Tales From the Back of the Pack

Tales From the Back of the Pack

Monday, April 18, 2016

Earth Day Every Day 2 at the Grocery Store

In observance of Earth Day this week I wanted to write a daily post on habits I've adapted to be kinder to the Earth.

Going green is definitely a process and not something that happens overnight. My sister introduced me to a blog called www.zerowastehome.com a couple of years ago and I've been working toward becoming zero waste ever since.

One of the easiest ways I was able to reduce our Eco footprint and see immediate results--which was super rewarding and therefore motivating--was to change our shopping habits.
This was a typical last-minute stop on my way to work to pick up some food for the day. And after mowing through all this food, tossing away all the plastic clamshells and packaging into the recycle bin. (and, fyi, plastic is not recyclable. Plastic is only downcycled.) 

Now I shop for produce mostly at the farmer's market. I bring my own cloth bags--my mom made several for me with linen scraps from her sewing hoard--and fill them with whatever's in season. Even when I miss the farmer's market and have to shop at the regular grocery store, I still use my cloth bags. 
I also use cloth bags to purchase dry goods from the bulk bins at my Winco market. I'm starting to see more and more of these bulk bins pop up in every type of grocery store and I think its sooo awesome!! Looking forward to the day I won't have to go out of my way to shop only at Winco or at Whole Foods, etc.

We're lucky that the food available in bulk at Winco is stuff my kid likes. It's not organic or even remotely healthy, but I'm fighting one battle at a time. The Puff gets all her Fruit Loops and Cheetos directly from the bulk bins and she's happy. 
I purchase milk in glass bottles, from a weekly delivery service. Like in the 1940's I leave the empty bottles on my front step and the milk man brings me full bottles once a week. If I forget to schedule my weekly delivery, I can still purchase the milk from a couple of local places. Really, though, my kid isn't a huge milk drinker so I could totally go an entire week without any and she wouldn't care too much. Truthfully, I'd rather drink almond milk and I know how to make that myself, but I'm usually too lazy.
Meat, deli meats and cheese I purchase from the deli & meat counters using my tins and here's where it's a bit dicey because it requires other people to comply or acquiesce. If I get a counter person who is new and thinks that I'm crazy, I have to brace myself for an exchange that will make me flustered at best or feel like a total weirdo at worst. I've been accused of being undercover from the health department (that was hilarious). I've had people refuse to use my tins insisting it's a health code violation but I'll insist even more that it isn't a violation and since I've actually read the CA health code I tend to be more convincing. Knowledge is power, yo.
The pushback is more and more infrequent, thankfully. Store employees will start to remember you and not bat an eyelash at the tins. Usually I'll keep the old stickers on the tin lids and show the newbies that this is not my first rodeo ("they did it for me last time, see?" or "I get it like this all the time!") and it's smooth sailing from there. Sometimes I'll even get a verbal pat on the back from the store employee ("I wish everybody would bring their own!") for doing my part and that is absolutely THE BEST!
There's a few things that I make myself and have either come to enjoy the chore of it or don't remember what it was like before when I didn't make it all myself.

I make my own salad dressing, chocolate syrup,  mayonnaise, a bunch of other stuff I can't think of at the moment.

I make and keep a batch of cookie dough in my fridge at all times. We bake a couple of cookies at a time in the toaster oven for the Puff's school lunch or if she just needs a snack. I make homemade yogurt and granola.
Anything that I can't buy without packaging or don't want to make myself (marinara sauce & jam are a couple of examples) we make sure to purchase in glass jars that we reuse or can truly recycle. 

But that doesn't cover everything that we eat. Some of my biggest personal challenges with shopping green are: 
I love Girl Scout cookies, I was once a Girl Scout and how can I say no? I don't even refuse the kid who comes to my door selling candy I don't like. It is what it is. 

I also haven't found a great alternative to store-bought bread for the Puff. She isn't down with the fresh stuff from real bakeries.
I do use the old bread bags to keep my produce in, but I'd rather not have to deal with the bags at all. 
Crackers are another challenge for us. The Puff eats cheddar cheese squares and Ritz crackers for lunch every day (every day for years...that kid is so weird). I tried making crackers myself but the results were pretty awful. 
There's a few other things both the Puff and I consume that add to our landfill waste. I won't usually refuse a food gift from someone even when that gift comes wrapped in plastic. I also won't make the Puff have to say no to fruit roll-ups or treats BD buys for her. I feel she'll eventually choose to refuse on her own, once she truly understands the impacts of her choices.  

So, that's where we are at the moment. I would say we are about 88% of the way to being completely green with our food shopping. I'm not sure what I can do about the remaining items and would certainly welcome any suggestions!

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