Stand in front of the produce section at just about any grocery store in America and you’ll see a rainbow of vibrant colors hiding behind a layer of plastic. How easy is it to become a conscious consumer? How easy is it to reduce waste when grocery shopping?
When I was shopping for holiday meals last year, I was looking for brussels sprouts. I knew the year before I had found them on the stalk but this time, all I was seeing was brussels sprouts in a mesh bag. Womp womp!
Mesh bags that hold brussels sprouts aren’t much good for anything else so once you’re done, they are headed for the trash.
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What Does it Mean to Be a Conscious Consumer
I’m pretty sure the term conscious consumer means different things to different people, just like anything in life. To me, simply put, it means give some thought to the purchases you make and what companies your money is supporting.
For this post, I’m talking about product packaging. A lot of plastic is recyclable but reducing the amount of waste is the better option.
Can I Live Waste Free?
The internet is full of stories of people claiming to be waste free for a year or all their waste for a year can fit in a mason jar. I’m sure you’ve see the pins on Pinterest.
If that’s truly possible, great for them. I don’t think I have to tell you that it’s probably not easily doable or even doable with a decent amount of effort. You’d have to drastically alter your lifestyle and if you’ve got kids, it’s pretty certain that that’s a monumental battle.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you shouldn’t strive to be waste free. I think everyone needs to be a little more mindful about the choices they make and while I’m not an expert, I think I do a pretty good job.
How Do You Become a Conscious Consumer
Most of our family budget (aside from things like that pesky mortgage and car payment and utilities) goes towards things you buy at the grocery store and places like Target, Walmart, etc. So single use products that come in packaging.
Next time you go to the grocery store, Target, Walmart, etc, plan to spend a bit more time than normal and look at all the choices you have. You can easily reduce waste while grocery shopping and here’s 11 ways to do it.
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Produce – is it loose or already packaged? Bring your reusable produce bags and choose loose items rather than already bagged items. Opt for the lettuce that’s not in a plastic clamshell or already bagged. I bought a bunch from an online store that’s no longer in business but they’re very similar to these.
Soup/Broth – is it in one of those foil lined cartons that can be super hard to find recycling facilities for? Can you find another brand in a steel can that can be recycled over and over? Click here to find out if there is a carton recycling facility in your area or to learn more.
Beans – this one is a toss up for me. I like to buy the dried beans in a plastic bag because they are cheaper and the bag can be recycled but the beans in a steel can are more convenient and the can can be recycled.
Snacks – chips, pretzels, crackers, cookies, etc for the most part, come with at least some packaging that’s not easily recycled so opt for the bigger bag and portion them out. Sure snack size bags are convenient but they are also more expensive and more wasteful. When we first started using LunchSkins pouches, they only had velcro. I’d opt for the zipper if I needed to buy some more.
Nuts – does your grocery store have bulk bins? Reusable bags are perfect for these as well and even if you don’t have reusable bags on you, the plastic bags that can be recycled are a better choice than the foil lined cardboard/tin cans. I really like flavored almonds but the resealable pouches aren’t easily recycled so when I can, I buy my almonds in bulk and season them at home, it’s super easy. I like this recipe and it was super easy to make.
Grains – if your store has bulk bins, you could choose to bring your own containers for things like flour, rice, oats, etc. I buy my oats in the bulk bin and transfer them to a jar when I get home. We’ll probably need a muslin type bag for things like flour and sugar.
Milk – milk in glass containers is awesome but few and far between, at least where I live. Plastic jugs are more easily recycled than the cartons. Non-dairy milk seems to mainly come in cartons so another option is to make your own milk. If you have a high powered blender like a Blendtec, making nut milks is super easy. My favorite is cashew milk.
We’ve had our Blendtec for 3 or 4 years now, I can’t remember. It came with a 7 year warranty which was great because when the blender started making a funny noise, the customer service dude was able to troubleshoot over the phone and they shipped me out a new jar thingy and it was back to working perfectly.
Beer – I’m a fan of micro-brews and many of those come in aluminum cans which are easily recycled but the plastic rings that keep them together can be a nightmare for marine life. Can you choose a beer with a more sustainable design like compostable or biodegradable holders?
Deli Meat and Cheese – opt for meat and cheese at the deli and you can bring your own reusable bag instead of having it put in a single use bag. I’ve been using these bags for a while now and always get compliments both at the deli and at the checkout.
Hand Soap – rather than buying soap in a plastic bottle with a hand pump, could you switch to foaming hand soap which is basically liquid soap mixed with water? I buy a big bottle of Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap and use foaming soap dispensers. It’s much cheaper and less wasteful. The current dispensers we have are probably 13 years old so I’m in the market for new ones.
Toilet Paper – sure plastic wrap is recyclable but what if you could switch to paper packaging? You won’t find this one at the grocery store but for a while now, we’ve been buying toilet paper from Who Gives a Crap. The toilet paper is packaged in paper and shipped to your house in a box. Both recyclable and my semi-picky husband hasn’t balked at the slightly less soft paper.
I’ll be the first to admit I don’t do all of these yet but I am slowly implementing changes that are sustainable. I’m a firm believer that if you try to make too many changes at once, your success at all of them is much harder.
Listen, I know there will be instances when you don’t have a choice or you’re in a pinch and need the convenience. Been there, done that but if you can choose the more eco-friendly option more often than not, isn’t that what really counts?
Do you do any or all of these things? Comment below and let me know or if you have some tips, I’d love to learn them.
Make it a green day!