sustainability at the store

womans arm with rose tattoo holding a stack of reusable and sustainable produce bags

The grocery store is a hot-spot for waste. Plastic bags, plastic packaging, plastic everywhere. It’s hard to avoid when shopping the shelves finding food for your kitchen. But! There are a few simple, cost-effective ways you can plan ahead to make your trip to the store as waste-less as possible.

the produce section

There are many solutions here. First, source your own reusable produce bags. I’m lucky to have an amazing seamstress as my mother – she made these for me with cheap scrap material she had lying around (and when she gave them to me, she joked that she chopped up my wedding veil). I have a few different sizes, but there are so many similar products available and they’re not going to break the bank. Check out these ($13 for 5), these ($17 for 6), or if you want to be trendy, these ($17 for 2). Whichever ones you find, it’ll be useful to have them somewhat transparent so you can read the PLU codes.

lots of produce like red and green apples grapefruit sweet potatoes and green and red bell peppers shown in reusable and sustainable produce bags on top of a canvas bag with deer antlers

Make a pact with me: no more plastic produce bags. If you forget to bring your reusable ones to store with you, just go without – that works perfectly fine too. You may have to buy less at a time, but it’s worth the one less plastic bag out there. (Especially if everyone adopted that mentality. That’s hundreds of thousands fewer plastic bags.)

If you’re worried about your food coming into contact with whatever’s on the shopping cart, invest ($4) in a good veggie/fruit cleaning brush like this one. I love it because the bristles can clean firm produce like potatoes while also being gentle enough on fruits.

on the shelves

I know it sounds small, but try to buy anything that comes in plastic packaging in bulk to safe waste in the long run. Frozen fruit or veggies, toilet paper, peanut butter, dog food, yogurt, etc. and avoid purchasing products that come with excessive packaging in general. It’ll save you money and extra trips down the road.

Always hunt the shelves for glass or paper packaging instead of plastic where you can. I find there’s the most options with peanut or almond butter, a variety of cooking oils, spices, dressings, milk, orange juice, and even snack bags (there are some really good paper or reusable silicone ones on the market). Just to start. I don’t know what’s in your grocery store, but it’s a great habit to get yourself into. Scan products as if they were already in your kitchen. What are you doing with that packaging once you’re finished? Where’s it going?

“There is no such thing as ‘away’. When we throw anything away, it must go somewhere.” – Annie Leonard

Think about what kinds of companies you’re supporting. Give to the ones that are local when you can. Our community needs us and often times, they are the ones practicing more sustainability down their production line than a lot of big corporate companies you see everywhere. Buy with your heart.

young woman in apartment wearing jeans and a black sweater holding reusable canvas bags

If you can buy in bulk, do it! We have local store here that even gives us a weekly discount for it, so ask if yours does too. And if you can, consider bringing your own container to fill up with.

at check-out

Canvas bags. Canvas bags!!! Collecting them is a love of mine – it’s so fun finding unique bags and often times supporting local businesses while doing it. Common Deer in Burlington has a lot of cute ones, or check out this site (generally ranges around $20) to browse.

Conner and I keep a whole collection of them next to the door (along with the produce bags) for easy grabbing on our way out. We usually have emergency back ups in our cars too, but accidents happen. And when they do, make sure to choose paper over plastic at checkout (sometimes you’ll have to ask), or suck it up and go bag-less. It’s not that bad.

Tip: at most self-checkout kiosks, they are kept underneath where the plastic bags are stored. 

There’s always room for improvement. As I write this, I’m thinking of a million other ways I can reduce my overall waste. It all starts at the store. What you pick up there, you bring into your home, and then it must go somewhere. One of the things that helped me really shift into this sustainability mindset was imagining the waste of a product I used sitting in a landfill somewhere. Or in the ocean. A single piece that, from my perspective I’m just throwing in the trash, amongst all the other acres and acres of waste on this planet.

That really put things into perspective for me.

I think just start by being mindful of your environmental impact and go from there. You can’t be perfect from the start, but I think it’s your end goal that matters. Set goals for yourself. Be a better human.


oh hey beautiful. thanks for reading my blog post! this is one of my favorites. to get in contact find me on IG: katerosehayes or shoot me a message I’d love to be in touch!

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