[Nearly] Zero Waste at Aldi

[Nearly] Zero Waste at Aldi

A few months ago, I stopped shopping at Aldi – partly because every other grocery store in my area has better sales each week and partly because [nearly] all of Aldi’s produce is wrapped in plastic.

BUT, today was one of those days when a killer avocado sale happened to coincide with my desperate need to restock toilet paper and the promise of being in and out in ten minutes sealed the deal.

[I also appreciate that I can seat both of my toddlers next to each other in the front of the cart. AND I don’t get a bunch of weird looks when I bring my own bags.]

For being the first big grocery chain I have ever heard of to not offer bags, I’m surprised that they aren’t a little more eco friendly in the produce aisle…but I don’t know a thing about the grocery business. I’m sure there is a reason that a 2lb plastic bag of honeycrisp apples costs $2 and two pounds of loose honeycrisp apples costs $4.

Anyway, I did what I could and here is what I got:

Gallon of milk – plastic carton will be recycled. I am still unable to convince my husband to trade milk for a non-dairy variety. And I still haven’t convinced myself to buy milk in glass containers – but that day is coming. I would really like to find a refillable situation from a local farm, but haven’t found one yet. Does that even exist anymore?

Cartons of eggs – cardboard containers will be recycled or composted. I plan to buy my eggs as part of my farm share this summer and just refill my carton each week, but in the meantime, we buy only cardboard cartons.

Box of pasta – I didn’t have to buy this, but I wanted it to make lemon butter shrimp pasta later this week with shrimp we were given…and the box will be recycled. I don’t have the tools necessary to make any pasta noodles besides lasagna at this point.

Toilet paper – plastic wrapping will be recycled via store drop off and the tubes will be recycled or composted. I am still working on bringing my husband around to the bidet idea…

Loose produce – bananas, pineapples, avocados, cucumber – all loose and at decent prices. In general, I have found Aldi’s produce prices [even on sale] to be pretty terrible compared to local produce sale prices. Every part of these foods that aren’t eaten will be composted. The stickers are the only waste.

Romaine lettuce – I couldn’t find a single type of lettuce that wasn’t packaged in plastic, so I got this bag of romaine which seemed to have the greatest lettuce to plastic ratio. The plastic bag will be recycled via store drop off – but it still makes me kind of sad.

Sauce, pesto, syrup – all in glass bottles. Aldi offers cheaper pasta sauce and syrup in plastic bottles, which I passed on. Glass is a great material than can be continually reused and recycled.

As I was shopping, I passed all the usual stuff that I used to buy every week – pretzels, applesauce, salad dressing, yogurt, cottage cheese, bread, buns – but I make all that stuff myself now.

The stuff I can’t make, I buy. The stuff I buy, I try to find without packaging. The stuff that I can’t find package-free, I try to find in sustainable packaging like glass or cardboard.

That’s my [nearly] zero waste game plan. It has some weaknesses and I’m not perfect [still super far from storing my annual waste in a jar] but these small attempts at mindfulness when I’m shopping go a long way over the course of time.

Happy shopping!

🛒 🛒 🛒

Karis

[Nearly] Zero Waste at Walmart

[Nearly] Zero Waste at Walmart

To be honest, this shopping trip was pretty far from “zero waste.” I’m admittedly using “nearly” very loosely here. The good news is that all of the waste, with the exception of the produce stickers, can be recycled or composted.

I don’t typically shop at Walmart, but when the closest bulk store is 30 minutes away and I have all three kids with me and we just spent the morning at the doctor and we really need some basics for baking and produce for snacks…well, sometimes I end up going to Walmart.

[This is actually the first time such a thing has happened because I try my best to always plan ahead and therefore avoid this problem.]

I don’t even have the time or energy to sort through my varied and complex feelings about Walmart in general. So, I had to do what I could, and I’m happy to report that, at the very least, I didn’t bring very much waste home.

Here’s a breakdown of what I got:

Flour and Sugar

I usually buy these from the bulk bins at Whole Foods or [recently] Fresh Thyme, but I just couldn’t get all the way to one of those stores. But, the good news is that these bags are compostable and I bought the largest bags I have space to store. My biggest bummer is actually that I’m not certain that the sugar is fair trade.

Extra virgin olive oil

We usually buy it at Walmart because it is a good price for a big jug [even though the jug is unfortunately plastic], BUT I will be buying my EVOO from Fresh Thyme from now on since they have it in bulk and I can bring my own container.

Toilet paper

I haven’t found a source of unpackaged toilet paper yet, so I buy the rolls in large packages and recycle the plastic wrap [grocery store drop off] and all of the cardboard rolls [curbside pickup].

I wish we were to the point of not using any toilet paper, but my husband is not a fan of the make-shift bidet [aka diaper sprayer].

