How to Use Less Plastic at the Grocery Store
A single trip to the grocery store can result in mounds of harmful plastic. Many of us are growing aware of the devastating consequences plastic pollution has on the environment. It’s clear that not only reducing, but working to eliminate our reliance on plastic is crucial for the health of our planet. The good news is that we can start working toward a plastic-free future simply by making different choices in our everyday lives.
Keep reading to learn five ways you can use less plastic at the grocery store, with tips you can begin implementing today.
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5 Ways to Use Less Plastic at the Grocery Store
While we don’t directly control what goes into the packaging of the products we need, there’s plenty we can do to reduce the amount of plastic that moves through our households. The everyday choices we make matter. When we consciously support eco-friendly brands, we help create a new standard for other players in the marketplace, and we encourage our peers to do the same.
Here are five ways to use less plastic at the grocery store.
1. Bring Reusable Grocery Bags
Single-use plastics like straws, plastic utensils and shopping bags are some of the most harmful forms of plastic threatening our environment today. This category of pollution refers to plastics that are often used for mere seconds or minutes before getting thrown out. While many states are introducing plastic-bag bans, shoppers can get a head start on giving our planet a helping hand.
To instantly reduce the amount of plastic you bring home from the store, say “no thanks” to plastic grocery bags and bring your own reusable bags instead.
We’ll note here that the reusable bags sold in many grocery stores are often made of polyester — which is a type of plastic — or recycled materials that include plastics. While recycling plastic helps extend its use, when these bags shed fibers or eventually get thrown out, the harmful plastic cycle continues. For a plastic-free alternative, consider investing in reusable cotton or hemp grocery bags instead.
Pro Tip: Always keep a few extra reusable grocery bags on hand, such as in your car, for impromptu shopping trips. If you forget your reusable shopping bags, you can always ask for paper bags instead of plastic. If you’re only purchasing a few items, consider whether you can simply carry them out.
2. Buy Plastic-Free Produce
A great opportunity to reduce plastic use awaits shoppers in the produce aisle. Before you instinctively reach for a plastic produce bag, think critically about whether you really need to bag those two avocados, or if they’ll be just fine riding free-range.
For larger amounts of produce that do need to get bagged — or when it comes to dripping wet produce — shoppers can invest in reusable net or mesh produce bags.
Pro Tip: Always opt for “naked” produce, rather than pre-packaged options, as this typically involves plastic. Farmers markets offer a great alternative to shopping for produce in store if plastic packaging seems unavoidable.
3. Opt for Plastic-Free Containers
Everyday products like condiments, teas, cleaning solutions and personal care products, including shampoo, conditioner, soap and razors, come in an array of packaging materials. Whenever possible, switch to products packaged in or made with recyclable, plastic-free materials, like glass or paper.
To reduce plastic use, consider switching to products like these:
– Bamboo toothbrushes
– Reusable sandwich bags
– Bar soap instead of bottled soap
– Yogurt, juice, milk or dairy-free alternatives and condiments in glass containers
– Wooden/bamboo cooking utensils
– Metal or wooden snack bag clips
Pro Tip: Bring your own glass or otherwise reusable containers to bulk shops or grocery stores with bulk sections (Whole Foods, Wegmans, Wincos, etc.) to eliminate plastic from your grocery trip.
For more sustainable lifestyle ideas, check out these 10 easy eco-friendly swaps.
4. Support Eco-Conscious Brands
A simple way to make your grocery shopping “greener” is to research brands up front to identify eco-friendly product options. Going green and reducing harm goes beyond packaging — brands with an earth-friendly mission and work culture are more likely to take a holistic approach along the entire supply chain, bringing sustainability full circle.
Shoppers will want to watch out for “greenwashing,” a term describing brands that market their products as being more sustainable than they really are.
Pro Tip: Check out this primer on how to spot greenwashing to help you identify authentic eco-friendly brands.
5. Make Sustainable Lifestyle Choices
From deciding how and when to replace home appliances to creating a meal plan for the week, building a sustainable lifestyle can leave consumers with many questions. For instance, is it better to upgrade your HVAC unit to a more energy-efficient model or to get more mileage out of your existing unit before disposing of it?
When it comes to choosing sustainable products, it’s important to consider the following:
– How much energy went into producing a product?
– How long will it last?
– Can it be recycled?
– Does it come wrapped in excess, harmful packaging?
– What materials are used?
By thinking more critically about everyday purchases, like those we make at the grocery store, we can vote with our wallets and choose brands working toward a cleaner future.
Pro Tip: Consider how each category of goods in your home utilizes plastic (kitchen utensils, cleaning products, personal hygiene products) and identify eco-friendly alternatives you can purchase when it’s time to replace them. Here’s a guide on sustainable home goods for more tips and inspiration.
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100% of our profits go toward removing plastic from our oceans. With every beach towel purchased, the equivalent of 75 plastic bottles is taken out of the water. Our expertly woven beach and bath towels are plastic-free, highly absorbent and anti-microbial.
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