For those of you who regularly read my blog, you know that I currently live in a very conservative state. As pretty as it is, Alabama is usually one of the last states to do anything progressive because our local officials stick their heads in the sand anytime they hear the word “change”. This, unfortunately, includes legislature that benefit us as both vegans people interested in living a zero waste lifestyle. I know there are many of you out there that also live in areas that make zero waste living difficult. You often find yourself surrounded by Dollar Generals that pop up as quickly as a Starbucks. It’s frustrating, I know. Luckily, I am here to help by offering you some great tips on how you can purchase everything you need while still helping the environment.
- Make your own cloth shopping bags.
It’s surprising how easy it is to make your own shopping bags. Simply grab an old T-shirt or some extra fabric you have lying around. The best part about it is that you don’t even need a sewing machine. I hand sewed my cloth bags, which makes them extra special to me. There are tons of how tos online that can show you how to sew cloth bags either with or without a sewing machine. If, however, you are not the DIY type you can always order some online and request limited, recyclable packaging.
2. Shop at local farmer’s markets.
Shopping at a local farmer’s market is one of the best ways to lower your carbon footprint. This is because the produce does not have to be airlifted or shipped in from another area. This will also result in the produce being cheaper and fresher. Shopping locally allows you to help local businesses and build a relationship with your community. Just grab your bags and head to the nearest farmer’s market. If shopping there leaves you feeling inspired and you become interested in starting your own garden, ask them for tips. I’m sure they would be more than happy to help.
3. Buy jars for bulk items.
I own at least 12 mason jars for this exact purpose. You can buy mason jars in bulk from any department store or grab whatever jars you have lying around. Bring your jars to the front desk and ask the cashier to weigh them. This will ensure that you aren’t charged for the tare, or weight of the container. Next, write the tare number on the top of the lid with a permanent marker. Then fill these babies until your heart’s content, but be sure to write the name of the bulk item on the side of the jar so you don’t forget. I cannot tell you how many times I have mistaken tapioca starch for vital wheat gluten. Doing this step will save you both time and money! This type of storage is are ideal for items like flour, oats, beans, and nuts. You can also use them to pickle vegetables. The options of endless.
4. Make your own milk alternative instead of buying one.
Put those mason jars you just filled to work by creating one of your favorite “milks” instead of purchasing an overpriced carton of it. There are tons of recipes online for anything from almond milk to oat milk. This will save you so much money in the long run by limiting your trips to the grocery store. It will also get you close to your zero waste goal because you won’t be stuck with an empty carton at the end of it all.
5. Talk to local grocery stores about including more bulk options.
In my hometown the only place you can buy items like nutritional yeast flakes is Whole Foods. Unfortunately, this item is in high demand and is often sold out. Use this as an opportunity to contact the management department in some of your favorite grocery stores. If you inform them that there is a growing demand for bulk items that are in short supply I am sure they will see dollar signs. You can also shop online for options on Walmart’s website. If the item is not available in store they will ship it and you can pick it up there. It is as easy as a few clicks. Be sure to tell them that you would prefer your items to be shipped in limited, recyclable packaging.