Zero-Waste Grocery Shopping with Lauren Singer

I’m always ready to take on a new eco-challenge. Inspired by trash-free enthusiast Lauren Singer, this month I tried zero-waste grocery shopping, and it was awesome!

zero-waste grocery shopping
Glass jars ready for the bulk section at Rainbow Grocery.

Last month at Wanderlust I was introduced to Lauren Singer, trash-free living expert. She had a lot to say about shopping without waste.

In her talk, Lauren shared some great insights. As someone who considers herself a pretty conscious consumer, I was particularly inspired to give zero-waste grocery shopping a try.

Why Zero-Waste Grocery Shopping?  

The EPA says 45% of what goes into landfills is food and its packaging/containers – that’s no small amount. Zero-waste grocery shopping can also help reduce our food waste in general, since you will only buy as much as you need of each item.

Shopping in bulk is where to start. If you need help finding a store with a bulk section in your area, or while traveling, try the Home Bulk App, which Singer recommends.

zero waste grocery shopping
Rainbow Grocery even has oils and vinegars in bulk!

Lauren Singer’s Tips for Zero-Waste Grocery Shopping

  1. Make a list to plan out your trip to the store (and don’t go when you’re hungry – we all know where that leads!)
  2. Bring your own containers for the bulk section (just note the tare weight at the scale before before filling up) – glass jars and cloth bags are your best bet (Singer says Craigslist and secondhand stores are great for jars)
  3. Bring reusable produce bags (she even suggests making your own out of old t-shirts or cloth napkins – DIY!)
  4. Avoid buying packaged ANYTHING all together. If you must buy something in a package, ensure the packaging is either recyclable or compostable (you may have to check your city/county’s waste disposable website to see what is and isn’t recyclable/compostable in your area; here’s the SF version)

Putting Trash-Free Shopping to the Test

There are a few zero-waste grocery stores popping up around the world, but if you don’t have one in your neighborhood, a well-stocked natural food store is a good place to try.

Armed with Lauren’s suggestions, I headed to Rainbow Grocery, my go-to co-op in San Francisco, to test out this idea. I was ready with my cloth produce bags, glass jars, and reusable shopping bags. How difficult could this really be?

Not difficult at all, it turns out. It might take a bit more thought and planning initially, though once you get into your zero-waste groove, it’s smooth sailing, and you’ll wonder how you ever shopped creating all that landfill trash in the first place.

Bulk Shopping for the Win! 

We’re lucky to have Rainbow’s amazingly extensive bulk section. They have everything: spices, tea, pickles, laundry detergent, body wash, grains, sauerkraut, etc. Filling up my own containers was super satisfying– sort of like trick-or-treating for adults (except you have to pay for the stuff).

I filled my jars and bags with my favorite chickpea miso paste, sesame oil, a few types of loose-leaf teas. Shopping this way is easy as pie. A pie made with ingredients from the bulk section. I left Rainbow Grocery with a smile – zero-waste grocery shopping success!

zero-waste grocery shopping
Spices, teas, and supplements – oh my!


About the Author

Danielle is a native Californian, currently residing in San Francisco. She studied art and writing, though has sincere interest in environmental and social issues. Vegan for almost a decade and a devoted nature enthusiast, Danielle is committed to a conscious, healthy, and compassionate lifestyle. Her passions include hiking, camping, backpacking, live music, plant-based cooking, and cycling adventures. Danielle is a guest contributor for Vibrant Wellness Journal and Green Living Ideas, and loves to explore and share all things eco.

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