Co-op Owner Waste Reduction Tips

Co-op Owner and Shopper Tips for Plastic Free July!

The availability of bulk products at the Coop determines how well I am able to keep plastics to a minimum. Before the covid-19 restrictions, I brought jars, metal bowls with lids, and homemade fabric bags to get all of my herbs, spices, vinegar, beans, grains, oats, flours, nuts, peanut butter, almond butter, tofu, produce (including salad greens and mushrooms), dish soap, shampoo, and more. As I patiently await the return of these items, there are a number of things I can still do in my effort to keep my plastic consumption down.

Many people may think it is time-consuming and even daunting to say no to plastic, but its really just like any habit change – a little challenging at first, but quick and easy once you get some experience.

  • Buy in glass: milk, ketchup, mustard, salsa, yogurt, olives, herbs, and spices, etc. This may mean branching out from favorite brands.
  • Purchase nut/oat milks in cartons, not plastic or tetrapaks. The empty cartons can go in the city compost (remove plastic spout first), and are good containers for messy or smelly compost items, possibly stored in your freezer until garbage day.
  • Make your own iced tea.
  • If you drink seltzer water, consider investing in a Soda Stream.
  • Make your own yogurt – easy and kind of magical
  • Put those fruits and vegetables loose right in your cart. The clerks at the Coop are very respectful of your produce, and you’re going to wash it before eating anyway.
  • If you must put produce in a bag (beans, mushrooms, etc.) use a paper or waxed bag. If the bag is not in good enough shape to reuse afterward, you can put it in your compost bin.
  • Store leftovers in jars. A couple of corn cobs fit well in a half-gallon mason jar, which can be stored on its side in the refrigerator.
  • Use bar soap, unwrapped, or wrapped in paper that you can recycle or compost.
  • Consider toothpaste sold in aluminum tubes.
  • Get dish and laundry detergents in cardboard boxes that can be recycled.
  • To treat stains on clothing, consider a bar of Fels Naptha, or other stain treatment products available in bar form, packaged in paper.
  • If you didn’t bring your shopping bags, put everything back in the cart and unload it into your trunk, where hopefully you have your bags and can use those, but if not, tough it out and deal with all of the items when you get home. 
  • If you order take-out food from a restaurant, tell them you do not want utensils, napkins, packets of soy sauce, etc.
  • At the Farmer’s Market, bring your own bags and juggle the produce into it, you don’t need a plastic bag for that one minute from the scale into your bag. You can also bring your plastic clamshells to reuse.
  • Do you really need a plastic liner in your trash can? If you’re composting the wet food waste, probably not. Use the inevitable pouches so many foods come in to throw the occasional gross stuff out.

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Buying in Bulk

Reduce food waste and unnecessary packaging while saving bucks!

Why Buy Bulk?

Bulk buying is a great option for reducing waste and saving money.

When buying in bulk you also have more flexibility in the amounts that you purchase, this way you can get exactly what you need and avoid getting excess. 

For example if a recipe calls for an ingredient that you know you won’t be using again anytime soon you can buy a small amount of that item in bulk as opposed to buying the typical packaged amount. 

This way your ingredients will always be fresher too because you are buying as you need.

Alternatively bulk buying can be used to buy large amounts of an item to store at home for later use. This is a great option for dried goods like beans and grains because they store well and are much more affordable when purchased in bulk.

Batch Cooking:

Whether you have a family to feed or are living with just one or two people, batch cooking is for you!

Batch cooking helps to make cooking less of a chore while also keeping your health on track by having home cooked meals prepared and ready to go. 

When batch cooking you want to double or even triple your recipes in order to have leftovers to put in the fridge or freezer. Instead of cooking every night you can batch cook once or twice a week.

For example, you can cook up a big batch of quinoa and then use it in stir-frys, salads, soups, and grain bowls.

It’s important to keep in mind all food groups when batch cooking! Make sure to have a balance of protein, grains, fruits and veggies in every meal for optimum health.

How to Meal Prep:

Batch cooking and meal prepping go hand in hand.

Once you’ve batch cooked ingredients you can then come up with different recipes to use them in and prepare meals ahead of time.

Meal prepping is an investment that takes time while you’re doing it, but pays off immensely in convenience when you can grab a healthy home cooked meal to-go!

