Tag Archives: zerowaste

Five easy ways to reduce grocery store waste – without planning ahead!

Ever found yourself at the grocery store or market completely unprepared? 

“It’s just so hard to remember the reusable bags when I go to the store! And sometimes I have them in my car but leave them out there and don’t remember until I’m almost done!”

I’ve heard this statement a few times. I am not really sure why it’s a big deal to go get the bags in the car, but apparently it is. Probably because the kids are DONE with shopping at that point, and the freezer section items are already in cart (do enlighten me, lazy bunch!)

Let’s leave the car-bags scenario off the table for now and consider if you’ve come to the grocery store completely unprepared: no reusable (shopping and produce) bags to be seen. Maybe you just stopped on your way home from work or an outing. How annoying!

But, are there ways you can reduce your waste output anyway? 

Yes!

Here’s my quick guide to bringing home less packaging, waste and fewer plastic bags, even when you are completely unprepared.

1. Most produce don’t need a bag!

Pineapple, melon, kiwi, carrots, potatoes, oranges, onions, avocados, eggplant; anything protected by a peel does not need a bag, so skip the produce bag altogether. Tomatoes, cucumber and bell peppers (most veggies) actually have a protective layer and the dirt you bring upon them from riding the cart is minimal compared to what they’ve already been through before you picked them up. However, I get that it can seem strange be to let them go bare. Start with produce with peels and work up the courage to never bag anything – except tiny things like mushrooms and berries that could literally fall through the bottom of the cart if you don’t. (Reuse any bags you do take!)

While you are in the produce department, ask if you can have the lid of a banana box – you’ll use this to pack in later.

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We don’t want plastic covers – we want to ride bare!

2. Go for paper cartons, glass containers or metal cans

Rice, beans, eggs, sugar, flour, baking soda and other items will provide you with the choice between paper cartons and plastic packaging like bags or styrofoam (yuck!). Always go for carton, it’s recyclable (and/or compostable).

So is glass and metal, which makes these two materials good choices as well when selecting items like sauces, oils, PB and jams. Of course, you have to remember to recycle them!

3. Place the things you don’t absolutely need on hold

I’m sure you’ve got a few items on your list (or on your mind) that you planned on buying this time, which you could actually do without another couple of days. Leave them at the store until your next shopping trip, one when you hopefully remember your reusable produce, bread, bulkbin and check out bags. 

4. If all else fails – Skip the dairy

If your cart is filling up with plastic anyway, maybe you need some pre-made foods to get you through the week ( NO judging here!) you might feel bad about all the waste you’re creating. Lessen the blow by skipping the dairy aisle! Yes, dairy is a waste nightmare: a farm with 2,500 dairy cows produces the same amount of waste as a city of 411,000 people. There are many good alternatives to diary, just a browse away (in the dairy section).

5. Be alert at check out

No time to snooze! Tell the crew to not use any plastic bags, you have a banana box in your cart! Big, bulky items like juice jugs, six packs of beer, paper towels and such, can go straight in the cart since you’ll be driving the cart to your car.

In order to encourage stores to stop printing receipts remember to say “no thank you” to receipts and printed coupons too. Did you know that the material that makes receipts “shiny” to the touch is actually BPA – a dangerous plastic coating PROVEN to be hormone disrupting? Knowing that, you don’t want to touch that receipt anyway, on a waste saving mission or not. 

(If your favorite foods in the whole world come in plastic or simply has too much packing, email the maker. Tell them to rethink their packaging: reduce or switch. If we all reach out when we see bad eco-habits, we can make a change!)

Do you have any other tips and tricks for the unprepared when it comes to avoiding waste at the grocery store? Let me know!

Zero waste trip: Minimizing trash on the (business) go

I don’t consider myself a frequent flyer of any sorts. I avoid flying if I can; it’s boring, time consuming and adds to my carbon footprint, but sometimes duty calls.

In order to make the best out of a recent business trip and not just co2 compensate (which I always do at Stand for Trees – 1 ton per 1 domestic flight) I decided to attempt a zero waste trip.

Only about 56 hours of trip-time to handle, I figured this would be a great little zero waste outing. It’s a gamble on business trips because you cannot pick the restaurants or activities yourself, so it can be a waste trap, thus an exciting challenge. I brought these items with me, to help me out:

With my travel buddy in the terminal - ready to do this!
With my travel buddy in the terminal – ready to do this!

It started well, got my boarding pass on my phone and checked in at the parking garage with my credit card. Peets coffee in the terminal filled both my bottle with water and my mug with coffee. I did get a bran-muffin, which was baked inside of a paper type form. I took it with me on the plane, hoping to find a compost in LA.

