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.
We all know that we could do a little more for our planet every day. However, right now it feels harder than ever to avoid the use of single-use plastics. Because of the current concerns regarding the spread of Covid-19 many who would like to be more sustainable or were already in the habit of reaching for reusable materials can no longer do so as easily. In order to support ourselves and our community, it’s perfectly understandable to be buying plastic-packaged food, using single-use cups, or getting takeout from local restaurants. But if we all can pick just one area to reduce our consumption of plastic during this difficult time we can come out of this crisis with better habits and a cleaner planet. This is why we are inviting all in our community to participate in Plastic Free July and pledge to reduce their plastic waste.
What is Plastic Free July?
Plastic Free July is a global movement that is meant to inspire people to do their part to reduce plastic waste. It encourages people to realize the role that they play in keeping their communities clean and the environment healthy.
So instead of trying to make a permanent lifestyle change, you commit to avoiding single-use plastics just for the month. You don’t even need to quit using all plastic, committing to no longer using just plastic bags or straws is enough and maybe can even show you how easy it is to adjust to more sustainable habits.
How do I get started?
Permanently going Zero Waste can feel daunting for many of us, especially once you realize just how much waste each of us is generating every day. That’s why Plastic Free July is all about making small, sustainable changes to your daily routine. If you’re not even sure what you could change in your routine you can take the Pesky Plastics quiz to find out!
Until we can bring our own coffee cups to our favorite cafes or actually dine in at our favorite restaurants instead of eating out of plastic takeout containers, we just have to get a little creative in order to show our planet some love. This can mean finding a way to commute that lowers your carbon footprint trying out a plant-based diet or simply eating more home-cooked meals.
So instead of trying to make a permanent lifestyle change, you just commit to avoiding single-use plastics for the month of July. The little changes that we each make to our daily routines have the power to add up to big results.
Eat more consciously
One of the most challenging areas to avoid plastic waste is in the foods we buy, or rather, wrapped around the foods that we buy. Almost everything we eat seems to either be shrink-wrapped or capped with some sort of plastic material. You don’t need to stress about only buying things that are plastic-free going forward, this is especially hard right now because of COVID, but you can just choose one type of food that you normally buy and find a plastic-free version of it. For example, frozen fruit often comes in plastic bags but here at the co-op, we carry an organic brand that comes in paper.
Another type of food that it is especially hard to find without plastic is meat, but there’s an easy workaround for this. You can walk up to the meat counter at the co-op and ask the butcher to wrap your meat in paper. Or you could even take it a step further and consume a plant-based diet, which could allow you to forego a large amount of packaging altogether. Plastic Free July is all about making changes that you feel you can maintain going forward so it’s whatever works for you.
Many of the products that we use to clean our homes would be easy to make ourselves, which is better for our wallets and the landfills. We have a post about making your own disinfectants, and there is a natural solution for just about anything you can think of out there on the internet.
Links with ideas:
Throughout the month of May, we celebrate Fair Trade products and the partnerships that produce them. In-store we will have signage for our staff’s favorite Fair Trade Certified items, and we will update this list throughout May with any new favorites that we find!
What is Fair Trade?
Fair Trade is both a philosophy and a business model. It keeps small farmers and artisans an active part of the marketplace by fairly compensating them for their work, and through various labeling systems allows consumers to shop in a way that aligns with their values.
Raises the incomes of small-scale farmers, farmworkers, and artisans
Equitably distributes the economic gains, opportunities, and risks associated with the production and sale of these goods
Supports democratically owned and controlled organizations
Promotes labor rights and the right of workers to organize
Promotes safe and sustainable farming methods and working conditions
“Matr Boomie makes such cute accessories that you can feel good about buying because you know that you are supporting a good cause. They pay the artisans that they work with very well and reinvest a portion of the profits back into their communities.”
Karla, Wellness and General Merchandise Manager
“I love the rich flavor of this tea, it has notes of bergamot just like a proper earl grey should!”
Derlina, Front-end Supervisor
“Dr. Bronner’s coconut oil is an amazing product because of how versatile it is! I use it in baking, to make my own toothpaste, and as a lotion during Spring and Summer to help keep mosquitoes away!”
Madison, Education and Outreach Coordinator
“Divine uses only Fair Trade Certified chocolate from farms owned by their farmers, so you can feel good about indulging in these bars. The white chocolate strawberry and milk chocolate toffee are my favorites.”
Matt, Bulk Department
“Coffee is what keeps me going and I love that I can support the farmers that produce it by buying from conscious companies such as Equal Exchange and Pachamama.”
Rocio, Operations and Facilities Manager
“A high-quality olive oil is great for entertaining or using in special meals, I like this one for its flavors of almond and spices. La Riojana is an Argentinian farmer-owned co-op that is the biggest exporter of Fair Trade wine in the world.”
Roberto, Front-end Supervisor
In celebration of Earth day we thought we would share some of our staff sustainability picks with you!