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Why Glass Jars Make Going Plastic-Free Easy

(7/12/20: Unfortunately the Davis Food Co-op is not allowing outside containers such as jars right now because of the Covid-19 pandemic. This page will be updated once the situation has changed and outside containers are allowed in our store once more.)

There is a truth about going plastic-free that none can deny, which is that it takes a certain level of preparation. If you want to avoid reaching for plastic bags, cutlery, or straws out of convenience then you need to have brought your own sustainable version along with you or be willing to go without. And going without isn’t always an option. 

But what one quickly realizes is that toting around their own sustainable silverware, to-go ware, and a stash of reusable bags takes up a fair bit of space. This is why it is important to find ways to optimize your strategy for going plastic-free to make it feel as easy for you as possible. That’s where glass jars come in.

Many people find when going zero-waste that glass jars are the swiss army knives of storage whether it’s for dry goods in your pantry or taking your lunch on the go. If you take your coffee and lunch in a couple of jars you can rinse them out and hit the bulk section of the grocery store.

Perfect for taking coffee or lunch on the go

Of course, there are many amazing options for this purpose out there already. From stainless steel tiffins to stasher bags to candy-colored Klean Kanteens, we are certainly living in an age where eco-friendly to-go ware is abundant. So why choose to use a glass container? Because it is extremely cheap and can suit just about any purpose you can think of.

As was stated above a good rinse is all that is necessary to transition your jar from your lunch container to your coffee cup to your shopping vessel. This means that you have less specialized items that you need to buy to go plastic-free and you end up carrying around less stuff.

If you haven’t made a rainbow salad in a jar, pasta salad in a jar, overnight oats, or chia seed pudding before we couldn’t recommend it more. The end result is fewer dishes to wash and a photo-worthy meal.

Great for grocery shopping

A mason jar is typically the perfect companion to shopping in the Bulk section of the grocery store. While the Co-op is not currently allowing outside containers in the store yet, now is the perfect time to be comping up with new strategies for sustainability once the current crisis is over. Once we have made sure that the health of our community has been protected we need to make sure to safeguard the health of our planet as well. And shopping in the Bulk department isn’t just good for the planet, it’s good for your wallet. By skipping the packaging you also avoid price markups and can buy the exact quantity of an item that you need without any going to waste.

When shopping in Bulk you’ll want to bring as many jars with you as you can carry. At the Davis Food Co-op, the Bulk section is full of amazing options for grains, beans, nuts, and even candy. You’re sure to find something you didn’t expect that you’ll want to try!

All you need to do to use your jars in Bulk is to write the tare weight, which can be determined with a scale located in Bulk, and the product PLU. There is masking tape for this purpose available in the Bulk Department. They’ll know what to do with all of the numbers at the checkout.

If you’re a pro at bringing your jar and know what your staple items are you can always put the tare and PLU on your jars with a label maker or write them on the lid with a sharpie to streamline the process.

Clear Kitchen Organization

If you use your mason jar to stock up on your favorite treats or staple pantry items at the store, unloading your items is a breeze. No need to open boxes and tear through layer after layer of plastic packaging, all you do once you get home is put your items away in your cupboards. But even if weren’t able to shop in bulk on your last trip to the store your glass jars can still come in handy in your pantry.

Decanting your grocery items into glass jars not only removes the visual clutter of all the packaging but also allows you to better visually assess what you have stocked. Most importantly though, decanting helps you extend the shelf-life of the products you have purchased.

Does this mean I need to go out and buy a bunch of mason jars?

Not at all! There are so many products that are packaging in glass jars you are likely to already be buying that it is likely unnecessary that you’d need to go out of your way to buy jars themselves. From tomato sauce to yogurt or even ice cream, there are many products that are sold in glass jars that would be convenient for you to wash and reuse. If you decide that you’re committed to the #jarlife then by all means buy some for yourself, just don’t forget that you can still find them in great condition secondhand! We also sell many different varieties of glass jars here at the Co-op to suit whatever needs you might have.

We hope that you found these tips helpful, and if you already are aware of the wonder of glass jars then please share this article with someone who needs some inspiration to reduce their plastic use! Share your jar meals and hacks with us on Facebook or Instagram using the hashtag #dfcplasticfree.

Written by Rachel Heleva, Marketing Specialist

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