Wasteless Ways: Bring Your Own Container

You go to the store or the butcher, pick out your cut of meat or deli item, the assistant packages your goods in a bag or tray, attaches a label, then you buy it at the check out where it is packed in a plastic bag and then you go home.  At home you use the food and then immediately throw away the bag, tray and plastic bag – or use them once and then it all goes to landfill.  Apparently Western Australians are one of the largest producers of waste per person in the world! Not surprising given the scenario above, so what do we do about it?
That’s just how you do it, isn’t it?

The alternative is actually very simple – bring your own containers!

You can bring any clean food grade container you have from home to the store to get your goods.  I have taken tupperware, disposable plastic takeaway containers that I’ve reused until they died, glass or metal containers with good lids and wide mouth jars.  So long as it is clean, it can be used.
The steps:
  1. Take your container to the counter and hand it to the assistant asking for your item to go in the container
  2. The assistant will place your container on the scale and press TARE (this sets the scale to zero so that you only pay for the weight of your food item)
  3. The assistant will then fill your container, weigh your food item and print or note the price
  4. You can ask for the printed label to be attached to your container – they come off easy enough
  5. Then take it to the cashier as normal
When you get home the container of food is stored as normal but at the end you don’t have all the waste. Simple!
By far the scariest part of this is asking the assistant to put your item in the container the first time.  If you go to Swan Valley Market – deli or butcher,  Hills Seafood or JB Butcher (Glen Forrest) they will be happy to help – they have been doing this for Jeannie and I for some time now 🙂  You can blame us if you like – “Jeannie and Amanda of Wasteless Pantry told me to try this“… I’ve had plenty of people comment that it is a great idea to bring your own container, it is much easier to store in the freezer and fridge because it stacks nicely without getting stuck together, and often times I can serve deli items straight from the container which is a little time saver.
Yes you need to plan your trip, but given that that is such an important practice in reducing food wastage you are killing two birds with one stone.

So we challenge you – for just one purchase this week, take your own container and then post a picture on our Facebook page or leave us a comment about whether you would do it again.

amazing that

Wasteless Ways: Produce Bags

The simplest thing I have found to reduce my landfill contribution is to use Produce Bags.

Jeannie and I regularly get curious and positive comments about these bags whenever we do our shopping, and I’m starting to see more and more people getting on board.  These are reusable bags made of mesh or cloth which you take to the store to buy your food items that you might otherwise put in a disposable plastic bag. Everyone seems to love the idea!!

produce bags

I’ve used mine over and over for buying fruit and vegetables, bread rolls, nuts, snack foods and legumes from bulk dispensers like the ones at Wasteless Pantry.

As they are lightweight you don’t need to weigh them first, just pop your goods in and go. If you are using them at a store with a dedicated label machine just stick it on the bag – it is easy enough to remove later.  When you get home you can store your fruit and vegetables in the bag or empty into your usual crisper/containers.  It is easy enough to add them to your washing if they get dirty at all.

As well as being waste free, they are also a lot stronger than the disposable plastic so no more pears tearing their way out of the bag!  They hold a decent amount too – I’ve easily fit 1.5-2kg of fruit in an Onya one.

These bags compact down so much that there would be plenty of room in a handbag to have them with you all the time – then you won’t get caught out trying to remember them.

Onya have a range of bags available for purchase or you can easily make your own – I made mine from baby muslin wraps as it is a lightweight fabric.

What I really love the most about shopping with produce bags is that when I get home all I have bought is food.

I didn’t waste my time grabbing something that will end up in the bin as soon as I get home. My kids are far more excited about helping my fill a Produce Bag than one of those fiddly plastic ones too.

However, if you do get caught out at the store without them or without enough of them, which sometimes happens, then can I suggest you grab a paper mushroom bag or the paper potato bags on offer instead for whatever food you needed?  At least then it is something truly recyclable or compostable. We’ll talk all about the plastic recycling myth down the track….

Let us know if you think the idea is worth trying either on our Facebook page or comments below.

