The idea of "zero waste" in grocery shopping has been on my mind for a long time (and to clarify, we're talking about zero packaging waste here - not food waste. That's another issue, and maybe the subject of a different 30-day challenge.) Although I make a big effort to reduce our waste by using cloth bags and buying in bulk (using Bulk Barn's reusable container program) I'm certainly no David Suzuki - we buy lots of packaged foods like cereal, yogurt, crackers and cookies. It's all this stuff that goes into the garbage, and to the landfill, that keeps me up at night.
You may be thinking, "but you must recycle!"
Yes...we all (hopefully) recycle. But that plastic yogurt container? That's never going away. Sure, it gets recycled, but eventually the quality breaks down and it can no longer be used as a container. And plastics don't biodegrade like, for instance, a banana peel. Some scientists argue that plastics never truly break down - they just become smaller and smaller particles.
I recently heard a stat that we've now made enough plastics since the 1950s to cover the area of Manhattan and be 3 km high. Gulp!!
In addition to all those yogurt containers, there's the styrofoam trays for meat, the plastic bags for crackers and cereals, the boxes, the containers....the list goes on. Some materials (like cardboard for instance) will eventually break down. But it's still another piece of recycling heading back into the system.
So I asked myself this - would it be possible for my family to shop for groceries for one month without making any waste? In theory, the answer is "yes."
Whenever I come up with exciting (ahem, questionable) ideas, I usually find it best to announce my intention publicly so that I have absolutely no excuse not to follow through.
On Sunday September 10th, our family will begin our 30-day zero waste grocery challenge. I'm spending this week scoping out Ottawa's new zero waste grocery store, as well as coming up with a list of products I will need to make myself. I'm also hoping to chat with some local farmers to source certain products locally.
I think any challenge requires a set of guidelines or "rules." However, I know I need to be flexible. I've never done a challenge like this before, and I have a feeling I'll face some problems. So these guidelines are what I hope will happen, and I'll be 100% transparent if they need to change:
1) Avoid purchasing any food that is wrapped/stored in plastic
2) As much as possible, use my own reusable containers to purchase food
3) Where my own containers may not be possible, purchase goods that come in containers I can return or reuse again (e.g. milk bottles)
4) Use only cloth or mesh grocery/produce bags. Not one plastic bag will enter this house during the 30 days we follow our challenge
Now, along with these rules, there are also some caveats:
- I'm not going to throw out the food I already have on hand. I have a serious amount of butter in my freezer right now, so I'll be using that as we go along. However, I DO promise to try to source as many products as possible for future purchases - so if you're wondering how to purchase butter without packaging, I will try to get that answer for you!
- I may take the "easy" way out for certain products and make them myself. If I can't access the product in a store (or it's too expensive) I'll need to get cooking.
Want to join me?
I welcome and encourage you to join in on the challenge! I'll be doing a weekly post, providing updates, photos, and maybe even a recipe or two. I may also jump in live on our Facebook Page to chat about the challenge and encourage others to give it a try!
So 30 days...no waste. Could you do it? Comment below with your words of encouragement :)