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.
Zero-Waste Kitchen: Towels, Napkins, and Rags
At the Davis Food Co-op, there are many designs of kitchen towels! Or buy some pretty fabric and make some yourself! Stick to 100% cotton or linen to ensure that they are commercially compostable once they’ve run their course.
Making your own Rags
- Old Cotton Shirts
- and/or Old kitchen towels
- Good scissors
- Needle or sewing machine and thread (optional)
Hold onto your old 100% cotton T-shirts and cut them into rags! Old kitchen towels that are stained also make great rags! Start by cutting off the sleeves and cutting out any seams. The best rags are 6-8 inch squares. Start by making the larger rags, and use the sleeves and odd spots to make small rags. Do not worry about making every rag a square, these are not for show and any shape will do! The small rags are great for small messes and for cast iron care!
Cut your kitchen towel into 2 or 4 rectangles, depending on how big you want them. it is nice to have a variety of sizes! Use your needle and thread or sewing machine to hem the edges. Fold ¼ inch of each side in and use a simple stitch to hold it in place. A zig-zag stitch will work the best to stop strings and runners from coming loose.
- Keep a separate bag for dirty rags. The rags are often covered in oil from a cast iron, dust from the bathroom, and various kitchen messes that you do not want staining your clothes! Once your stack is running low, it is time to wash them all including the bag!
- The great thing about using cotton, if you ever clean something that seems to gross to keep the rags, toss them in your city compost bin!
Why this Makes a Difference
More than 13 billion pounds of paper towels are used each year in the USA. At the Davis Food Co-op alone, 4,491 units (single rolls or multipacks) of paper towels were sold in 2019. Rags are a great way to limit or completely stop your need for paper towels!