So, if you’ve read the About Me page, you’ll see how I stumbled upon this thing called Zero Waste Living (Thanks Lauren.) Anywhoo, first time I read the article, I thought it was impossible and not do-able at all. I mean, how do you even start to live trash free? Then I started pondering about it some more, and realized she might actually be on to something. I was all eager to start. Reading through her blog, and many others I found online, I saw all the easy alternative recipes to toothpaste, body lotions, detergent, etc.
I got excited. I could do this! How hard can it be? I don’t use that much plastic anyway. I’m awesome like that, I thought. I buy organic and I care about the environment. I don’t eat meat or other animal products. Easy peasy!
Yeah, reality knocked me back down to Earht. I opened my fridge and counted 63 pieces of plastic. My fridge? How the hell did I let this happen? Without me even noticing?
I was more determined than ever to start on my Zero Waste Journey, and spend Friday night, Saturday and Sunday morning researching. I bought 2 x cloth bags at the Pick ‘n Pay check out. I’m ready!!
So Sunday afternoon I head off on a recon test spree to Food Lovers Market at Hillfox on the West Rand. I’ve got my two bags, I feel confident. I walk in, straight to the nearest fresh produce display, and… what now? I’ve got my 2 x shopping bags, yes, but I cant put everything loose in there? How do I get it to the counter? It has to be in a bag of some sorts to scale it anyway. What if I want nuts? Or beans? My boyfriend went to the flea market downstairs and I went to look for him, to tell him this mission is a failure; I didn’t plan well enough. I need smaller bags!! Many more. And some bottles. Which I have at home, but forgot to bring me.
On my way to find him, I pass the Home Stuff store, make a quick duck in, because they HAVE to have bottles. And I’m in luck, I found a few bottles of various sizes, and lo and behold! Fresh produce bags with drawstrings! Fancy ones, with cutesy pictures on them and a zip on the bum side for easy access. They are also designed to keep your greens, eh, greener… for longer.
This gave me some courage, but unfortunately I got side tracked at the counter and didn’t realize that the check out lady wrapped all of the bottles in bubble wrap. Note to self, be more attentive!
I also asked her not to give me a receipt, as I’m just gonna throw it away any, but I needed to display the receipt on the way out. Many stores do this. A nice tip a found online was to use the receipt to write out your next trip’s shopping list. But if you can avoid taking them in the first place, it’ll be less trash to throw out, and less clutter in your bag.
I also bought 2 shoe bags, you know, those for travelling? But they’re made of cloth,
so they’ll work just fine for buying beans, tomatoes or practically any fresh produce. They’re about the same size as the Onion and Potato Produce bags. And two normal dish cloths (pictured.) I figured it’s easy enough to turn them into home made produce bags?
Back to Fruit ‘n Veg I go, armed with the six smaller bags I bought, and 2 of the 7 bottles, just in case.The friendly guy at the door assured me that I can use my own containers, and everything will be weighed at check out. He mentioned that I can also use the plastic bags provided; I explained that I’m doing a project to see if I can avoid plastic altogether, and he thought that was really awesome. Too much plastic in the streets, he said.
Apart from the stuff pictured, I also bought tomato sauce and salad dressing, in glass bottles. Some peppers and green beans too. A few times I instinctively picked up stuff packaged in plastic. Force of habit. Spaghetti. (Note to self, try making it instead.) Also a tunnet of mushrooms, clingwrapped. I put it back. (Where does one buy unclingwrapped mushrooms???)
I was really excited about the Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar on tap! There were empty bottles on the bottom shelf, and a sign that said take a bottle and fill it up. It had that little plastic spout thingy at the top. Plastic everywhere, dammit! I asked the guy if we can use my own bottle instead. Of course it wasn’t a problem. And it work out cheaper. Unfortunately the Vinegar was finished.
Oh, they also have AN ENTIRE SHELF with spices and herbs and all manner of goodness, to buy in bulk! I’m taking smaller bottles with next time!! The only plastic-packaged thing I bought was a 500g Nature’s Choice Sea salt. (I felt guilty, but it was late, I wasn’t gonna find another store open at that time. I shall be better prepared next time. I promise. Please don’t judge me.)
Check-out itself was fascinating too. I don’t know why, but I started off apologizing to the guy behind the counter for bringing my own bags, bottles and making extra work for him, and very quickly albeit nervously explained my no-plastic-project. He was just as fascinated by it as the first guy, and mentioned that he never really thought about the impact plastic has. He even weighed my produce bags for me, and we wrote the grams down for future reference. He did, however, frown at the sea salt and it’s plastic packaging… We’ve agreed that I’ll keep him posted about my anti-plastic ways, and he’ll try being more conscientious about it too.
Overall Recon Outcome: Despite my initial lack of bags, bottles and confidence, the trip was a success.
It does take some planning, it is a bit daunting, especially when you’re self conscious about it (like I was.) I realized that I’ve been buying stuff without paying attention to it. No more, I tell you.
Can you remember your first zero-plastic shopping trip?