Plastic. It’s all around us. Even people like Beth Terry whose mission is to live a plastic-free life admit that it’s a very difficult endeavor. The instant gratification culture in the U.S. doesn’t lend itself to a waste-free mentality.
One place that abounds with plastic that most people can’t avoid is the grocery store. For many of us, we rely on grocery stores to provide food that nourishes us. But are those purchases negatively impacting our environment?
Aisles of plastic
The data says yes. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), packaging and containers account for 23 percent of landfill waste, much of which comes from food containers and packaging. Let’s break that down just a bit more so you can relate to it. Current estimates show that the average person in the U.S. is responsible for creating almost five pounds of trash each day.
Sadly, not all of this plastic ends up in the landfills either. Ever heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? This patch is made almost entirely of tiny bits of plastic, called microplastics. This is what happens to the plastic that makes it into the ocean rather than into the landfill.
So what can we do about it? The simple answer is to reduce our dependence on plastics. Since so much of the plastic we use every day comes from grocery store packaging, it is a great place to start.
The task can seem daunting because so many people have become dependent upon the convenience of individual serving packaging. While it does make lunch preparation easy in the morning, simple changes to your routine and expectations can lead to great benefits for our environment.
If you shop at conventional grocery stores or big-box stores, you may wonder how it will ever be possible to get away from plastic packaging, even if you bring all of your own bags. Even fresh produce is being packaged in plastic more often.
The answer is zero-waste grocery.
Waste-free grocery stores are popping up more frequently in European countries — for example, France’s Day by Day and Germany’s Original Unverpackt. And in the U.S., in.gredients in Austin, Texas, is putting zero waste into practice.
In.gredients is a neighborhood micro-grocer that sells local food with pure ingredients, package-free. They consider themselves a grocery store for the necessities — milk, flour, toothpaste, vinegar, dishwashing detergent — and a few “special” items such as wine, beer, seeds and chicken feed.
Another benefit of zero-waste grocery is that not only is plastic waste being reduced, but actual food waste is being reduced, too. Did you know that up to 40 percent of the food we purchase ends up in the garbage because it spoils before it’s eaten? Since you can buy just one of what you need at a zero-waste store instead of a whole box, you can buy only what you’ll use. This change will save you money and reduce the amount your household contributes to the growing problem of food waste.
Ready to be part of the waste-free grocery movement? Start bringing it up in your local community and maybe the next waste-free store will pop up in your town.
How do you show your commitment to reducing waste in your community?
Want to know more about living a zero-waste lifestyle? Check out these articles:
- What Does Zero Waste Really Mean?
- How to Create a Zero-Waste Kitchen
- Zero-Waste Cleaning and Laundry Tips
Feature image courtesy of Bruce Stockwell