Ryan from our Deli department loves our selection of glass jars! They’re a great storage option that look pleasing in your pantry and help you buy in bulk. These jars in particular have a vacuum seal that keeps out bacteria.
Rheanna from our Produce team loves using beeswax wraps instead of traditional cling film. Beeswax wraps are washable and are a great way to keep foods fresh and covered. They’re also a great choice for carrying snacks! We carry a variety of wraps with eye catching prints in our store.
Madison from our Marketing team is a big fan of this Booda Butter deodorant that comes in a glass jar. This deodorant is made with pure, organic ingredients and the sustainable packaging that it comes in makes it a part of your self-care routine that you can feel great about!
Aster from our Deli team is a fan of the Stasher bags that we carry. These bags aren’t only great for storage but a perfect choice for marinades and sous vide cooking as well!
There are many things that we could all do in our homes to be a little more environmentally friendly. Ditching products that come in single-use plastic or contain harmful chemicals is a great first step. A total rehaul of your cleaning supplies and routine is not only overwhelming but unnecessary. After all, it would be wasteful to throw out functional cleaning supplies only to replace them with better versions. This guide is meant to help those who are interested in transitioning to more natural products and less wasteful solutions for taking care of their homes. We hope that you find some of these tips helpful!
There are a lot of simple swaps that many of us can make:
- Use what you have. It can be very tempting to buy new eco-friendly cleaning products. But if what you currently have is still functional, we urge you to use it until it no longer works in order to stem waste.
- Avoid single-use materials. Instead of buying paper towels, use reusable cleaning cloths. You might not even need to buy cloths as you likely have old clothes or towels lying around that you can cut up and use as rags instead of throwing out.
- Repurpose whatever you can think of. Instead of tossing out an old toothbrush, keep it for cleaning nooks and crannies.
Conventional cleaning products can contain a myriad of ingredients that are irritating to the skin, eyes, and throat. Unfortunately right now, irritating products such as bleach are the most reliable at keeping you safe from bacteria that can get you sick. It is important to be adequately sanitizing surfaces that things from outside your home have come in contact with to prevent the spread of disease. But for everyday cleaning in many parts of your home using such strong products is unnecessary. Gentler solutions are suitable for areas where there isn’t a concern about outside contaminants.
Below we have outlined two cleaning products that are two simple to assemble yourself and will hopefully bring extra joy to your cleaning routine!
Simple All-purpose Cleaning Spray
We promise that this cleaning spray will have you saying goodbye to the mists that you usually purchase to clean surfaces in your home. This recipe will keep your surfaces clear of toxic compounds and save you the guilt of buying single-use plastics.
- Distilled white vinegar
- The essential oil of your choice(optional- we love using lemon, lavender, or eucalyptus)
- Spray bottle(preferably glass, but if you have an empty plastic one lying around you can repurpose it for this spray)
- Fill a spray bottle halfway with water
- Fill the remaining half of the bottle with distilled white vinegar
- Add in about 20 drops of essential oil of your choice to give the solution a pleasing scent
- Shake well to combine ingredients
Instructions on how to use:
- Shake and spray on any surface of your choice!(You do not want to use this on granite or marble as vinegar can damage these surfaces)
Toilet Cleaning Fizzers
Unlike conventional toilet bowl cleaners, these fizzy toilet bowl cleaners are made with non-toxic ingredients and easy for you to assemble yourself. While these little fizzers are doing their thing in the bowl they are releasing their active ingredients, which work to neutralize odors, disinfect, and remove stains.
- ¾ cup baking soda
- ½ cup citric acid
- 25 drops essential oil of your choice(we love using lemon, orange, or eucalyptus)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons of water
- 1 orange or lemon zested (optional- will make these look more appealing and won’t clog your toilet*)
- You will need a silicone mold of some sort to press the mixture into to give these fizzers shape
*It’s a good idea to always zest fruit before juicing it even if you don’t need a zest for the recipe you are following. If you save zest in the freezer then you will always have it on hand when you do need it and you will waste fewer parts of the fruit!
- Combine citric acid, baking soda and orange/lemon zest in a large bowl, mixing them well.
- Add the oil you have chosen to the dry ingredients. Stir well to combine, adding more if you’d like a stronger scent.
- Add water a little bit at a time, mixing with your fingers until it holds together when squeezed but isn’t soaked. You want it to be just damp. Don’t add the water all at once, this will cause your mixture to fizz right away and make a mess.
- Press the mixture into the mold of your choice firmly*. Make sure to press out all the air and compact it together nicely. It might bubble up a bit – if this is the case, consider adding it back to the bowl and putting in more dry ingredients. If it’s too dry, add a bit more water to it.
- Place your mold into the freezer and let the toilet fizzers harden, this part only takes about two hours but you can leave them longer if you want to be sure that they’ve set. Store them in an airtight container such as a mason jar.
*If you do not have, or do not want to use, a mold you can keep this mixture as a powder in an airtight container and use it that way.
Instructions on how to use:
- Drop a fizzer into your toilet bowl and let sit for five minutes. Once enough time has passed scrub and flush the bowl.