Back in 2011 I really wanted to quit my job and become a stay at home mum. I decided to learn how to spend less so we could afford to live off one salary. I also wanted to do it in eco-friendly ways and I found that reducing waste was a particularly brilliant way to save money and the environment! It meant that we didn’t miss out on anything, other than things we didn’t want anyway and that we had more money in our pockets.
An example of this is food. In the past I would go shopping without checking what we had already in our cupboards and fridge/ freezer, cook meals without thinking about portion sizes, and then throw the leftovers in the bin. I was spending money on food that we never ate, because I over bought and over cooked. With a couple of simple tweaks, e.g. checking the cupboards before shopping and weighing out things like rice and pasta before I cooked them, I could spend less on our weekly shop and still eat the same amount of food as before!
As time went on I attempted reducing my waste further and further and tried to go as zero waste and plastic free as possible. But I reached a point at which I felt I had gone too far and I over stretched myself. Recently I posted a picture of my weekly shop on my Facebook and Instagram pages, which I haven’t done in years, because it isn’t the zero waste, plastic free beauty it once was and I have felt a lot of eco-guilt over this for a while.
I’ve decided that it is time for me to stop feeling guilty about it though as there are problems with buying unpackaged foods.
Three of the big problems are cost, variety and convenience.
- Cost - It can cost more to buy unpackaged foods – I have found the supermarkets sometimes price loose produce higher than the packaged produced. Fruit and veg boxes can be very pricy and when I shopped at my local grocers it was expensive and not local and not organic! It doesn’t always cost more, but I object to paying more when it does!
- Variety - I’ve noticed that in the supermarkets you get a big choice of packaged fruit and veg, including different varieties, qualities and organic produce. If you want loose produce there is often only one choice and for things like kiwis or apples, they will sell the bigger versions loose. So if you want to buy a small apple, for example you have to get it in a bag.
- Convenience – it isn’t practical to go to too many places every week to do the shopping and also sometimes when you are out and about and you need to buy food, there just aren’t any unpackaged options available.
I’ve come to realise that these aren’t just my problems to bear or to solve and that paying extra for unpackaged produce that I’m not that happy with isn’t the answer to the problems of plastic.
Organic produce hasn’t come down in price because people buy it and I don’t think that the supermarkets will lower their prices on loose produce if they find people are willing to pay extra for it.
What really needs to happen is for the supermarkets and brands to change their ways and although there are a number of ways to protest, these are my preferred options:
- Regularly complain about packaging you aren’t happy about and ask for change. This could be in the form of e-mails, phone calls or posts on social media tagging the shop and/ or the company that makes the product. Plus you can inspire your friends and family to do it too, by sharing what you have done on social media. I find it works best to share things like that in a generic way, so that no-one feels pressured into it, but it gets them thinking about it.
- Take your business elsewhere. Rather than paying extra for something you don’t really want, shop somewhere else! Shop around until you find the places that work for you. Sometimes local shops and products can be surprisingly reasonable and you can buy food online too. You can also save money by buying directly from local farm gates. Shopping locally has the added advantage of supporting local businesses!
One thing I love about the zero-waste movement, is that it is full of people taking responsibility for their actions. They aren’t waiting around for companies or governments to solve all our problems for us, they are doing what they can in the here and now.
However it is easy to get carried away with this and forget that actually it would make life a lot easier if companies and governments, also take on their share of the responsibility to reduce waste too!
So next time you feel yourself caught up in eco-guilt, remind yourself that:
- other people are most likely having the same problem you are
- you don’t have to bear the burden of this problem all by yourself
- Constructive actions can take many forms and don’t have to involve always having a perfect packaging free shop. Just do what you can, when you can!
This is a guest post from Zoe Morrison, who writes the award winning blog www.ecothriftyliving.com. She is also the author of Eco Thrifty Living the book, which will soon be on sale at Wastenot! She can be found on Instagram and Twitter under @ecothrifty and on Facebook: facebook.com/EcoThriftyLiving/