Okay, you’ve gone through the previous post and you still really, really, need to buy this item new. Or it’s food, and the previous post doesn’t apply (Used food? Eww. And good luck returning that borrowed food). Luckily, there are still more steps you can take to minimize the impact your shopping has on waste.
Reuse. When you do go out and buy something, try to think of ways you can reuse or recycle the items when their life has come to an end. For example, clothes and sweatshirts you can’t wear, sell, or don’t want to donate can be used for a wide variety of crafts, such as rugs and t-shirt quilts. Even if the clothes are ripped and stained, you can cut around those parts or just use it as a rag (works best with t-shirts). And when you are buying packaged items, try to buy things that come in reusable or recyclable packages. Plastic, or even better glass, containers can be used to store anything. We use a Dawn bottle for shampoo, a body wash bottle for conditioner, and a cottage cheese container for our dishwasher detergent. We also use various containers (although mostly mason jars) to store small amounts of our bulk ingredients. Keep in mind that there are concerns about the safety of plastic bottles, especially if you are reusing them a lot. If there’s any chance there is BPA or phalates in the plastic, try not to buy it. If you have to, use the plastic for craft projects (just don’t let it get put in mouths) or recycle.
Recycle. If nothing else, try to buy things packaged in cardboard or recyclable plastic. Buy as little as possible that is packaged in plastic wrap and other unrecyclables. No Styrofoam or waxy cartons. Focus on cardboard and plastic or, ideally, glass bottles. Remember things tainted with food (like pizza boxes) can’t be recycled. Check with your city to make sure what you are buying is okay. Most importantly, buy products made from recycled materials. Recycling does nothing if no one buys the products from it.
Buy bulk. When you buy in large quantities, in theory you are using less packaging. But if the bulk you’re getting is just 20 juice boxes wrapped in plastic, you aren’t saving anything. When I’m talking bulk, I’m talking all of it in one large container. A gallon of juice that you can pour into cups instead of individual juice boxes. A 13.5 pound bag of baking soda instead of 13 and a half small 16oz boxes. You can pour a small about of the baking soda into a separate container if it’s easier. However, if the item is perishable, make sure you aren’t buying more than you need.
Note: bigger is not always better. If you are going to buy juice from concentrate, buy the cans that you mix with water in a reusable pitcher. The only difference is the water you add, so you may as well save the resource difference between a large bottle and small can. Plus, then you know where the water is coming from.
Bring your own. Bringing your own bag to the store has been around for a while. The problem? Remembering! Do your best to keep the bags in the car in the front seat, where you are more likely to see them. Make sure you have a separate bag for meats, just in case. If you forget, do your best to reuse and recycle the bags you get and get paper if possible. But bring your own doesn’t just apply to bags. If you store has bulk foods like nuts, candy, flour, or anything else (I see these a lot at Cub and co-ops), bring your own container to measure into. If you stop at the register, they can pre-weigh your container before you fill it, so you don’t have to use plastic bags. You can even bring your own containers for meat from the deli or newspaper bags for vegetables.
DON’T BUY BOTTLED! I do not like bottle beverages. At our State Fair this year, they had a display of how many plastic bottles get used in the state of Minnesota in 5 minutes and how many of those get recycled. I was disgusted by what they showed. We’re suppose to be a really green state, too. So please, don’t buy bottled products. It’s a waste of money and resources. If you must have purified water, buy a filter for your pitcher, sink, or reusable water bottle. Same goes for other beverages. Make your own ice tea. Make juice from concentrate. Buy a gallon of milk (if you can drink it in time). If you want a bottle because it travels easy, then pour these drinks into a reusable bottle or a thermos, which will keep the beverage at the right temperature. And just don’t buy pop. It’s bad for you.