I’ve lived in Seattle for almost a year now and I’ve made some pretty big changes on how I spend my money, especially groceries.
Last week, I intentionally didn’t buy groceries until I ran out of food so that I could go on a big grocery trip and share how I buy food. Here is a picture of the results:
Some people do zero-waste and I think that’s great, but the real problem is plastic. Plastic is extremely valuable and, frankly, under-valued by the general population.
Compared to most materials, which have some sort of natural, biodegradable process. Plastic is comparatively indestructible. It is the only material that doesn’t break down due to weather and is completely resistant to solvents (like stomach acid and biodiesel). Plastic can be broken in halves many times, but it doesn’t actually go away unless you burn it or recycle it. Both of these processes are costly and emit a lot of carbon. The best solution for petroleum is not to use it.
Conversely, in your car, there are a lot of synthetic parts that make your car last a lot longer. In the medical community plastic is indispensable. Bio-plastics can’t really replace synthetic plastics due to petro-plastic’s ability to remain inert and non-reactive to the natural world. I could go on about the benefits of petroleum, and I hope those words aren’t taken out of context. The point is that petroleum is extremely valuable and for some reason the average life cycle of plastic to consumer lasts about 14 minutes. Once in the landfill the plastic will sit there for millions of years. More likely though, that plastic will end up in waterways and the ocean and cause complete devastation to our environment.
I am doing my best to only support products and companies who either avoid plastic, use plastic in a correct way or, better yet, avoid petroleum altogether.
In Seattle, Pike’s Place Market has a lot of great food that doesn’t come in plastic packaging. It’s the only place where I can find berries and spaghetti not wrapped in plastic.
I’m also extremely lucky to live about one mile from Central Coop a grocery store that sells a lot of bulk items. I bring my jars and fill up on olive oil, honey, maple syrup, and tea all without plastic containers.
A great online retailer is Earth Hero. They sell a lot of great tools for reducing your waste. They also plant a tree and commit to being carbon neutral.
From Earth Hero I bought a Zero Waste box from Terracycle . For anything that is not easily recyclable nor compostable I can throw into the Zero Waste box.
I am extremely lucky to live where I live. Seattle has a composting program where they will take any food scraps and anything else labeled as compostable like paper and some bio-plastics. I send about a full bag per week of food scraps, which is the bulk of my waste. This waste gets turned into compost that local farmers can buy and turn into new crops. This is an example of sustainability that I wish more companies would turn to.
Most plastic doesn’t end up getting recycled. Even if they are clean and have the little recycle symbol on it the chances that plastic is actually recycled is extremely small. This is why I will only really buy plastics from companies that take back their plastic. Lush is a great example of a company that will take back their plastic. On top of that, Lush commits to using all organic ingredients that you can actually pronounce on top of fighting animal cruelty.
What is easily recyclable is paper. I don’t have much issue with taking paper and cardboard and throwing it in the recycling. The chances are high that paper will be re-used in another product. The key with paper is to look for the FSC symbol, which ensures that paper products are being grown sustainability.