Reducing Single Use Plastic When Grocery Shopping in 9 Easy Steps!

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Our reliance on single use plastic is causing significant problems in our environment, especially when it comes to marine life. The good news is that there are a number of simple actions you can take in your own life in order to make a contribution towards mitigating this issue.

Single use plastics are exactly as they sound — plastic items which can only be used once before being thrown away or recycled. These include items such as plastic bags, plastic straws, plastic water or soda bottles and plastic food packaging.

Many plastic products are petroleum-based, meaning they come from non-renewable resources. Petroleum-based plastics are not biodegradable, which means they do not breakdown into natural substances. However, that does not mean they do not degrade in their own way. During this degradation process, petroleum-based plastics release harmful chemicals into the soil and air which then makes it way into our food and water supply. It has been shown that these toxins are related to issues with the human endocrine system.

One of the biggest culprits of single use plastic are grocery stores. During your next grocery shop, try some of these tips below in order to make your contribution towards limiting single use plastics.

1. Shop at no waste stores or farmers markets wherever possible

There are an increasing number of no waste stores popping up all over the place. These are stores which have a commitment to stocking only products with recyclable or no packaging. Another great place to check out is your local farmers market. Don’t forget to bring your containers (eg. for berries) or egg cartons into these places as they will reuse your containers to pack your groceries. While the no waste store and the farmers market might not have everything you need, they are great places to start before heading to the grocery store to buy whatever is left on the list.

2. Actively seek out products using recyclable packaging

A number of corporates are making commitments towards using sustainable materials for their packaging. Find out what your favourite brands are doing by visiting their website or contacting their headquarters. If they do not have a commitment, let them know you will be switching to a more sustainable brand — light a fire under them to make a commitment to creating a more sustainable future for our planet! You will be surprised at the power your voice has as a consumer.

3. Bring a reusable bag to carry your groceries

I know how difficult it is to remember to bring a green bag to the grocery store. You can often see me around my local shopping centre juggling 12 groceries in my arms because I’ve forgotten my green bag and don’t want to purchase a plastic bag. Make sure your car, your bicycle basket, your handbag, your gym bag — whatever! — is stocked with a couple of spare green bags for those impromptu trips to the supermarket.

4. Buy loose fruit and vegetable where possible

I am still trying to wrap my head around why fruit and vegetable need to be packaged on a styrofoam try with plastic wrap around them in order for people to buy them when we have the option of choosing our own fruit and vegetables loose from the grocery store! Wherever possible, skip buying pre-packaged fresh fruit and vegetables. When you get to choose your own fruit and vegetables, you can pick the best on offer and you can also purchase the amount you need, which means less food wastage for your household!

5. Bring a reusable bag for loose fruit and veg if necessary

If you do not want your loose fruit and vegetable rolling around in your shopping basket or trolley, skip grabbing a plastic bag and use containers or bags that you have brought yourself to keep your loose fruit and veg secure until you reach the counter.

6. Buy from bulk bins wherever possible

If you are looking to buy produce such as rice, flour or pasta, look no further than bulk bins! These bins allow you to fill your own containers with certain products and are often cheaper than their pre-packaged counterparts, which means not only are you saving the planet, but you are also saving your bank account!

7. Buy less frozen food

Frozen food is often packaged in plastic. Frozen food is incredibly convenient, so try freezing your own food! Find a day to make a bulk batch of something delicious and freeze meals for those nights that you just cannot be bothered to cook. You can also freeze your own veggies! If you are not the best chef, find some easy recipes online which take little to no skill to prepare. There’s no time like the present to learn to cook!

8. Use tap water — do not buy plastic water bottles

I am famous for carrying my water bottle with its own in-built filter EVERYWHERE I go. We are lucky that in many developed countries around the world, we can turn on a tap and have access to safe and clean drinking water. Skip the plastic water bottles as much as you possibly can! My filter water bottle cost me $15 and $10 every three months to change the filter, and it means I can fill up wherever I am — as long as there is a tap handy! This is far less expensive than purchasing plastic water bottles (which can be an insane rip-off!) and so much more environmentally friendly — especially when you drink as much water as I do!

9. Be flexible

You may not always need to buy the products you need to buy sustainably. The great thing about cooking is that you can always swap this for that! Get creative in the kitchen; you might even invent a new favourite recipe! Be prepared to be flexible in order to meet your own personal sustainability goals when it comes to reducing single use plastic during your grocery shop.

There are so many simple actions you can take in order to reduce your consumption of single use plastics at the grocery store. It may seem like only a small contribution to the environment on your part… but if all 7 billion people in the world take action on single use plastics, it will be your impact 7-billion-fold, which will create an incredible positive effect on our natural environment, especially on our marine life.

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