I asked for my bottle to be filled with water once in air, and guess how they did that? By emptying a 12 oz aluminum can into it. What! Rumor has it that Southwest recycles, but I am not sure. I always see them throwing everything in the same trash bag. I decided to take the can with me so I could recycle it in the terminal. (Metal takes less energy than plastic to recycle, and can be recycled unlimited times, so at least not the worst material that could happen.)

From that point on, I was on a roll! Lucky for me, during the two dinners and one lunch I ate with my colleagues (all had good vegan or vegetarian options), I only “produced” one paper napkin of waste (wrapped around the utensils – no choice).

When it comes to hotels, I realized that if you take the time to consider your options carefully before you book, you can make your low waste life easier by staying at a place that serves breakfast instead of the classic continental (wasteful) breakfast buffet. I lucked out again as my manager had decided we should stay at the Hilton Garden Inn, where they served breakfast on porcelain and offered bulk coffee, juice in glass jars and made-to-order food. Of course I had to skip yogurt and individually wrapped baked goods, which wouldn’t have been great choices anyway – dairy and sugar – so no loss!

Another hotel-tip would be to use the “Do not disturb sign” at all times! It saves energy, cleaning supplies, time for the crew, water and trash bags. Easy!

I've had this "ziplock replacer" for my liquids for 7 years. Now that's reusing.
I’ve had this “ziplock replacer” for my liquids for 7 years. Now that’s reusing.

I kept my bottle with me at all times and filled the mug with coffee in the hotel lobby. When my colleagues wanted Starbucks, I opted for ice tea in my water bottle. I also stopped at a gas station and filled it with water from a soda machine while on the road.

The trip was going so well, but took a sour turn at LAX airport, where I couldn’t find a single proper restaurant and all the food came pre-packaged or was served on paper plates! (I panicked a bit when I saw apples wrapped in plastic. Yuck.) I had to rely on coffee to fill me up (Starbucks in my to-go mug) and a banana. There were no compost bins in the terminal and the banana was non-organic but I thought it was better than something processed and plastic-wrapped.

Despite the LAX despair, this trip turned out to be a fun zero waste adventure! It totaled only 1 paper napkin, a banana peel, one muffin form and some receipts (needed for my company to cover my expenses anyway) for the whole trip. This was despite trying really hard to produce zero waste.

It is truly astounding how much our society promotes waste and one time packaging! Gross!

Bringing your own water bottle and to-go mug on trips in the United States (as everyone is so nice letting you fill up with free water here) is super easy, convenient, cost effective and saves so many one-time-use cups and bottles! Next time I’ll pack some emergency nuts and fruits – just incase another LAX situation happens.

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Two heroes in the middle, surrounded by the one-time-use losers

You don’t have to be a zero waste hero to make a positive trash impact! Every small change you make matters. Saving straws and cups when you’re out and about, never buying bottled water, always opting for carton instead of plastic (eggs, milk, juice, rice, pasta etc.) and bringing bags (also for produce) to the grocery store is a great start to help reduce plastic waste. The average American uses 300 to 700 one-time-use plastic bags per year! You don’t have to be part of those statistics. Take control of your environmental impact.

As for the WHY in all of this. I read lots of zero waste blogs and I am trying to live low waste. There is simply no excuse for single-use plastic. Our oceans are full of it, animals die with it in their tummies, BPA found in it is hormone-disrupting, it’s made from non-renewable fossil fuel (again you are making the fossil guys richer by buying) and practically never degrades.

Here are some good pictures from The Two Hands Project, to inspire you to go reusable!

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Read more here about how they encourage everyone to “take 30 Minutes and two hands to clean up YOUR world anytime, anywhere” to deal with the plastic pollution. Love that idea!

Read up on Zero Waste and find blogs here, at the Zero Waste Bloggers Network.

Because I write, I also read (blogs that is)

Sustainability champion and fellow eco-blogger Danielle @ No Need for Mars, nominated me for the Liebster Award a couple of weeks ago (yay!). It’s taken me a little while to decide how to approach this topic in my own way, hence the wait.

So what’s it all about? Well, it’s an award given by bloggers to other bloggers in order to bring attention to great blogs that we read and love, so others may discover them too.

There are some rules to it, kind of like a chain letter (which makes me freak a little) but I am doing it; with my own words.

First rule of the award is that I’m supposed to thank the nominator and that’s a given: Thank you, No need for Mars! I look forward to following your sustainable journey!

Then (step 2) I share the logo (look left!) and name a few of my own favorite blogs (step 3). These five (full of beauty!) make me smile:

  1. Sustainable Daisy. Her vintage finds and thrift store treasures look adorable. Every time. Wish I could pull it off!
  2. Timber+Thread.  I can almost smell the (locally sourced) wood. And I love handmade in USA. {Note. This blog is no longer active but they’re on instagram}
  3. Shutterluv by Ashley. This photography blog, which belongs to one of my best friends, is full of photos that capture joy of life in people’s eyes, and I luv it (and her!)
  4. Joli Naturellement. Because she knows green beauty and shows it off with the best photos. I just love the whole concept and look!
  5. StockholmBerlin. It is so Euro. So minimalist. Vintage fashion in German packaging. {Note. This blog is no longer active}

If you haven’t already, go check them out!