Yeast

I buy my yeast in glass jars because I use a lot of yeast and glass is a sustainable material and good for reusing [like storing homemade baby food or making homemade candles] or recycling.

Milk

Ah, milk – the bane of my zero waste existence. I see why it is so much easier to be truly “zero waste” as a vegan. But my husband cannot live without milk. We could buy it in glass bottles, but I just can’t bring myself to do it yet. So, the downside is three plastic jugs to be recycled. BUT, on the upside, one gallon is for making homemade yogurt, and the other is for making homemade ricotta…so I’m saving the waste I would have if I bought those things.

[I’m trying to convince my family to switch over to the cashew milk I make and think is delicious – but change takes time…]

Produce

I picked up loose produce and put it in my own bags. The only regret is that the bananas are not fair trade – but I don’t even know where to find fair trade bananas. [Suggestions, anyone?]

Ironically, the produce is the only place where I brought home something actually bound for the trash can – the stickers.

But, I guess if this is all that goes to the landfill, that’s not too bad after all.

Karis

[Nearly] Zero Waste at Fresh Thyme

[Nearly] Zero Waste at Fresh Thyme

Today we took a long drive to a grocery store that sounded [from everything I read online] like a bulk bin paradise. I first heard of Fresh Thyme Farmers Market a month or so ago during one of my many searches for local zero waste shopping options, but was sad to find that the closest store was forty minutes from my home. Since then, however, I learned that a new location is opening in January 2019 only ten minutes away!!!

So, today we decided to make the drive and check out the location nearest us. I was pleasantly surprised by the bulk bin options which, though not quite as many as Whole Foods, include bulk coffee beans and bulk liquids like oils, vinegars, and honey! And the prices are more reasonable than any other bulk sections I have found. The grocery store also runs good deals that offer meat and produce for prices similar to what our local grocer, Jewel-Osco, does, which is why I picked up a package of blackberries [my only purchase today with any plastic waste].

Here’s our grocery haul:

We even got some package-free bars of soap.

I put the bulk bin numbers into my phone for checkout so we didn’t even bother with any papers or pens or twisty ties or anything. The only other waste [besides the blackberry package] was the stickers on the bananas and avocados and the receipt.

Also, since going [nearly] zero waste and not buying any processed foods, we’ve reduced our grocery budget by $100 per month – from $400 to $300 for our family of five [being mostly vegan also really helps with saving money]. I think it is pretty clear that buying healthy, organic, local and fair trade food does not have to break the bank.

Quite frankly, I don’t know why more people aren’t doing it…

Karis

August Clothing Donation

August Clothing Donation

This month I donated mostly workout tops that I don’t prefer any more, but also some sweatpants and pajamas I never wear, bras that don’t fit, and a Guess hoodie that I would like if I could fit my arms into it…but I can’t, so BUH-BYE.

All of these things have been well-loved at one time or another. Some of them even brought back wonderful memories of my early running days or special nights out with Brett… some were even [almost] hard to put in the “donate” pile. BUT my body and my style have changed a lot since those early days of marriage when Brett was constantly buying me trendy, form-fitting clothes in wild colors and prints. Now, if I’m leaving the house to go anywhere other than the gym, I much prefer my plain gray t-shirt (yes, it has a hole in it) with my one pair of jeans or, if I’m staying in, a loose fitting tank top over a bandeau with my jean cut-offs [or maybe sweat pants].

Maybe for date night I’d trade the ratty t-shirt for something a bit nicer…like a black t-shirt…but probably not. I like to be comfortable.

What can I say? I’m a casual gal. Plus, I don’t like being trendy. I’ve never been good at it – mostly because I’ve never been good at conforming. I prefer simple, monochromatic, functional clothing.

Here’s a secret I love to share: Brett has been buying all of my clothes [yes, ALL OF IT] and dressing me [not literally…] since we got married seven years ago. How many women can say that their husband is the fashionable one who picks out all of their clothes???

Anyway, another month down, a third of the way done. So far I’ve donated 104 items of clothing. 👍🏻 208 to go!

Also, in the past four months, we [Brett and I] have not purchased any clothes or accessories for myself or the kids. The kids did get some clothing as gifts for birthdays. But we have far more going out than we have coming in the house, so that’s good.

Karis

Zero Waste or Fair Trade

Zero Waste or Fair Trade

A while back, we ran out of brown sugar [which, it turns out, my children MUST HAVE in their oatmeal each morning]. So, I figured I would just grab a bag at Aldi while I was there for the avocado sale.

Aldi carries two types of brown sugar [that I have found]:

Baker’s Corner light brown sugar,

and SimplyNature organic fair trade light brown sugar.

I was about to throw the fair trade sugar in my cart when I thought to check whether the bag is recyclable.

Hmm…it is not.

So I checked the Baker’s Corner bag.

Yes, it is.

