Zero-Waste Shopping Challenges
I had a visit from my mom on Tuesday and was able to get out and do some groceries (thank you mommy!). We’ve both been exploring vegetarian living and lowering our impact on the environment. We’re especially interested in the zero-waste movement that has been spreading the globe.
Living in Ottawa I am lucky enough to have many resources at my disposal to do this. There are many great natural food stores and businesses focused on their environmental footprint that market to customers like my mom and I. Unfortunately she lives in a small city with less of a market for these businesses, so it is a treat when she visits and I can introduce her to new stores and products.
So after enjoying a late lunch at Pure Kitchen (highly recommend), we set out to Nu Grocery and Whole Foods.
NU GROCERY (Ottawa’s Zero-Waste Grocery Store)
We were interested in Nu Grocery because it is Ottawa’s first zero-waste grocery. They opened their doors in August 2017 and I’ve visited a few times since. While their selection is limited to locally sourced, mainly package-free food and items, they have a good assortment.
Take a Tour
When you walk in your greeted by the fresh produce. When I visited yesterday they had oranges, apples, potatoes, ginger, peppers, leeks, cabbage, carrots and much more. Because they try to source their produce locally you can probably expect more during the summer months, which I am very excited about.
Past the produce section is the small amount of packaged food this place carries. These are locally sourced sauces, oils, milk and other goods, all stored in glass jars. Many of these jars can be returned to the company or donated to the store to be used by other customers.
Along the back wall are the nuts, lentils, beans, barley, rices and coffee beans in bins with levers. I just like the look of this type of food storage because you see all the different colours, sizes and textures of the items inside. Nu Grocery provides funnels to make pouring into jars a mess-free experience.
In the center of the store are the majority of your bulk foods such as pasta, oats, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, dried fruits, cereals and granola, chips, and baking needs. These are stored in shallow bins you can scoop out and into your container. There are also nut butters, bread, and oils in stainless steel pouring dispensers.
On the right side of the store is where you find all your home and self-care needs. This is probably my favourite part of the store because you can’t find many of these items unless you order them online. Nu Grocery carries beeswax wraps, stainless steel food containers, eco-friendly reusable coffee cups, cotton coffee filters, produce and bulk bags, nut bags, stainless steel straws, etc. For self-care, they have package free soaps and shampoos, menstrual cups and reusable pads, recycled toilet paper, bamboo toothbrushes, safety razors, bulk face, and skin moisturizers as well as a bulk natural deodorant. Unique to this store is a wall of pouring spouts where you can purchase dish soap, laundry detergent and other household needs in bulk in reusable containers.
THE RESULTS OF OUR NU GROCERY HAUL
I tried to get as much from my grocery list from my zero-waste grocery store before resorting to a regular grocery store with packaging. It was more difficult than I thought!
Here is what I purchased at Nu Grocery:
*I brought an old egg carton to fill with bulk eggs!
ROUND TWO: WHOLE FOODS
Following our visit to Nu Grocery, we drove down to the Glebe and visited the local Whole Foods. Using my meal planning routine, I had a list of items I needed to get to try out new recipes. While I was able to find some of the items at Nu Grocery, I had to purchase the rest at a regular grocery store.
I love Whole Foods for their ethical position, their focus on organic whole food and the availability of vegetarian and vegan alternatives.
However, I will say, after visiting Nu Grocery it became apparent how much packaging is used in Whole Foods items. For example, I got a bag of spinach, a container of grape tomatoes, cereal, and blueberries that probably could be sold package free. While I support Whole Foods by shopping there, I do think we should encourage the company to focus on sustainability in terms of packaging and not just in ethically raised meats and locally sourced organic produce.
THE RESULTS OF OUR WHOLE FOODS HAUL
Here is what I purchased at Whole Foods:
*I chose the glass container over the less expensive plastic container and plan on reusing it.
It is very hard to live completely zero-waste (and I have a zero-waste grocery store at my disposal!). This is also something you can’t incorporate in your lifestyle overnight. It takes practice, habit building, research and resources to find more and more ways to reduce your impact.
RELATED: I interviewed Taylor from PFORWORDS.com about the zero-waste movement – CHECK IT OUT!
During this trip, I realized having a grocery list makes shopping less flexible. While a list has its perks, such as keeping you from impulse buying and planning your meals, it also has its limits. You can’t expect to go to a zero-waste grocery store and expect them to have everything you need, especially when it comes to produce (their bulk is usually consistent). If you plan on shopping solely waste free get used to planning your meals based on what is available. We have become used to an abundance of food items because of our global economy, but the reality is without trade agreements we would have to rely on what is produced locally. Zero-waste shopping, in my opinion, gives a good feeling for what that is like.
While my plastic ridden Whole Foods haul may be bigger than my zero-waste haul, I saved the planet from another cardboard egg carton, plastic tofu wrapping, a plastic bag of popcorn, a plastic bag of barley, a plastic bag of macaroni and any plastic produce bag I may have used for the veggies.
A little goes a long way!
What did you do this week that prevented another piece of plastic from polluting the planet or lowered your impact? Share in the comments below!
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