It all starts somewhere

Nurture-300x208Have you ever woken up one day and thought to yourself, “Wow, how did I get here? I love it!”
I have.
One day I woke up and sat down to a breakfast of homemade bread using flour from a local mill, yeast I brought package free, topped with WA butter and my own marmalade made from oranges grown just down the road that were offered for free.
And that was just breakfast.

I should explain why that was such a big deal to me…

For years I have wanted to be someone who lives sustainably, healthily and also got to enjoy life. I recycled most of the time, I brought and ate lots of vegetables, we have a rain water tank. But I was forever dreading taking out our overflowing smelly bin. We cooked using packet mixes and jars of sauces, lots of canned foods and frozen vegetables. I had a garden of sorts but didn’t really spend much time there. I drank diet soft drinks and went to the gym but struggled with my weight anyway. We used a lot of disposable stuff and our house was full of things that took up space but rarely got used. I was considering getting more storage. I assumed that the food I was eating was good for me, because that is what the advertising said. I assumed that you had to buy everything in plastic, because that’s all I saw on offer. I assumed that doing what everyone else was doing was the right thing, because if I recycled then that made up for all the other things that I did that weren’t such a good idea. I assumed that living this way would make me happy, otherwise why would everyone be doing it?

And then I saw something.

It was just a little thing really.

My cousin posted on Facebook that her family were going to eat local for a month.

Just a month.

I thought myself, that’s an interesting thing to do. And then I read a little on local eating. And I read a little more on how some of our food is produced. And I read a little more on what it takes to get my processed dinner from imported ingredients all the way to my plate. And I thought to myself, well that doesn’t seem quite right. So I started looking at the food I was eating and slowly started researching what options I had. I made small changes until those small changes seemed to gain their own momentum. I took the challenge for a month, enjoyed my food, got excited about gathering my groceries, and got healthier in the meantime because it is easier and cheaper to make your own from local than to try and find locally processed and packaged food.

Once you get started, it is hard to go back.

I was learning more and more about my food, out of curiosity and excitement at my finds, creations and the skills I was developing. And then I stumbled across Plastic Free July. Wow, that really dealt me a blow! Becoming aware of how disposable our lives have become was a shocker! To be honest, it was daunting and a bit depressing. I learnt things that whilst I don’t want to forget, I sometimes wished I didn’t know. Mainly though I was thinking “How the heck am I going to do anything about this one!” But I took the challenge, I didn’t go for everything, just the big four – disposable cups, water bottles, straws and bags. I remembered my reusable shopping bags, I said ‘No’ to straws, I took my own travel mug and reused my stainless steel water bottle. I watched documentaries, I read blogs and I found ‘Zero Waste Home’. I would encourage every single person to read this blog or book. In the beginning, I’ll admit I thought to myself “Is this chick for real!!” They said ‘No’ to so many things and her house is really, really, really sparse. I mean, seriously people, not even a photo frame. But you start getting to the crux of the story behind it and I could see myself finding a better way of doing things. What if I did stop with the disposables and just had reusables? What if I did stop buying things that I don’t really need? What if I only had one set of dinnerware? Did having more really make my life better?

And so I started living in a way that actually was authentic. Those things that I valued – sustainability, health and enjoyment of life – were now more possible. Less stuff meant easier cleaning, more space and less feeling overwhelmed in my own home. Reusable containers, produce bags and shopping bags meant that I could feel better about my contribution to the next generation, created less waste, saved time and got me supporting local and independent businesses. I get to live hands-on.

Fortunately, I have the support of friends and family who might not live this way themselves but are open to the idea. They try to use less disposables when I’m around, tell me how they cooked something from scratch or get excited about a new local option that would be right up my alley. Whether they want to believe it or not I’ve seen the seed of change in them too, but we all find our own path and pace with these things. Sometimes we get lucky and find someone who gets what we are on about almost completely – and that’s when ideas like opening Wasteless Pantry are born. My dear friend Jeannie read the ‘Zero Waste Home’ book I leant her and was struck by the idea of living waste free too. We tried using the bulk stores available, however local options that met the mark seem to be lacking. So here we are!

We are so looking forward opening the store and also being able to access local, healthy, sustainable package free food just like the rest of you!!!