Smart Shopping to Reduce Trash

Try shopping smarter with these tips to help you find the best places to buy groceries without wasteful packaging.

| December 2018

 bulk-groceries
Photo by Shia Su

Learning how to avoid food packaging is a powerful way to reduce your trash. This applies not only to groceries, but also the coffee you buy on your way to work or the salad you grab on campus between classes.

“We are sorry, but this is against health and safety regulations.”

To minimize waste, we bring our own food containers out to take-out lunch spots or grocery stores, so we don’t have to waste a disposable container. However, if you’ve ever done this before, chances are that somebody has refused your request using the excuse that it supposedly violates health and safety regulations. At first glance, it seems like there is nothing we can do; after all, we can’t change regulations at a cheese counter. Frustrated, we shove our containers back into our shopping bag and never question whether or not this is actually true.

However, in most cases, it is simply not true. Referring to (sometimes nonexistent) health regulations are used by most outlets as an effective way to shut up “difficult customers.” In fact, more often than not, there is no clear regulation when it comes to customers using their own containers or bags, only common practices. One health inspector may allow what another one prohibits.



Food chains, especially, set up very strict store policies because they are afraid of being sued. Bear in mind that most of the time staff turn down customers simply because they are afraid of getting in trouble or feel that it is a pain to accommodate you. Going back when somebody else is manning the counter is often an easy but effective solution!

Where to Shop

Depending on where you live, bulk options may be easy or difficult to find. Just as we all have different needs and have to face different challenges, we also have access to a different infrastructure. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Reducing your annual trash to just a jar might simply be beyond what is possible in your situation—and that is totally fine.

irahappy1
1/25/2019 9:53:58 AM

Love the drink mug idea, I’m looking into the laws in my area, will print them out, and will confront the manager of coffee shops nearby




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