I’m convinced that most home remodeling projects begin innocently with moving a lamp or putting a picture frame on a different side table. Same goes for reducing the single-use plastic we all consume – little steps first, big changes later.
Here are 3 simple things you can do grocery shopping that will lessen your single-use plastic:
Produce section: Those little produce bags really sting. Market research indicates they’re used an average of eight minutes before heading into the trash. You can’t recycle them, and they serve few other uses. Instead of reaching up for plastic, reach down for some of those brown paper bags most stores still put under the display case. The cashiers don’t mind opening them to look inside, and you can put nearly anything you need in one (yes, I even put lettuce in them – just give it a shimmy). Or buy some reusable bags and leave them in the totes you bring in. I use these, but there’s tons of options.
Not everything has to go in a bag. Anyone who’s worked their way around the perimeter of the supermarket, from the bakery, to the meat counter to the deli section, knows it’s hard to order something without having it automatically plopped into a plastic bag. When you pick up the birthday cake, tell the bakers you’ll just carry out the box – no bag needed. When the butcher trims up that special cut, tell them it’s fine to wrap it in paper and hand it to you. And at the deli, just put all your items into your basket – they’ll end up bagged at checkout.
At checkout: Assuming you didn’t bring your own bags – decline the plastic ones in favor of paper. That plastic isn’t actually recyclable and most every market chain these days is buying FSC-certified paper bags, meaning they’ve been produced from responsibly grown and harvested trees that are replanted. The whole ‘save a tree’ mantra from years back is outdated and misleading. We can regrow that tree in 25 years; the plastic bag will linger for centuries.
And one last suggestion – start to notice everything going into your cart that comes in plastic. Try to see it for the first time with that lens. Almost everything you choose, in every aisle, is in some form of plastic – even things that come in paper boxes probably have plastic pouches inside.
The first step to fixing a problem is measuring it. Take your own visual measurement of the plastic you accept in your shopping, and then you’ll have the information you need to start replacing bad products with good ones. But like I said, the full home remodel takes time!