in plastic, an easy way to reduce plastic waste is to only buy what you really need and can realistically consume before it goes bad.
This way, you likely purchase less overall, and you won’t have to throw anything away.
7. Choose whole foods
Most highly-processed vegan foods come packaged in plastic.
Whether it is vegan cheese, vegan meat alternatives, a bag of chips, or a pint of ice cream, finding these items package-free is very difficult, sometimes even impossible.
However, purchasing whole food alternatives to these products and/or making a healthy homemade version of those highly processed foods allows you to reduce the amount of waste that accumulates significantly.
Finding chips unpacked is challenging but finding potatoes unpacked or in a plastic-free is relatively easy. You can then make your own chips, for example.
Of course, not every solution will be this simple.
But I genuinely believe that you make an essential difference each time you choose plastic-free packing/no packing.
The goal is not perfectionism but rather making more conscious choices.
Quick start guide to reducing your plastic waste when grocery shopping:
1. Put together a grocery shopping set
This set should consist of reusable grocery bags, reusable produce bags, and reusable bread/pastry bags or containers.
To remember to take these bags and containers with you when you go to the store, it’s best to always keep the set in the same place (e.g., car) or leave a sticky note on your door.
2. Buy fruit, vegetables, and bread unpackaged or wrapped in biodegradable plastic
You may also be able to find pasta, rice, beans, etc. packaged in paper or degradable plastic.
3. Reduce the number of beverages you consume that come in plastic bottles
Try drinking more tap water. If you don’t like it, purchase a water filter. If you prefer sparkling water, a soda stream (or similar) can be handy.
With this gadget, you can make all your favorite soft drinks at home and with significantly less plastic waste.
If available in your store/country, deposit systems can also help reduce plastic waste.
4. Always carry a water bottle with you
You can save a lot of plastic waste if you always have something to drink with you when you are on the go.
This way, you do not have to buy a beverage in a plastic bottle when you get thirsty.
5. Only buy food that you need and that you can realistically consume before it spoils
Alright, in this article, you learned seven easy to implement ways to reduce plastic waste when grocery shopping.
So let’s turn this knowledge into action!