If you’re ready to take waste reduction to the next level, let us introduce you to Zero Waste grocery shopping. With a little planning, you can stop waste before you bring it home. By refusing unnecessary packaging and reusing containers and bags that you already have, you’ll be on your way to Zero Waste.
Watch Denver Recycles Zero Waste Grocery Shopping video for some easy swaps you can make at the store.
Get started with our Zero Waste grocery checklist:
✔ Make a Grocery List
- Buying only what you need is the first step to reducing waste. It may seem obvious, but a grocery list can help you save time and money and cut back on food waste.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables often come with no packaging, so plan meals around them to automatically reduce your packaging waste.
- Include a “Bulk” section on your list and write items that you need and can buy from the bulk bins.
- Write “Bring Bags” at the top of your list to help you remember your bags.
- Gather the bags you’ll need based on how many and what kind of items you have on your list.
✔ Purchase Produce Loose
- Choose fruit and vegetable options that are package free and place them directly in your cart or basket or in your own reusable produce bag. If you are bagging produce items that are charged by the pound, make sure to use reusable produce bags that have the weight of the bag noted on them.
- Skip plastic produce bags even for wet items. Many stores now sell leafy greens, broccoli and herbs without packaging. Place those items directly in your reusable produce bag and put them in the corner of your cart or basket away from the things that you don’t want to get wet.
- Watch this video on why you don’t need plastic produce bags.
✔ Head to the Bakery
- If your grocery store includes a bakery, you may be able to buy a loaf of bread, rolls, or bagels fresh in your own fabric bread bag or wrap. Some bakeries will slice the bread for you too.
✔ Buy in Bulk
- Many stores have bulk bins where you can scoop what you need into your own small bag or jar.
- Check the bulk section for staples likes grains, nuts, flour, sugar, and snack items.
- If your bag or container does not already have its weight labeled (often called the tare weight), be sure to weigh it and write the weight on it before filling it at the bulk bins. The customer service desk can often help with this if you are not sure what to do.
- Each item in the bulk bins will include a product code which the cashier will need when you check out. Use a washable marker to write the code on your bag or container, or simply take a photo of the product code to reference when you are at the cash register.
✔ Shop with Reuse & Recycling in Mind
- When buying packaged items, prioritize those that come in refillable containers (for example, milk that comes in a returnable glass bottle), and that come in easy to recycle materials like glass, metal cans, and paperboard.
- Avoid plastic packaging whenever possible.
✔ Be Ready at Check-Out
- Place your reusable grocery bags on the conveyor belt first, so the cashier can see that you have your own bags.
- Group loose items of produce (apples, tomatoes, etc.) together to make it easier for the cashier to weigh them.
- Have your photos of bulk item codes open and be ready to tell the cashier the codes in case they have questions.