I have to admit, going zero waste can be hard. It really depends on where you are and where you shop. For example, if you go to a farmer’s market, it is easy to shop zero waste. The sellers grow their own produce and they really want to make the sale so they don’t have to bring the produce home. If they can save money on packaging, they will because it is a cost to them.
For those who do not have access to a farmers market or find that the products are more expensive at a farmer’s market would have to go to a regular supermarket. Unfortunately, the scenario is different at supermarkets or other commercial stores. At supermarkets, you are dealing with employees and they have no incentive to make the sale especially if they feel that helping you go zero waste is going to threaten their job. However, that doesn’t mean that you should avoid supermarkets completely. You just need to be firm with what you want.
For example, when you want to buy meat, show your jar to the person helping you and start off the conversation by explaining about your zero waste efforts. Instead of asking them if they can put the meat in the jar, you need to tell them to put the meat in the jar without any packaging or plastic. If you tell them to put the meat in the jar, it is possible that they will wrap everything in plastic and put the package in the jar. That would defeat the purpose of bringing your own jar to the store. When you tell them to put meat in your jar, they will initially resist but you will have to be insistent. At this stage, please feel free to speak to the store manager. The whole process can be a pain sometimes and you will find other shoppers staring at you thinking that you are either brave or crazy. If you had just bought the meat like everyone else, you would have been in and out of the supermarket in no time.
The trick is to go by every week doing the same thing and dealing with the same employee so that it gets easier the next time. Unfortunately, I don’t buy meat every week so it can be a little challenging when you deal with a different employee each time. This is the part when Husband stands back and pretend that he is not with me or he will walk a few steps behind when I locate and speak to the store manager. Sometimes I can see his dreams crashing if I give up and go home without the carne asada. So far, that has not happened. The only time I walked out and dropped everything was at a Chinese supermarket because there was a huge language barrier which made things difficult. I have resolved to only buy vegetables at the Chinese supermarket.
Another good option is to go to a smaller mom and pop store. They tend to be more understanding about your zero waste efforts. The products may be a little more expensive but the quality is also better. You will also be supporting a local business. Although, I have to say that not all mom and pop shops are the same. I tried to buy ice cream in my own jar at a small store and the cashier (a mere employee) refused to sell to me. It was just ice-cream and I really did not have the energy to argue about it so I left.
There are supermarkets such as Whole Foods and Sprouts that are popular amongst zero wasters. After all, Bea Johnson famously shops at Whole Foods. Unfortunately, one supermarket is not the same as another supermarket even though it is part of the same chain. For example, Bea seems to have no problems shopping with her glass jars but the Whole Foods near me cannot deduct tare beyond 0.1 lb and glass jars are heavy. Also, if the cashier is not accustomed with dealing with consumers who shop zero waste, they will not know how to deduct the tare of the bags. Sometimes, it is easier to not insist on deducting the tare of the bags. Instead, I would shop with two different types of bags. The cotton bags (approximately 0.10 lb) and the extra light polyester bag (0.03 lb). I tend to put the cheaper items like pasta and oats in the cotton bags and the more expensive items such as nuts and dried fruit in the lighter bags. Let’s not talk about wasting money by paying for the tare of the bag because it works out in the long run.
I cannot wait for the day when it becomes more common for people to shop zero waste. In the past, no one brought their own bags to the store because it is not common practice. Today, many local municipalities ban the use of plastic bags to encourage consumers to bring their own bags. I am sure that sometime in the future, it would be normal for people to shop zero waste.