Happy Monday! This past weekend I challenged myself to find ways to live “Zero Waste” after being inspired by Lauren Singer (Trash is for Tossers) and her ability to create almost no garbage in her daily life. To be clear: zero waste means nothing being sent to the landfill (composting and recycling are allowed and encouraged). After some research into this lifestyle I decided to look at my own habits and see what I could change. Here is how my Zero Waste Weekend went:
Friday Night: After work I went with my friend to try to source ingredients for a meal that would not create any waste. We decided to cook burrito bowls and simple banana chocolate cookies . We first went to Bulk Barn, a Canadian bulk food chain store, and while the selection of bulk products is amazing (everything from candies to soup mix to coconut oil) you are not allowed to bring your own containers (we found this out after using ours, so we were able to) because of the threat of ‘cross contamination’.
We then went to Metro, a major grocery store, to get produce and cheese. We got corn, tomatoes, avocados and bananas all waste free by finding ones without stickers and putting them in our own cloth bag. We then went to the deli counter to get some cheese for our dinner, but were told that we couldn’t put it in our own container because it had to be weighed. We tried to ask for as little waste as possible to be used (only one piece of wax paper to be seperate the cheese and the scale) but ended up with a plastic bag and the wax paper, more waste then if we had bought it from the dairy section.
We brought everything home and made a delicious meal with our ingredients. We put the corn husks , banana peels, and avocado skins into the compost and didn’t have anything to throw away (besides the plastic from the cheese). Over all it was a delicious meal made with very little waste, a success in our books!
Saturday: I spent most of Saturday at Whole Foods working on another food-related blog post that will be coming soon. The store had a large bulk food section, but upon inquiry I was told that customers were not allowed to bring their own containers because of ‘cross contamination’. However, while I was there I found zero waste bar soap and had to get some. I purchased three bars for $7, a pretty good deal, and they were lavender, coconut, and orange scented. Soap is probably the easiest toiletry to find package free because it is so widely available without any packaging (Bulk Barn, Lush, and farmers markets/grocery stores all carry different versions).
I also tried to make my own toothpaste using ingredients found at Bulk Barn the day before. I combined coconut oil, baking soda, and peppermint essential oil in a small mason jar. This concoction did work and gave my teeth a clean feeling, but it lacked the minty fresh taste of commercial toothpaste and I am not sure about using a toothpaste that doesn’t contain fluoride, I will have to do more research into this. However, I am definitely going to continue to reduce the waste I use in my hygiene routine by looking into solid shampoo and deodorant (sold the same way as package free bar soap) and other zero waste alternatives.
Sunday: On Sunday I had lunch plans with my two friends from high school, and we decided to have a zero-waste picnic in the park. We went to a local independent grocery store called Market Fresh and picked up some fruit (without stickers or bags) and gourmet sandwiches (that we put in our own containers). This grocery store was much more friendly and encouraging of our efforts to go zero waste.
After the picnic we checked out two more local independent stores. The first was a candy store called Sweet, which had bulk candy that I was able to get in my own mason jar. The second was a natural foods store called The Stone Store, and they encouraged shoppers to bring their own containers for bulk nut butters, spices, and grains. Overall Sunday’s picnic and dessert were a zero waste success!
So, here is what I learned through my research and experience of a Zero Waste Weekend:
- Big box and large corporations (Bulk Barn, Metro, and Whole Foods) do not allow customers to bring their own containers, making it almost impossible to shop zero waste at their locations
- Local and independent stores (Market Fresh, Sweet, and The Stone Store) are much more open to zero waste shopping and the use of reusable containers
- Finding bulk grains, beans, and pasta was not very difficult
- Finding produce without stickers was easier at large grocery stores who have bigger displays
- Finding package free cheese and deli meats is not possible at grocery stores, but I would recommend trying farmers markets or going to local butchers/farms
- Candy and sweets are available in bulk (hooray!)
- Swapping liquid body wash for package free bar soap is very easy
- Toiletries can be made from simple ingredients (toothpaste, shampoo, lotion) but will not be exactly what you’re used to
- Bulk liquid shampoo, conditioner, etc. is harder to find but solid shampoo and soap is more widely available
When I was in eighth grade I decided to pack a liter-less lunch for the entire school year. For the first two weeks it was a challenge to try and replace thing like pre-packaged granola bars and cheese strings, but after that it became second nature. I think that the same thing applies to going completely zero waste: The hardest part is that first jump.
Here are ways that you can take your first steps towards a zero waste lifestyle:
- Baby Steps:
- Use a reusable water bottle and travel mug instead of buying disposable ones
- Bring cloth shopping bags to the grocery store
- Buy unpackaged bar soap
- Stop putting your produce into plastic bags and look for produce without stickers (the cashiers likely have the codes memorized anyway)
- Bigger Steps:
- Make your own toothpaste and use a compostable bamboo toothbrush
- Buy rice, pasta, and beans in bulk with your own containers
- Start composting your own fruit and vegetable scraps (if your city doesn’t already have a program like this in place)
- Bounding Leaps:
- Try to make an entire meal or do an entire weekly grocery shop zero waste (it can be as simple as just planning ahead)
- Make your own shampoo, lotion, face wash, soap (or look for bulk versions)
- Live like Lauren Singer and try to fit a year’s worth of trash into one mason jar
Overall, my Zero Waste Weekend was very eye-opening. I learned that reducing waste in some areas is easy and in others it takes a bit more effort, planning, and flexibility; but over all it is 100% attainable! I challenge you to do one thing today to reduce your trash and get one step closer to being zero waste.