Monday, April 20, 2015

Reduce, Reuse & Recycle - Easy Ways to Reduce Waste While Shopping at the Co-op

by Maria Noël Groves, Clinical Herbalist & Co-op Wellness Educator

Imagine doing your shopping, bringing groceries home, and eating them without throwing a single thing in the trash can. While it's difficult to be 100% perfect, in honor of Earth Day, here are some easy ways to reduce your grocery waste:

Refill Your Own Containers in Bulk. Buying items from the bulk aisle automatically means less waste. However, you can improve your carbon footprint by bringing your own containers in to fill rather than using a new plastic bag or container each time. Wide-mouth mason jars work particularly well and are also great for storing items in your pantry, but any clean container will do. Try masking tape to label the jar - it stays on well and then comes off easily when you want it to. You'll need to at least put the PLU number from the bin and get the "tare" (weight of the empty container) at the registers so that the cashier can properly ring your item.

A wide range of products are available in bulk: 
  • whole grains
  • flour, sugar & baking supplies
  • beans, lentils & peas
  • coffee (whole & grind-your-own)
  • dried herbs & spices
  • olive oil
  • maple syrup
  • honey
  • granola
  • nuts & seeds
  • candy, dried fruit & snacks (even animal crackers!)
  • kombucha
  • olives
  • don't forget that you can also use the Mediterranean, Salad, and Hot bars for making stir fries and other dishes with pre-prepped items

Buy Local Dairy with a Bottle Deposit. Some of our dairy farmers provide milk, keifer, and cream in glass containers. You pay a bottle deposit up front, and when you bring the clean container back, the cashier will refund you. Look for items from Contoocook Creamery and Brookford Farm, both produced just outside Concord.

Re-use Produce Bags. Whether you bring lightweight cloth, Ziplock, or re-use plastic bags, you can easily reduce your waste. Or buy items lose and transfer them into storage containers when you get home. Be sure to wash them regularly.

Bring Your Own Grocery Bags. Bring your own canvas (or any type of) bag to bring your groceries home.

Shop Fresh. Eating from the perimeter of the store, particularly our produce and bulk aisles, will automatically generate less waste... and is generally healthier for you, too!

Drink Filtered Tap Water in a clean, re-usable container (preferably glass or quality stainless steel). You can buy your containers, but I like to specifically purchase drinks in nice glass bottles that I can re-use. For more on a cheaper, greener way to drink water, click here.

Plan Your Meals. This helps avoid food waste. Click here for specific tips on how to use up foods that are about to go bad and re-purpose things like citrus rinds and potato peels.

Compost. Toss corn husks, peach pits, apple cores, kale stems, teabags, outdated leftovers, egg shells, coffee grounds, stale bread and the like in the compost bin. Even a lazy compost pile will eventually turn into great soil, and urban composters can try composting with worms. (Don't compost meat, bones, excess grease, eggs, or dairy products, though.)

Did You Know? The Co-op saves compostable waste from our kitchen and produce department for local farmers. Our leftover fry grease goes to another local farmer to be turned into biodiesel.

BONUS: By eating more fresh foods and storing them in glass or cloth, you'll significantly reduce your blood levels of harmful BPA and other problematic plastic compounds within just a few days! Click here to learn more about the study.

What's YOUR favorite way to reduce waste when you shop? Let us know in the "Comments" section below!