Another part of the award process (step 4) is that whoever nominated you, gets to ask you a few questions. Since blogging is all about personal views and experiences, I am happy to answer the questions I’ve been given! (Danielle, I did leave a few out, where I did not have an interesting answer).

What do you want your readers to know about you besides pursuing a sustainable lifestyle? *** I am always listening to music and when I hear a great line I want to use it as a blog title! It hardly ever works, since very few lines in songs match my blog theme. I did get to use I got Stripes by Johnny Cash for my new striped dress and On to Something Good by Ashley Monroe for my new face-wash routine. I do have a few more lined up, I’m just waiting for the right posts to come along where I can use them.

songtitle

Do you consider yourself a minimalist or have you implemented minimalism into your lifestyle? *** I do think I am a little bit of a minimalist: buy only what we need, use what we need. Honestly, the fact that I live in Houston probably makes me look like a minimalist in comparison to people around me (waste, waste and greed). I don’t know anyone with a house as small as ours. That said, I wouldn’t label myself one ;)

Who is your biggest blog inspiration and why? *** Honestly? Julie from the movie Julie & Julia. I’d love that to happen to me (minus the hectic cooking).

Do you have any advice to people who get overwhelmed by the pursuit of zero waste and trying to inspire others?*** No one is perfect, we all just do our best. Making an honest effort for our environment is admirable in itself and more than most people do. If you can’t do it all, do what you can!

What is your favorite zero waste recipe or recipe you look forward to trying? *** I must say I am the master of leftovers. I always come up with something yummy to use them for. Quiche is a versatile favorite, I use for taking care of small amounts of left over veggies or meats.

Do you have a favorite charitable organization or ethical company? *** There are so many companies that I love. Locally Grown Clothing is a favorite. Organizations, I’d say Stand for Trees and Swedish Naturskyddsforeningen.

What lifestyle change or action item is next on your sustainable journey?*** I want to get way better at finding and buying previously owned things. I tend to lose patience real quick and end up buying new stuff (especially clothes!)

My questions to other bloggers (step 5) would be: What is your favorite part about blogging? When do you feel most inspired to write? Do you have a favorite post (among your own) and why? How did you come up with the name for your blog? Have you made any lifestyle changes lately in order to live more sustainably and eco-conciuous? What’s your one bad habit you wish you could kick (but can’t seem to!) in the name of sustainable living?

If any of the blogs I nominated want to take part, nominate some other blogs, tell us more about you and your blog – go ahead! If not, there ain’t nothing mandatory about blogging!

Anyway, some of my readers may have been inspired to check out some of the blogs I like – and that’s what it’s about. Thanks for reading, now go be sustainable!

My five zero goals; inspired by you #zerowaste

I’ve been really inspired lately by quite a few excellent blogs written by people who aim to live life with zero waste. #zerowaste bloggers are crafty, innovative, smart and caring! They remind us of how we can all live a more sustainable and appreciative life.

All these great posts made me think about that I actually have a few “zero hashtags” of my own, in addition* to the brilliant, say-it-all-in-one-tag: #zerowaste.

Believe me, I know they all fall on a scale of impossible to very impossible (and nobody is perfect!), but you know what they say; aim for the stars and you may reach the treetops.

zero- 1. Zero Made in China (Zero Imports). Buy local stuff, all the time. Start with made in town, state, country, part of the world… Work my way out. Some things are quite easy, like veggies, some things are hard, like good looking shoes. (By all means, correct me if I’m wrong!)

2. Zero Chemicals. No lotions and potions in the bathroom with any ingredients I can’t pronounce.

3. Zero Processed Foods. Actually, this one is probably the easiest of all my zero goals! Except bread – does that count? Will still buy and eat bread (I’m a terrible baker, don’t even go there).

4. Zero Oil for Fuel and Energy. We’re saving up for our first Tesla! Yes, we are! And we hope to one day be energy independent. Reaching for the stars here? Well, so is Elon Musk (literally).

5. Zero Bad and Grumpy Days. Move forward with a happy spirit, banish worrying and always remember that everything will work out :)

That’s it!

Maybe you have some zeros of your own to pursue? If not, go ahead and borrow mine. Feel free to alter, add and customize as needed. See, that’s another cool tag I like, it’s called #reuse.

*We are not a household committed to 100% zero waste. Yes, we are always mindful about waste and packaging, but it would be an insult to people committed to a zero waste lifestyle, to say that we are.