The Beginning: 30 days of zero waste

It's been a long time that I've been a proponent of the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle.) My high school friends remember me running after people picking up the garbage that they had carelessly tossed on the street. In university I was the weirdo asking the Tim Horton's employee to just hand me the doughnut instead of wrapping it in that plastic sheet and putting it in the bag. Now, my kids know that I'll pack garbage away in my purse so that we can bring it home to compost.

I tell you this because reducing waste comes quite naturally to me; it's something I grew up practicing. A zero waste lifestyle is a whole other ballgame, and one that I'm slowly learning how to play.

Shopping at the Farmer's Market this past weekend

Shopping at the Farmer's Market this past weekend

If you missed it, here was my post introducing the whole challenge and my "rules." I've since had time to do some Googling, and apparently "zero waste" is HUGE. There are so many blogs, Instagram accounts and Facebook groups dedicated to living life without producing waste. Opinions seem to conflict though, in terms of what is considered "zero waste."

The Rules Revisited

My goal is to try to buy all of my groceries and household items without producing any waste - I include recycling as "waste." For many others looking to reduce their waste, packaging that can be recycled is A-OK. Maybe I'm being way too ambitious (probably,) but the recycling industry has a whole host of its own issues. My hope was to produce as little waste and recycling as possible.

Rule #1: Absolutely no plastic

In my very first week, this seems to be the one rule that's fairly simple to follow. We are not purchasing any food in plastic packaging, and we are toting our own produce bags and grocery bags.

Rule #2: Shop with Reusable Containers

Without plastic we can't buy milk in plastic bags, yogurt in plastic containers, or things like cereals, crackers, chips and cookies. 

This is where bulk food stores are AMAZING, because I've been able to source most ingredients that I need in bulk form. I say "most" because there's definitely some that I can't find (I'll talk more about that in the weeks to come) I recently made a trip to Nu Grocery, where I found sour cream, hummus, vinegar, oil (olive, canola and sunflower,) tomato paste, ketchup and so much more

Rule #3: if I can't use my own containers, purchase in reusable containers

We are currently buying our milk from Farm Boy, and I can return the jars. We also love the Riviera Petit Pot yogurt as I can reuse the jars myself (of course, I wouldn't be able to collect TOO many of those, so we are making our own yogurt right now)

Rule #4: When stuck, purchase in glass

When glass is recycled, it can be crushed down and reused (same with metals.) So although I haven't run into this problem yet, if I'm really stuck for ingredients I will purchase in glass - cans are on my "no-go" list if I can help it, which may also help us to reduce our BPA exposure.

Where am I shopping?

Luckily there are quite a few options! 

  • Farmer's markets: veggies and fruits are in abundance right now. Stock up at local markets, but be sure to bring your reusable bags!!
  • Farm Boy: I'm shopping at FB for produce, milk, yogurt (occasionally,) meat and cheese. I ask the employees at the counter to wrap my meat and cheese in butcher paper, which can be put into your Green Bin.
  • Nu Grocery: I made my first visit to the store last week, and I was blown away! They have SO much. I was able to fill up on local sunflower and canola oil, and also noticed they have apple cider and balsamic vinegar (still on the hunt for white vinegar!) None of their produce is packaged, which means I can find local English cucumbers sans plastic wrap. And the best part about Nu? They have a weigh station so you don't have to stand in line to get your jars weighed before filling!!
  • Bulk Barn: like Nu, Bulk Barn sells a lot of what I need as staples - flour, sugar, nuts, seeds, nut butters, cookies (if I'm feeling peckish) and all sorts of cereals. Downside - you have to stand in line behind tons of people to have your jars weighed. This can be SUPER annoying! But their prices are great, and they have regular flash sales and coupons that I can use!
  • Natural food stores: I shop at Pantry Plus in Orleans, and they were happy to weigh my jars so that I could grab a few items from their bulk food section! Check in with your local natural food store, and I'm sure they would be accommodating.
  • Terra20: we've been using Terra20's Eco Bar for a long time. You buy one container (plastic, booo) but then you can reuse that container over and over again by filling up at their store. We buy bathroom cleaner, spray cleaner, laundry detergent and dishwashing liquid all in one place. I also shop here for all my make-up, and they will recycle any of the products they carry!
Nu Grocery in Hintonburg

Nu Grocery in Hintonburg

I am not shopping at Costco, any type of Loblaws, Sobey's etc. I find their practices quite wasteful, and there are zero options for me in terms of reusable jars. But comment here and let me know if you've had any positive experiences at these stores!

The key takeaway from the "where" and the "how" of zero waste shopping? ASK!! Seriously, just ask. Call the manager of your local store and tell them you'd like to reduce your waste. Ask if you can use butcher paper instead of plastic, or ask if reusable containers could be used for bulk foods. The more customers that speak up, the better. This will help to change attitudes and practices.

Stay tuned to the blog, as next week I'll be chatting about how we planned and executed an 8 year-olds birthday party without waste. Also find out what I'm cooking up in the kitchen by following along on our Instagram account!