I’ve come a long way in my sustainable journey and by no means am perfect at it. One quote which inspires me is from Anne-Marie Bonneau from Zero-Waste Chef.
With that thought in mind, this post aims to help you on that journey by showing you ways to shop more sustainably.
EAT MORE LOCALLY
I’ve mentioned this in my post on 8 Easy Actions to Combat Climate Change. The cost of transporting food from far away adds up if you think about it. The further afield the item came from, the more it affects the environment. Many avocados are grown and shipped over from South America for example. This hits me particularly hard as many of the foods that I grew up eating as part of my Chinese heritage are in this category. I’ve not stopped eating stuff from Asia, but I’ve learned to consume less of the stuff and where possible, use local ingredients to recreate as much of the flavours and textures as I can.
When shopping at the supermarket, you can check where the items are grown or manufactured and therefore make more mindful choices. A vegetable box scheme is also an excellent choice as all the produce is sourced locally where possible, with the furthest country being made from Europe. You can find your nearest vegetable box scheme in the UK by checking Soil Association’s Organic Food Finder.
BUY THINGS WITHOUT PLASTIC
Buy your produce loose if you can. Supermarkets are slowly catching on to the fact that not everything has to be covered in plastic, so it’s getting easier to do this.
If you buy dairy milk, try buying them in glass bottles! Creamline is local to Manchester and will deliver to your door or office!
Farmer’s markets, market stalls and wholesalers are also an excellent place to purchase your goods plastic free. I sometimes buy my fruit and vegetables from the stall outside All Saints Park on Oxford road. I’ve also asked if I can return any plastic punnets to him (the ones which stored berries I bought), and he is happy to take them back to reuse.
There is also a growing number of zero waste stores across the UK, where you can bring your own containers and fill up on various goods. The Zero Waster attempts to list zero waste stores in the UK.
From her list and my own knowledge, we have the following in Greater Manchester:
- McCall’s Organics – Located in Manchester city centre, 6-7 Church Street
McCall’s Organics occupies 2 units and then to the right of it is normal McCall’s. Only the Organics side supplies local and organic fruit and veg, as well as various zero waste goods including grains, nuts, herbs, spices, and refillable house goods like washing up liquid. They have created a helpful guide on what they supply and how to go about filling and weighing your goods.
- Want Not Waste – Located inside the University of Manchester’s Student Union, Oxford Road
Run by volunteers and open during term time, the shop opened in late 2018 and supplies some zero waste goods such as grains, nuts, spices and a few refillable house goods like washing up liquid. The shop also takes in various plastics to be recycled by TerraCycle (see next heading for more information). It also has a community fridge where people can drop off food that they no longer want (useful for students who are leaving). Although separate from the shop, it is also worth noting that the University of Manchester campus offers recycling of several items including light bulbs, printer cartridges, CDs and DVDs, shoes, used stamps, and electrical items.
- Eighth Day – Located on Oxford Road.
Offers refillable household goods but only if you use an existing branded bottle from Eco-Leaf, Dr Bronner’s or Faith in Nature.
- Village Greens – Located in Prestwich
- Unicorn Grocery – Located in Chorlton
- The Good Life – Located in Stockport
- A Small Good Thing – Located in Bolton
- Plentiful – Located in Ramsbottom
REUSE OR DONATE WHAT YOU ALREADY HAVE
Reuse what you already have or donate things that you don’t use anymore.
Bring your own bags when you are doing the shopping. Those “Bags for Life” offered by many supermarkets can be replaced by them for free if they break; simply take them back to the supermarket and they can recycle the old bag whilst giving you a new one.
Those plastic takeaway containers and glass jars? Reuse them to store items or dried goods from a zero waste store. Don’t need them? You can offer them to your local zero waste store to see if customers can use it instead. I sometimes take plastic containers when I know I’ll be visiting a food market, and most street food vendors are more than happy to use it if they can.
Always carry your own portable mug/cup for drinks as this not only saves on using their container, it might also save you money as many companies give you a discount if you do. There are many on the market including glass ones, as well as collapsible ones for portability. If you are visiting a coffee shop near where you work, why not bring your own mug?
Bird and Blend, a tea shop, offer a discount if you bring your own containers when purchasing their loose leaf teas.
Say no to plastic straws and carry your own eco-friendly alternative (steel, bamboo, glass) or just do without. I’ve also seen steel straws in a collapsible case for those preferring portability.
REDUCE AND SEPARATE FOOD WASTE
Wasted food is harmful to our environment, especially when it’s not separated from our normal waste as it creates methane, a greenhouse gas. Try to buy only what you can consume. If you know you won’t be able to consume something before it expires, you can donate it using the Olio app. There is also the Too Good To Go app, which allows you to purchase goods from restaurants at a reduced rate to avoid it going to waste.
The Want not Waste shop at the University of Manchester Student’s Union has a community fridge if you happen to be nearby.
RECYCLE YOUR PLASTICS
Recycle your plastic bottles at home. Give the bottles a rinse and take the lids off as these can’t be recycled. These lids can be recycled at your LUSH store if you bring it to them.
If you shop at Hotel Chocolat, you can take back the black trays and they will recycle them for you.
TerraCycle offers recycling for many different types of plastic, some at a cost and some are free. Free plastic recycling is usually offered when they are sponsored by a big brand, such as Acuvue for contact lens packaging and lenses, or Colgate for oral health goods. When this occurs, you can find public drop-off locations by choosing a product, then use their search functionality.
Many schools, churches, community and health centres offer drop-off boxes across the UK. The Want not Waste shop at the University of Manchester Student’s Union has many drop-off boxes.
If TerraCycle are still accepting applicants, you can also apply to set up a drop-off location to help supply your local community or become a private collector.
Examples of free recycling Terracycle offers include
- Soft lenses and blister packs (BONUS! You can usually find drop off boxes for these in fairly large Boots stores)
- Bread bags
- Baby food pouches
- Air fresheners and cleaning products
- Oral care products and packaging
- Plastic confectionary packaging
- Packaging for crisp, popcorn, pretzels, nuts, biscuits, crackers and cakes
- Beauty product packaging
- Pet food packaging
- Pringles tubes
- Pens, markers, correction fluid and highlighters
There are many items which aren’t sponsored, such as coffee bags and yoghurt tubs, which you can also buy collection boxes for, but these are costly at a price of £100+. You can try and make an eco-brick from these instead, or reduce your consumption of these for more environmentally friendly solutions.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Hope this post has given you food for thought. I notice I made reference to the Want not Waste shop a lot, but I assure you, I am not sponsored by them. If you know of any other corporations which take back plastic waste to be recycled, let me know in the comments below!