A lot of the advice around reducing our use of plastic packaging seems to centre around shopping at bulk stores, but not everyone has easy access to them. Don’t let that put you off though, there are still definitely ways you can make a positive change. So, today I thought I would share some tips for reducing waste without bulk stores! I’d love to hear your tips and ideas as well.
Explore Small Businesses
Even without bulk stores in your neighbourhood you might be surprised to find how many options there are to buy packaging-free items. If you explore smaller businesses you may find you actually have lots of options to buy in bulk and reduce, or even eliminate packaging. Bakeries and delis are an excellent starting point, as are butchers and smaller fruit and vegetable shops. If you have shops specialising in foods from specific countries you may find they have bulk options as well – my local Turkish shop has a great dried fruit and nut section!
You might need to ask about bringing your own containers, but the chances of them saying no are hopefully pretty slim, and if they do, well, at least you tried!
Focus on Fresh Foods
If you’re starting on a journey to reduce your single use plastics then an excellent place to start is with fresh foods – with or without access to bulk stores. Simple switches like choosing loose carrots and putting them in your own reusable produce bag rather than buying pre-packed options are a great place to start. Even if the only place you can shop is a conventional supermarket then there should be lots of changes you can make, and you definitely don’t have to make them all at once.
One thing that has made a big difference for me is to properly meal plan – this means I can choose to buy a whole pumpkin rather than a segment which is wrapped in plastic because I have planned my meals around using it all.
Choose Non-Plastic Options
If you can’t find package-free options then don’t despair, just choose the next best thing. Look for items packed in glass or cardboard which are much easier to recycle – or in the case of glass reuse to store items you can buy package-free! Every item that you can find a plastic-free alternative to is a step in the right direction, so don’t let perfection stand in the way of you making changes.
Buy ‘Bulk’ Options
You can buy in ‘bulk’ without buying from actual bulk stores, and doing so will also help you reduce your waste. This just means choosing the largest option practicable for you, that won’t result in food waste. So, instead of buying pre-proportioned packets of dried fruit for kids lunchboxes, buy one big bag and split it up yourself. Choose the large tub of yoghurt and scoop out what you need each morning instead of lots of little tubs. You might not be able to eliminate packaging, or plastic, altogether but you will be creating a whole lot less of it. That’s an excellent change!
Try Online Alternatives
If you’re really struggling with reducing waste without bulk stores, see what you can find online instead. This might mean getting your fruit and veggies delivered through a co-op, or buying your toilet paper from somewhere like Who Gives A Crap. Lots of bulk stores have their own online store, so see if you can find something based in your city to try out. Fellow Melbourne folk, Ceres is an excellent place to start! Whilst it does mean some packaging for delivery these kinds of stores usually are pretty careful about what they use – for example Biome reuses boxes from items delivered to their store, and pack with cardboard not plastic.
Consider Making Your Own
Another excellent option for those items you really can’t find a better solution for is to try making it yourself! If you can buy the raw ingredients without packaging then whipping it up yourself could help eliminate the need for packaging altogether. Things like pasta sauces and pesto are great places to start, and you get to completely control what goes in them as well!