I remember when I first heard about the effects of plastic on the environment. I was well into my thirties. Ugh. That’s another story for another time.
It was also the same day my sister-in-law shared with me about her no-waste journey. I had no clue what “no-waste” even meant. I had never heard of the term before. Her story was a seed, and gradually it began to grow and transform and weave its way into more parts of my life. Up until that point, concern for the environment had never before crossed my mind unless you count watching my dad sort the recycling every week as a kid.
Years later, I’m happy to say, I have taken significant steps towards eliminating single-use plastics in our family and finding creative ways to reduce our waste. Now, the question I carry with me is, “How can I, in tiny ways, come alongside Mother Earth and advocate for her restoration and continual flourishing for generations to come?”
In the beginning, I hoped there was something more I could do besides just make sure our boxes, plastic milk jugs, and cans went into the right colored bins. Side note: I’m sure you’ve heard by now, our recycling efforts aren’t doing much at all. Here’s an article in the Atlantic if you want to read more. Or summed up in one quote if you don’t have time to read it, “A reliance on recycling, she said, can draw attention away from prioritizing “reduce and reuse,” which do far more to lower emissions.”
In order to rely less on recycling and move towards habits of reducing and reusing, our family began buying (as much as we could) our household and personal products from local refilleries and co-ops.
I hope you hear me: we still have so far to go on this. But bringing along our own bags and jars to our weekly shopping excursion has been one of the most significant, simple, and fun ways we’ve been able to move towards an eco-friendlier way of life, even as a family of six.
It may sound daunting at first, but with a few minutes of reading, a little bit of instruction, and some creativity, I’m convinced you too can also adopt this routine into your daily rhythms.
So, today I’d like to offer you a few first steps to getting started!
- Save glass jars of all sizes. (Pickles, peanut butter, salsa, honey jars are normally great sizes.) You can also buy some mason jars or reusable cotton bags. I love the 16 and 32-ounce wide-mouth mason jars.
- Locate your nearest refilleries and no-waste shops! This is as easy as googling: “Find refillery in (enter your city name here)” Your welcome for that tip. Two of my favorite go-to local places are The Living Pantry and Community Food Co-Op.
- Get a thrifted basket or two, or a large, durable, reusable bag. Load your empty jars and off you go. Note: During 2020 and into 2021 many of the refilleries in town didn’t allow us to bring in our own containers, or they had to refill them for you. Thankfully, that has all changed and most local places are back to pre-COVID days.
- Make sure to weigh your jars first (this is called the tare weight) and mark it on the jar with a piece of tape or label of some sort.
- Let the fun-filling begin! Don’t forget to write the PLU (the price look-up number) on your label or a sticky note as you go. (See below for the list of my top regular refills)
- Don’t be embarrassed, be proud. It amazes me how much I still apologize to the cashier for buying so much in bulk and doing it all in my own containers. But guess what? They don’t care, at least not at refilleries and no-waste shops. Your small act is inspiring to people and it’s one simple way you can make sure to live more consciously and sustainably.
Okay, now onto our regular food-related and household refills.
- Peanut Butter (fresh, warm ground peanut butter at my local co-op, yes please. I just reuse the same glass peanut butter container over and over.)
- Cheese or sesame stick crackers. (I made this switch a few months ago and it eliminates all the boxed crackers I was buying for kids’ snacks and lunches!)
- Trail mix
- Banana chips
- All baking ingredients: flours of all sorts, baking soda, baking powder, arrowroot starch, chocolate chips, etc.
- All my spices
- Couscous (I always have a batch of couscous in the fridge, I add this to our daily salads)
- Dried lentils
- Brown sugar (hello, overnight oats for an easy before-school breakfast)
- Coconut sugar (for my hubby’s coffee and baking)
- Organic, gluten-free oats (overnight oats and I make my own muesli)
- Quinoa noodles (we try not to buy boxed mac and cheese or any other bagged noodles anymore)
- Nuts and Seeds: Cashews, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, hemp, chia, and flax seeds (I use these in muesli and on top of my cereal.)
- Maple and Agave Syrup
- Olive or Avocado Oil
- Balsamic Vinegar
- Shampoo and Conditioner
- Liquid Hand Soap
- Dishwashing Powder
- Laundry Detergent
I could go on and on about all the little changes we’ve made. They are just a drop in the ocean, BUT it’s a drop and I know my actions matter.
Tell me, what more would you like to know or learn about related to this topic?
Are you just starting out on your journey or have you been doing this for years already?
How else could I serve you in your sustainability journey?