Zero waste shopping – saving the planet or wasting your time?

Our shopping habits are changing. Or changing back.

In the past you could put in an order and a butcher’s boy would turn up with sausages in the basket of his delivery bike. Then that died out and we all had to go to the shop. Now we can order online and get it delivered once again. Full circle.

Not all the “progress” has been for the better. Just ask Grandad in the picture. (Click on the photo to make the text bigger.)

Packaging is another one. It galls me to see bananas wrapped in plastic – or any fruit which already comes in its own natural wrapper.

But we’re lazy and squeamish and alienated from the reality of food. The very thought of having to wash mud off a potato… or the idea that a pig had to die to make that sausage… puh-lease! Let’s not dwell on the seamy side of life.

Some places – like Ireland – have made significant progress in reducing pointless packaging – plastic bags in particular. Environmental legislation and charges made the difference there. But it’s more fashionable these days to nudge people towards different behaviour, rather than compel them… to provide attractive alternatives.

So what about a shop encourages you to bring your own reusable packaging/containers/boxes/bags/jars? Could it catch on?

And guess what? It’s not launching in Vermont or California – but Texas. (Exile Imaging may even shop there some day, or at least take a memorable photo of it.) 

I heard about it at the Arc blog. The shop is called in.gredients. You weight your empty containers, label them, fill them, weigh them again and then pay for what you’ve taken. Here’s a short video about it.

So what do you think? Innovative and imaginative? Old ways coming back into fashion? The answer to our landfill woes? Or just too much darned trouble?

We expect politicians to give a lead – whether we welcome their efforts or resent their exhortations.

But how much attention do we really pay to them anyway? Except when they’re caught in bed literally or metaphorically with someone with whom they shouldn’t have been.

Businesses are at least as powerful, especially when it comes to influencing the minutiae of our lives.

And we have power too. We buy this. Or that. Or neither.

We fund it all.

So will this BYO concept work? BYO = Bring Your Own. I’m happy for it to be BYO bottle to parties and restauants. But clinking and clanking all the way to the shops like a confused old apothacery doesn’t appeal to me.

You?

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23 Comments

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23 responses to “Zero waste shopping – saving the planet or wasting your time?

  1. I remember a few years ago where we had ‘weigh your own’ stores. Food items mainly of the baking variety were sold from bins or boxes. You filled a plastic bag with as little or as much as you wanted and had it weighed at the counter. The problem I see with the home supplied jars is in the cleanliness. Will everyone sterilise their jars before every shopping trip? If not and somebody becomes ill… who will be to blame?

  2. Grandpa’s recollection was a real “I almost wet my pants and fell out of the chair” hardy laugh.

  3. they are trying to get rid of plastic bags in Pasadena, CA; having lived in former Soviet Union, Ukraine and the like, I am trained to carry canvass bags, but of course, they didn’t have many items to put inthem; here it’s a different story-pricey tho; nice article-wishing you well as usual

  4. blackwatertown

    @ Grannymar – I suppose the cleanliness of the jar only matters to the buyer, because they’ll just be putting stuff into it. Though I suppose there could be a dispute over whether it was the dirty jar or the contaminated contents, if something did go wrong. I have sometimes encountered dirty pint glasses. At least that was my excuse the following morning for how I felt.
    @ Carl – Yes, me too. Bit of swearing. Sorry about that. But thought was wrth posting all the same.
    @ Sorrygnat – While I queue at the checkout, I send my children off to find discarded cardboard boxes and then I fill those instead of bags.

  5. I just ask the assistant to put the food straight into my mouth. Avoids the need not only for packaging, but cutlery as well.

  6. Our two big supermarkets have a way to go even thought hey sell green bags they still use extruded plastic and I agree about over packaging it’s ridiculous. Couldn’t even open a stock cube thingy tonight without using a pair of scissors and a knife. Glass production is a huge energy user so it makes you wonder how to win. Even recycling involves a lot of energy. We’re about to face a carbon tax that experts tell us will make no diff to global warning, go figure. Time to get that veggie patch going methinks. I like Tim’s idea but the assistant would wanna bee good looking.

    • blackwatertown

      @ Baino – Perhaps the sufficiently attractive food server could array tasty morsels on his or her washboard stomach for you to graze on. Would that work?

  7. Another waste is to open any pill container and it’s half filled with cotton.

  8. BYO? Kind of a pain when you’re buying numerous bags of groceries. And I tend to agree with those who remarked on the cleanliness of the container, or digging food out of community bins for that matter. I see a lot of people at the grocery store who cough and sneeze with little regard to where they spread their germs.

  9. I share Grannymar’s doubts about the cleanliness of endlessly recycled containers. Also, I don’t want to take a huge pile of containers every time I go shopping. And I was reading somewhere that actually plastic bags aren’t as bad for the environment as we are led to believe….

  10. Well…lol…Grandad was a little bit nawti! ;)
    The BYO concept needs to work without a doubt…though must admit plastic bags are VERY useful…I’m not sure I can live without them!! But as to them not being bad for the environment…well! There’s no radiation coming out of Fukushima either…is there???!!!!

  11. I don’t remember saying that? Did I say it?

  12. Funny picture. Naughty dude. I like the idea of wasting less, of course, but I never feel like buying the bags. And you’d have to wash them. I have a few of those bags, but I always forget and leave them at home, so it defeats the purpose of getting them.

  13. There are many places in India where you are expected to take your own bag. In my case, most of the vegetables and fruit are brought to my doorstep as I have blogged about recently. Groceries are still a bit of a problem because plastic bags are used. That too is changing but too slowly for my liking.

  14. This is fun. Texas? I tought you were going to say Dublin.
    I loved the hotair/presidential speech pic.

  15. blackwatertown

    @ Maxi – Big container, small contents, old trick.
    @ Shelley – good point – coughing and sneezing – especially into the tub of pepper.
    @ Nick – No, they’re evil. I think caveat on scrapping plastic bags was that paper bags aren’t necessarily all sweetness and light either.
    @ Europaspicewolf – My godmother still won’t eat bottom feeding fish from the Irish sea since the various Windscale/Sellafield nuclear fires and leaks.
    @ Duck – Yup – on the one hand our aspirations and ideals, on the other the reality of our behaviour- the knack is converging the latter with the former.
    @ Rummuser – You’re a bit ahead/behind the rest of us – depending where ahead is on the cycle.
    @ Kinzi – glad someone noticed the presidential hot air.

  16. In Theory…Yes. But, We Are Lazy.How Do We UN-Lazy A Nation?.Not Sure…………..Here In Hebden Bridge We Are Very Into ‘Ethical Shopping’ etc………But I Still Want My Dozen free Plastic Bags each time I shop.
    Maybe The Answer is to put the energy companies in charge of everything…………16% increases in prices every 5 minutes………….people would soon not afford food.Problem Solved!

    • blackwatertown

      “Do as I say, not as I do.”
      Hope the utilities are not reading this. We’re done for if they are Tony.

  17. I like the idea but I’m at a point in life (empty nest) where I shop frequently, just getting what we need for that day, maybe two. When I was planning meals for a week and school lunches, etc. it may have proved to be too difficult. My husband grew up in another country where this was the way you got your food – you brought in your container and filled it up. It does make sense – it kills me to see all the packaging at trader joe’s.

    • blackwatertown

      The joys of spontaneity.
      It might work for me when it comes to exotic ingredients. I take a notion to cook with some news bits and pieces – which is great – but the surplus sits around dejectedly, as there’s a hiatus and then I move on to another novel ingredient. Bit of a waste.

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