Grocery Guide: Plastic-Free Grocery Shopping

Fruits in reusable produce bag on carpet

Changing your grocery store habits can help reduce a lot of plastic waste as there is a lot of plastic packaging in the grocery store. Food products come wrapped in plastic, plastic bags for produce are free flowing and plastic shopping bags are plentiful. But, these single-use plastic items are harmful to our environment. One trillion plastic grocery bags are used every year around the world. When those bags are disposed of they cause problems for our planet. Plastic packaging and other plastic items that don’t get properly recycled or can’t be recycled end up in landfills or dumped into our oceans. Out of all of the plastic we generate each year, only 9% is recycled. That means there are a lot of plastic bags and food packages floating around. We can all do our part to help eliminate single-use plastics, and the grocery store is a great place to start. Using reusable bags, shopping smart, ditching receipts and staying local are all simple ways to reduce waste while grocery shopping. 

Reusable Bags 

There are a few different types of reusable bags we recommend using for grocery shopping. A large reusable bag for all of your groceries, a reusable produce bag and smaller bags made from linen or muslin cloth for bulk snacks. 

1. Large Reusable Bags: 

Reusable grocery bags are great because they are stronger than typical plastic and paper grocery bags and they don’t generate any waste. We recommend using canvas bags, which are strong enough for groceries, can be easily washed and can be used as everyday bags for work or school. There are also great reusable grocery bags that fold up nicely so you can always keep one in your purse, backpack or briefcase. 

2. Produce Bags: 

Transparent plastic produce bags are almost always used just once and end up in landfills and oceans. You can opt for no bags for produce and just put your produce in your normal reusable bag, or you can choose to get reusable produce bags. Typically made from some type of cloth and formed in a mesh pattern, these are great alternatives for plastic produce bags. They are stronger to hold your produce and don’t generate waste. 

3. Bulk Snack Bags: 

Another way to eliminate single-use plastic bags is buy opting to buy bulk snacks. Buying snacks in bulk reduces plastic packaging already, but you can go even further by using a reusable jar or bag to get your bulk snacks. Cotton, linen or muslin cloth bags make great alternatives for plastic bags or containers when buying bulk items, but upcycled glass jars work great too! 

Shop Smart 

Orienting yourself to the outer edges of the grocery store can help you shop smart and break the habit of reaching for the plastic packaged items. Plastic-free produce and other products tend to be clustered on the perimeter of the grocery store. When you look through the dairy section, look for dairy products packaged in paper or glass instead of plastic. You can often find alternatives for yogurt, milk and butter if you take a second to look at your options. Buying bulk snacks can also help you cut down on plastic packaging, especially if you bring your own snack bags or jars. Shopping for loose produce and bulk snacks can also help you cut down on food waste. If you buy loose produce or snacks from the bulk section you can control portion sizes which can help you limit food waste. Buy only what you need and buy plastic-free! 

Ditch The Receipt

Receipts are a harmful source of waste that we should all avoid whenever possible. Receipts are printed on plastic coated paper. They are usually coated with BPA, which is harmful to us and the environment. Because of the BPA plastic coating, receipts cannot be recycled, meaning they end up in landfills and oceans with the rest of our plastic waste. BPA is a harmful chemical that you should avoid contact with. Exposure to high levels of BPA can lead to obesity, asthma, cancer, heart disease and oxidative stress, so it’s best to avoid. Ask to skip the printed receipt and have your receipt emailed or texted instead whenever possible.

Stay Local 

Buying local grocery items is the easiest way to stay plastic-free. Farmer’s markets typically don’t package any produce or other food products, so it is up to you to bring your own bags and packaging. You can also often find produce without fruit stickers from local farmer’s markets so you can avoid adding another small piece of waste. Produce and other items that are sold at farmer’s markets are typically transported with less packaging and from shorter distances. So, the produce you buy locally likely has a smaller carbon footprint. Transporting local produce emits less CO2 and uses less packaging, making local produce the ideal eco-friendly option. 

If you don’t have a farmer’s market nearby, not to worry. Companies like Imperfect Produce and Misfit Produce deliver fresh produce to your door. The produce they sell would otherwise be thrown out, so you can help reduce food waste and get plastic free produce. Are you willing to make some shopping changes?

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