My initial zero waste shopping experiment ran for the month of February, and now I’m thinking over the month. How did it go? Would I do it again? Here’s what happened.
What we ate
I didn’t try very hard to plan our menu around zero waste foods; mostly I drew from my usual repertoire of meals. We ate roast chicken and vegetables; a variety of soups; taco rice bowls; spaghetti bolognese.
Eating zero waste foods would likely yield a pretty healthy, and adequately varied, diet. (This is with the options available to me in my area.) I suspect I could serve mostly zero-waste menu options without anyone noticing at first that anything had changed. But over time a few favourite dishes might be missed.
Within my chosen parameters, I didn’t find zero waste burdensome. I think the key was establishing a good system for what containers I needed, where they were kept, where they went when dirty, and how I would remember to bring them. Planning my shopping was also important. But like so many things, bringing and using bags and jars is a habit that gets easier with time.
I mention embarrassment as a topic for discussion because it’s a plausible emotion to feel. I’ve developed a thick skin for being a weirdo and, when I feel the cause to be just, it doesn’t bother me much. But going against the grain, particularly when it inconveniences busy store staff, was a little uncomfortable for me at times.
I couldn’t always use my own packaging, so in these cases I tried to choose more recyclable options: aluminium, glass and paper.
I bought pasta in a cardboard box instead of a plastic bag (but had to discard the little clear window); I found plain yogurt from a local company in a glass jar (which I plan to reuse); also bought ketchup in a glass bottle; and I didn’t worry too much about a couple of tin cans. These options might have been a little more expensive, but not substantially. It did mean that I had much less choice, which, as I’ve said before, is frustrating but makes things simpler as well.
We stayed on budget for the month of February. As I said before, this was my only benchmark. It seemed that some zero-waste options were more expensive, while others were cheaper, and most likely they balanced each other.
I found a few types of food repeatedly problematic in their packaging. I don’t mean individual-sized packets of gummy bears. I mean healthy foods. There may be ways to get around some of these, but for now I’ll just mention them briefly.
- Any type of dairy
- Larger pieces of meat (like whole chickens)
- Frozen foods like fruits and vegetables
Would I do it again?
It’s hard to gauge success exactly, but I kept my eye on our kitchen bin, which we empty once a week. I’m often itching for it to be emptied right at the week mark because it’s beginning to overflow. But at no time during my zero waste experiment did this happen. Now, not everything in there is food-related waste (Amazon orders are a big culprit), but I can only offer the anecdotal evidence that at the end of every week this month, the bin looked about half full.
I don’t like to make grand vows of total lifelong lifestyle changes, but for the time being, zero waste worked well for me and I’d like to pursue it further. I enjoyed it, felt the cause to be worthwhile, and it changed my mindset in some positive ways that I’ll discuss in a different post. But in short, although I spent a little more time on food shopping, it felt like a more grounded, simpler, creative experience.