Seriously?

I have to choose now between waste and a fair wage?

Well, I didn’t have time to ponder the deep philosophical consequences at the moment, so I chose not to buy either and my kids spent two weeks eating oatmeal with maple syrup until I had a chance to get to Whole Foods where I bought brown sugar from the bulk bins.

I’m sure the correct choice is a matter of opinion, but seriously?! Why do I have to choose? Why can’t the fair trade brown sugar be in a recyclable bag?

What would you have done?

Karis

July Clothing Donation

July Clothing Donation

Reducing my wardrobe feels like it’s going SO SLOWLY with only 26 items per month, so this month I was going to “re-home” 78 pieces of clothing to cover the next three months.

OMG, WHO WAS I KIDDING?

I could barely find 26. I guess slow and steady is the best approach after all.

I’ve also learned that I have some emotional attachments to my clothing – which is so strange to me because I don’t have emotional attachments to ANY of my other belongings. And since I’m not particularly fond of shopping for clothing or buying new clothing, I can’t believe that I’m having a hard time letting go of some of these things.

When I did my original clothing inventory in May, my biggest category was [of all things] tank tops. I had a whopping 57 tank tops! That’s about the same number of warm weather days in Chicagoland each summer! Each month, I look through my entire drawer dedicated to tank tops and try to pick the ones I don’t need…and I can never seem to let any of them go! It’s like my love of summer has me hanging on to these items I will never even get the chance to wear.

Anyway, this month I’m [FINALLY] letting go of 10 tank tops. [Yay! I did it!]

The other clothing items in the donation bin this month are five t-shirts, two workout pants, three scarves, two pajama sets, a blazer, one pair of sweatpants, and two pairs of shorts.

Good thing I have thirty days to find the next 26 clothing pieces to purge!

Karis

Why I decided not to DIY laundry detergent

Why I decided not to DIY laundry detergent

Since we began reducing our waste, I’ve been changing the products that we purchase, but I’ve also been changing the way that we make purchases and even the reasons that we make purchases. So, when our laundry detergent ran out, I didn’t just head to Walmart to replace the bottle as I may have done in the past. I also didn’t scour the couponing world to see if I could find some for super cheap.

Instead, I thought about how to find [or make] an effective and no waste alternative. I read recipes. I read reviews. I read tips and tricks. I read pros and cons. [Geez, trying to be a responsible consumer is time-consuming!] But, in the end, I realized there is no purely waste-free option available to me [outside of growing and harvesting my own soap nuts]. Even if I make my own detergent, I will have to buy washing soda and borax and citric acid or whatever else – and it will all come in packaging. So, I would be making my own detergent [yay, me! I’m so crunchy and thrifty] but still creating waste from the packaging of several different ingredients that I need to make the detergent in the first place.

So instead of making my own, I decided to purchase my detergent from an eco-friendly, responsible company who cares about our planet and also about getting my clothes clean.

Turns out, this brought to light an even greater need than just my own waste reduction: the need to support businesses that are reducing waste.

Environmentally-friendly, ethical companies NEED our consumer dollars. We need to support businesses that protect and preserve natural resources, that value quality and sustainability, and that treat their employees right. And we should EXPECT to pay more for these products because it costs more money to produce a product ethically and responsibly. If we do not support these businesses then they will not be able to stay in business. And I won’t be able to buy ethically sourced, environmentally-friendly laundry detergent.

So then the choice becomes what organization do I want to support with my business?

I decided to go with the company that I am already using for my cloth diaper laundering. I’m not sure why I had a separate detergent for diapers, as if the “natural” detergent was not good enough for my regular clothes. But, regardless, I’m consolidating down to one brand, one detergent, purchased in as big a box as I can find and paying whatever they want me to pay, because my priority is the earth, not money. Which feels great, by the way. It is an honor to support companies that share my values – even if they cost more.

I love that Biokleen is family owned and operated, that their products are made in the USA [guaranteeing a fair wage for their employees and supporting the American economy], and that they are producing “natural and effective cleaners…with a passion for innovation, dedication to performance and a guiding commitment to our planet.”

These folks are right up my alley.

I also chose them because I have already been using their products and think they are great.

[No, I’m not making money off this advertising – you’re welcome, Biokleen!]

In fact, the only thing that would make them better would be if they were local to me [rather than in Vancouver, WA] because I really like supporting local businesses.

Of course, there are plenty of other eco-friendly companies out there to support. I also really like Charlie’s Soap and will probably purchase their detergent in the future too.

I’m not ONLY trying to reduce my personal waste. I want to reduce ALL waste. So by supporting the businesses that are being responsible with our natural resources, I am doing a much greater thing than just buying a product without packaging. While I think both are important, the former will change the way products are made and the latter is only going to change how the product is packaged.

Anyway, time to do some laundry!

Karis