I like to keep track of the products we bought before less waste, compared to where we are now, today, with our household changes going plastic free. I will show this list towards the end of this article.
We have switched product brands to avoid plastic packaging. Not just plastic packaging, but recyclable and compostable. All packaging takes resources one way or another. I believe less is best! If you look closely enough along the store shelves, you may find a better alternative to packaging for the product you want. For example, today I wanted to buy pizza sauce. My options were a small can, plastic bottle and a glass jar. The plastic bottle fell off my radar completely! I would rather make my own than bring it into my home or just not make pizza. Seriously serious about plastic, not supporting that with my money! Cans are a great option as the metal can be truly recycled over and over, but the glass jar caught my eye more because I can reuse it! When you go through the list of the major R’s: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle; Reuse comes before Recycle. Recycle is a last resort.
We have switched stores to avoid plastics as well. Before, Sobey’s was our top grocery store as well as Wal-mart. Today I rarely shop at Wal-mart. Only for items I can not get anywhere else. I try to shop local smaller businesses first. Much of our kitchen products come from Bulk Barn and The Summerside Farmer’s Market. I have yet to shop the Market in full season swing! I am super excited! I also shop at our local Butcher Shop and Superstore. These 4 locations allow me to purchase our products plastic free, in jars and with my own containers/bags.
- Bulk Barn: Dry goods for baking and snacks. Coffee and nuts. Candy and Chocolate. Nut Butters and Pasta. The list goes on! Bulk Barn, for the most part is cheaper than the grocery stores. Now and again, I will make a price comparison list. In my own opinion, I don’t care too much about the price difference, usually it is just pennies difference per 100g. You may notice that some of the bins are filled by the employees with plastic bags of product. Yes, an alternative needs to be addressed, but the beauty of Bulk Barn is that you scoop the amount you need. You may not need the whole bag full of product, instead sharing that bag of product with multiple customers. I bring my own containers for powdered and wet products and cloth bags for everything else. At home I empty the products in the storage containers I have in the cupboards.
- The Summerside Farmer’s Market: Clohossey Farm’s is where I purchase my turnip and carrots. I managed to talk with the owner about having plastic free options and I can purchase carrots un-packaged! I am hoping to see more un-packaged goods this coming season. But the farmers really need our support in this too. I really believe that we need to learn how to store and maintain produce without plastic. It can be done and our grandparents did it and so did theirs without plastic packaging. Reducing what we consume will certainly help with food waste. Buy what is needed and not more. Next stop is The Farmer’s Wife where I purchase our body products such as hand/body soap and shampoo bars. All handmade, natural products. I also get our laundry soap here too. Amazing stuff as I use it on the cloth diapers too. You can return any bottles to her for a discount as well to keep the bottles out of landfill and reuse them! She also sells wool dryer balls, candle lotions, shaving supplies, cleaners, deodorant and more. I purchase our honey and even Shea Butter at the market as well. Also, a vendor who sells berries in the summer sells maple syrup. Once I run out of what I have, I will be supporting them. I can buy garlic package free too from another vendor. Brady’s Farm sells apples when they are in season as well as apple cider. Pleasant Pork sells great products plastic free too! Everything gets wrapped in paper! Bacon, back bacon, salami, pepperoni, pork chops, meat balls, kolbassa and more. They may start selling free range eggs as well. If and when they do, I will be purchasing our eggs from there. I rather free range than cooped up chickens by the thousands. I am sure I will be exploring the Market more in the coming months. I would love to be able to find the time to just sit there and have a coffee and maybe a chat with some of the locals; bring my own coffee cup.
- The Summerside Butcher Shop: This store is a mini grocery store. They sell meat and produce products as well as dairy and frozen variety too. Lots of produce are package free as well and great prices. The manager here will allow customers to order their purchases of meat wrapped in butcher paper. I usually call ahead with my order or drop off a note with what I want wrapped in paper then give them an hour or more time to fill my order. They are pretty busy. I order whole chickens as well plastic free! The chickens are small and with our large family of 7, I order two for our Sunday supper.
- Superstore: Here, the deli department will allow me to use my own container for deli meat. They have not been given full permission to do so, but the manager slices the meat, weighs it and places it in my dish as I hold it to avoid any cross contamination. It is really simple! The only downside is that they use a sheet of plastic to transfer the product from slicer to scale to my dish. I have mentioned them using butcher paper, but I think the manager is waiting for more word from her boss. It certainly is a major reduction in plastic compared to what we used to purchase. Here I also buy Nature Clean Dishwasher Powder and Down East 4 L jug of dish soap. Sobey’s does not carry the dishwasher powder and the natural product aisle is going through a make over I found the products were not always available. Consistency is much appreciated. Since I am here, I usually grab some bagels that are in the bulk bins and use my cloth produce bags to carry them.
