Zero waste grocery shopping easier than it seems

Zero waste grocery shopping easier than it seems

Many Bengalureans are making a green switch by avoiding disposable waste in their daily lives

While packaging is helpful and often necessary to keep food fresh and uncontaminated, coming home with thin plastic produce bags that get thrown out as soon as fruit meets the fruit bowl is not doing any favours to the environment. 

Understanding this, many people are making the switch towards a zero waste life where they make the conscious choice of eliminating the amount of waste they
generate in their daily life. And the place to start is grocery shopping, they say.

The weekly trip generally ends with a heap of unnecessary packaging waste. You will find yourself presented with two options — throw it in the trash or reuse them.

Of course, the general rule is to collect plastic bags (in another plastic bag) and use them until it tears apart. However, even in that scenario, you are still generating waste.

What is zero waste?

It is a type of lifestyle that embraces minimalism. People who follow this avoid disposable items and resort to alternative reusable solutions to everyday life. 

Odette Katrak is the co-founder of Beautiful Bengaluru, an initiative that aims to make the city cleaner and greener. She made the switch to sustainable living about eight years ago and has perfected the art of zero waste shopping over the past six. She says that with a little planning you can eliminate packaging out of your life. “BYOC, that is bring your own container is the crux of zero waste shopping. Many people have started carrying their own bags to use at the checkout counter, but that is not enough,” she says. 
She says that the switch to brown paper bags that most stores have made is not really a move for the better. “The plastic bags could have been reused, and the recycled because it was thicker than 50 micron. Now, most shops expect you to put each produce in a different brown paper bag, and after which it is weighed, and marked. Since they are free, every person will use these indiscriminately only to discard it soon after,” she explains. 

Instead, she chooses to use nylon net reusable bags and reuable cloth bags to shop for her fruits, vegetables, pulses and cereals. “It also makes unpacking easier. I get home and just put them away in those bags itself. These bags also allow you to see what is inside, unlike paper bags where you have to tear the packet to see what is inside. This helps in reducing food wastage as well,” she says. Instead of buying eggs by the tray, using reusable trays and taking steel dabbas to collect your meat is a much more greener choice. 

Buy loose products whenever possible. “Anything you can wash, buy loose. Sugar is one of the few things I buy in a plastic bag,” says Odette. It is important to remember that the packaging is essentially branding, and does not really translate to anything more. Stores need to make it easier for green customers by stocking more quantities of products sans packaging and also by providing them with alternatives. Making reusable bags, produce bags and containers that can be used to pick up essential groceries, available is a small step that can go a long way.

Customers who have a hard time with making greener choices at a grocery stores can turn to their local street vendors. They offer produce that is locally sourced, which means the carbon footprint is low, packaging can be completely avoided, and you also get the chance of helping someone with their livelihood. 

Odette adds that it is the responsibility of consumers to educate the vendors. If customers were to carry their own bags, the vendors would stop giving out plastic bags, she says. 

While avoiding packaged goods when dealing with your food items may be easy, when it comes to other daily necessities it may not be as easy. However, a few stores are also working towards making the shift to greener alternatives. 

Green Mantra, a store in Marathahalli, for example, sells liquids such as ghee and oil in glass containers. Costumers can bring the jars back after use to refill it.

Making the switch to zero waste can often be inconvenient and expensive, says Melissa Alex, a working professional. Having grown up in a family that is environmentally conscious, as well as having attended a school with similar sensibilities, shaped her to be aware of the impact people have on the planet. However, it was when she moved to the city about two years ago that she decided to make the switch to a zero waste lifestyle. “I didn’t know how to cook, so I began ordering in everyday. After a while I could not ignore the amount of trash I was generating. So, I decided to get a cook, who now comes in once a week. On the other days, I cook. This alone helped reduce the amount of waste by 75 per cent,” she says. 

Melissa shops at a local grocery store that uses paper bags and groups vegetables. She also uses cloth bags to carry these items. She switched to menstrual cups, uses bamboo toothbrushes and relies on reusable makeup remover cloth over the past year. However, she still struggles when it comes to items such as masalas, or even toothpaste.

“I tried using these toothpaste tablets, but they are way too expensive, which is the case for many greener alternatives. This is one of the things I constantly struggle with,” she says. 

Zero waste shopping in Bengaluru

While the number of stores that are conducive to zero waste shopping are far and few, there are a few options that the city offers.

Bare Necessities on Infantry Road offers sustainable personal care, home care and lifestyle products. All their products come in packaging is that is either recyclable or reusable. 

Life Line’s Tender Chicken is a poultry store that has its factory in Chikmagalur. They transport the product from the factory to the store in a large insulated container. Once at the store, they package the product in containers that the customers bring, or give them the option to buy one, completely eliminating the use of disposable plastic. 

Eat Raja at Malleshwaram is a zero waste juice shop. They offer the juice in the shell or husk of the fruit it is made with, instead of relying on cups or straws. It also eliminates the use of water to clean the utensils, and also helps in recycling the solid waste. 

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