Green Scene Blog: Groceries without garbage


Dear readers, here’s the inspiring Rose Brown on what it’s like to shop for food when you intend to create no garbage.

When I started living without garbage in 2009, a trip to the grocery store could be a serious commitment. It would take me hours to shop each week. I wandered the aisles trying to determine which products might have hidden packaging. I searched numerous stores to find zero garbage alternatives for the products that I used to buy. I saw everything with the fresh eyes of a consumer who does not want to consume most of what is offered. I wrestled with almost every eating and shopping habit that I had grown up with.

I’m happy to say that since then, with practice and time, shopping has become much easier–even pleasant!

Like most shoppers, I make lists of the products that I need from each store. But my lists are probably more vague than yours. I just write “fruit” or “veggies” because I can’t buy the produce that comes in non-recyclable packaging like plastic wrap or plastic twist-tie labels. I don’t shop according to recipes. Instead, I buy the produce that is available to me each week and cook according to what I have in the fridge.

A typical shopping trip takes me to Integral Yoga or Rebecca’s Natural Foods… and occasionally Whole Foods. I get other miscellaneous items from Reid Market. When I get to the parking lot, I grab my reusable cloth bags and other containers from the trunk of the car. Once inside the store, I stop at customer service to get a tare weight on the containers that I brought from home. I grind some peanut butter into a container, and when I check out, they will reduce the tare weight.

I head to the bulk section to fill my reusable cloth bags: lentils, almonds, chocolate chips, salt, tea, and dog food. In the produce section, I use similar cloth bags to grab loose carrots, kale, and green beans. I don’t even bother using bags for the apples, potatoes, garlic, onion, and ginger.

I make a quick stop in the canned veggie aisle for some tomatoes and garbanzos. Otherwise, the middle of the store is generally off-limits because of the vast amounts of non-recyclable packaging.

I head next to the dairy section, where I can find butter and eggs. If I want to buy cheese, I go to the deli counter and ask them to put the sliced cheese into the bag that I brought from home. Or into foil or waxed paper, if they have it. Most of the time, they are happy to comply.

At the check-out counter, I always receive a pleasant comment about my cloth bags. When I get home, I empty all of my bulk goodies into jars and my produce goes into produce bags in the fridge. Since I compost all of my food scraps, I can be happy about another shopping outing that will result in no garbage output.