Luckily enough, these stores are very close to each other, I am not making a big carbon footprint. Friday evening/night I go to Sobey’s about 5 minutes away. Then Saturday morning I call the Butcher Shop with my order. I drive down the road to the Farmer’s Market, about 3 minutes away. Next is up town (5 minutes) to Superstore. Bulk Barn is just down the street 1 minute. The Butcher shop may be 4 minutes away then home in 5 minutes. If I need any medication, Murphy’s Pharmacy is on route to the market, next door basically. I could do my grocery run Friday night on Saturday instead, but its nice for me to get out and let the big kids stay up with dad a bit as well as Saturday morning is busy as it is. It is nice to break the trip up a little.
We have discontinued products for some reasons: Many products have been discontinued for a variety of issues. Some of those are because of chemicals, unhealthy, make our own, alternatives to plastic free and reducing the number of products needed that a couple could manage on their own (cleaners, we do not need a different cleaner for different jobs).
- Chemicals: I avoid any products that have fragrance or parfum. That ingredient found mostly in cleaners, body products and candles is made up of many unlisted chemicals that can be harmful. Just be reading up on some articles, talking to friends who deal with Dailey challenges to these product and watching a documentary called Stink was enough for me to find natural alternatives. There are more to look out for but my main lookout is fragrance and products with the least amount of ingredients.
- Unhealthy: Lots of products are processed and have additives. They have very little nutritional value and are basically fillers.
- Make our own: Making your own products have great benefits! You know what goes into it, the product is fresh, you can alternate the ingredients to suit your taste and it’s a good feel to be able to make your own! You don’t have to buy it if you can make it, and if you can make it, you will save money!
- Alternatives to plastic free packaging: Some product brands have been boycotted due to the packaging. If I can find an alternative brand in truly recycled packaging (can/glass) or in bulk and package free I will switch to it, even if it costs a little more. If I can not find the product the way I want to, I consider if I truly need it.
- Reducing the amount of products needed: We have switched from over a dozen cleaners to about 6 and some of those can do multiple jobs, like soap and water, Vinegar and Baking Soda.
Alright, back to my story!
I decided to have it updated with pictures as I find visuals help with decision making and gearing ourselves to see and make changes. But since I have made so many changes in our home, I could not get the pictures of the before less waste products as I have stopped buying those that are in plastic, many of them anyways. So I thought, well I can just take my camera with me (tablet) and take pictures of the products I used to buy at the store. Then I got to thinking that maybe the store would not like that I am taking pictures. What if it causes a problem? I thought I would be courteous and ask the store before I went ahead. In the back of my mind though, I was sure it would not be a problem.
So Friday night on my grocery run to Sobey’s I asked to speak to the manager on duty. I did not get the store manager, just the lady in charge that evening. I told her about my project and asked if I could take pictures of products, explaining that my intent was not to bash out the store publically, just to show what changes can be made to avoid plastic packaging. She did not think there was a problem with me taking pictures, but did not feel comfortable to say yes without talking to the manager. I agreed with her, and said I would be back in to talk with the manager, Rodney Hood, the next day when he was in. I put my camera away while I shopped, feeling good.
When I got home, I told my husband Chris about what happened. He knew what I was up to, and thought it was not right to go in to take picture. He thought Sobey’s would be not happy and ask me to take my pictures down from my blog. I still thought it would be okay though because it would be no different than me taking the same pictures at home; if I still had them. And I was not out to give Sobey’s a bad reputation. I also needed pictures of products I bought else where too.
So Saturday morning I was back to talk to the store manager, Rodney. He was happy to talk with me and curious about what I was doing on my website. He also felt like he could not give me the go ahead with taking pictures but did not think it would be a problem either. So we agreed he would contact his people to ask and call me when he got word. I can’t remember the exact words, but Rodney mentioned they were tying to come up with ways to be more plastic free in the produce section.
So, two weeks went by and I did not hear a thing. I decided to go ahead with my project, feeling even more so that I would not cause a problem. I truly felt that way, but I wanted to be respectful in the beginning when I tried asking for permission.
Last weekend while shopping, we met each other in one of the aisles, and he recognized me right away. Rodney said he never did hear back from anyone on the topic and that it should not be a problem for me to do what I wanted. I agreed and said I already did. He said that he read some of my posts (maybe one) and seen that I would not buy broccoli because it was wrapped in plastic. He told me right away he got the team to stop wrapping the broccoli!! And I did notice because I have not been able to take a picture of plastic wrapped broccoli, lol. I have been buying it again before we met this day as it was not wrapped. I was so happy to hear that!
Rodney also told me that he was talking to the meat department and they all agreed to start wrapping customers orders in paper when asked! I was floored, jaw dropped too! I thanked him! He said they are looking into ways to be more accomodating with plastic free options (something along those lines, lol). The deli department is more cautious and not ready for that leap, yet.
I am very happy that I got to inspire Rodney and maybe others as well! Chris was certainly surprised and happy too. It goes to show that sometimes you just have to do what you think is right even if you think there are barriers.
Hoping to find some time to talk to Rodney again soon, I definitely feel like I should!
Here is a link to my page about Reducing Plastic While Shopping (I am still working on it).