So in November, I wrote a post focusing on easy ways to start reducing everyday single-use plastic after seeing the film ‘A Plastic Ocean’. I was beyond excited when Plastic Oceans shared the link on their Facebook page (I still am to be honest)!
Now on to Part 2 – taking it past the easy wins and up to the next level, particularly in an area close to my heart, or rather to my stomach: food. Rather than my own recommendations, this post is going to be a guided tour round some of my favourite parts of the internet; the people, posts and pages that have inspired me.
So first up, you’ve got your water bottle, reusable cup, canvas bags and all that jazz, but you’re still finding that grocery shopping seems to involve a whole load of unnecessary waste? Supermarkets are difficult places to avoid this waste, and it’s definitely worth looking to shop elsewhere.
If you’re lucky, you might live near somewhere where you can buy staple foods loose, often referred to as ‘bulk’ shopping. There are places that sell loose rice, beans, herbs, spices, tea and much more, where you can refill your own containers. This might seem a bit intimidating at first, so here are some great links which explain how to use bulk stores and ‘tare’ your own containers:
- Lindsay at Treading My Own Path explains what to do when you go to a refill shop in Local Zero Waste Living (+ How to Shop at Bulk Stores).
- Lauren at Trash is for Tossers shows How to Tare a Jar and Shop Waste Free.
So where can you find places like this?
- For a truly international list, visit this List of Packaging-Free Shops by Bepackt, or use Bea at Zero Waste Home’s app and website.
- If you’re in the UK, Kate at Plastic is Rubbish has a growing database on her list of Refill Stores. I’ve started putting together reviews of places in London, UK, which you can find under my Green Shopping tag.
Unfortunately, there aren’t always shops available that make it as easy as this. Luckily, there are still plenty of ways you can get a whole variety of foods in either plastic-free or no packaging, it just requires a little more inventiveness. Luckily, there are some lovely people around the internet who have done their research on this:
- Tammy at Gippsland Unwrapped in her great article Your Guide To Living Zero Waste Without Bulk Stores.
- Kathryn at Going Zero Waste has an array of inventive, interesting suggestions in her post Life without Bulk Options.
Let’s stop here for a second. If you’ve read through some of the above, you might be feeling a bit overwhelmed. These people have made some pretty giant life changes, and it may seem rather unobtainable. I thought so too when I started. Sometimes they still seem way further down the path than I am. But it can be as simple as popping down your local market or going via the greengrocers before you go to the supermarket for the rest. Start with what’s possible, before moving on to the improbable (or indeed, impossible).
The food itself
One of the things you’ll notice fairly early on is that the easiest food to buy without the plastic is also usually the healthy stuff. Microwave meals are unlikely to be found not sold in plastic. If you’re not much of a cook, this may seem a bit daunting. This is the part where if you’re serious about doing this, it is going to involve a bit of effort! However, that can be a good thing – learning to cook is fun, useful and probably better for you. You’ll feel much prouder about serving up your first packaging or plastic free curry/chilli/frittata/experiment than you’ll ever feel serving up a shop-bought pizza from the oven. It’s a great way to show your friends and family some love, and a great excuse for people to get together.
When I left home to go to university, I could just about serve up a microwaved baked potato. I didn’t know that it was possible to make shepherd’s pie – I figured it went through a magical process that meant it had to come frozen in a box. From small steps starting with a plateful of pasta and sauce, I eventually learned to make curries, dhals, tagines, soups, stews, all sorts. You just need practice, patience and to follow recipes until you know enough to start getting creative. Promise.
Some great sites to help you with your plastic-less ingredients are:
- Let’s start at the top, the wonderful BBC Good Food website. They know what they’re doing here: a huge range of recipes where you can search by diet (such as vegetarian or wheat-free), ingredient, course, difficulty and more. There’s also a ‘How To’ section, to teach you all the things you feel you should know but you don’t.
- One of my favourites, and a pun included! Amuse Your Bouche is full of amazing, interesting and easy to understand vegetarian recipes, with lovely photos so you know what you’re aiming for.
- Because no one can make a vegetable interesting quite like this man, Yotam Ottolenghi’s website is well worth a visit.
- For the seasoned (pun not intended) pros and more adventurous cooks: The Zero-Waste Chef. Anne Marie’s truly unique website is an amazing repository of information on how to prepare, cook and store completely free from waste. Here you can learn how to ferment, pickle and really learn how to wring every bit of use out of your foodstuffs.
A bit more inspiration
Finally for this post, a bit of a nosey into other people’s kitchens and what they get up to in them:
- Lindsay from Treading My Own Path has a full kitchen tour on her blog (and it’s rather lovely).
- Photographer Peter Menzel’s project ‘Hungry Planet: What the World Eats‘ is a photo series of families all over the world and their week’s food. It’s fascinating to see the differences in diets and packaging from country to country, and you can really see how different our tastes and lifestyles can be.
- Lauren from Trash is for Tossers shows why she is one of the ‘faces’ of zero waste in this Treehugger article.
So, happy shopping and happy eating! I hope you’ve enjoyed meeting and greeting some of the amazing people who have taken on the challenge of cooking and eating without plastic (and often without other packaging too). Get in touch – tell me what your favourite websites are, or where you’re finding easy wins or impossible hurdles.
See you soon!
Missed Part 1 of this post? Find it here…