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Let’s Stop Food Waste: Plastic Waste and Sustainable Shopping

A few ideas for a plastic-free life.

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Food waste is a massive problem in Ireland, so in response to this, we’ve decided to create a series where we try to raise awareness about this issue. We’ll also be talking about our own personal responsibility to try to reduce food waste at home, and we’ll be offering you some help and ideas for how you can minimise the food waste in your life.

The first part of this series talked about meal planning, prepping and making shopping lists, then last week’s piece dealt with food storage to help make sure that the food you buy stays fresh and you don’t have to throw it away before you can use it. Today we’re talking about sustainable food shopping and how you can become more eco-friendly when doing your grocery shopping.

As everyone probably knows by now, plastic is a serious problem to the environment. According to Ocean Conservation, 8 million metric tonnes of plastic is dumped into the ocean every year, on top of the 150 million metric tonnes already circulating. Reportedly, by 2050, there will be more plastic in the sea than fish, which is a terrifying statistic. To combat this issue, we all need to make clear and decisive moves towards a plastic-free lifestyle.

Sustainable Stores

Last year saw Friends of the Earth, an organisation that campaigns for environmental justice, sustainability and sustainable development, organise ‘Sick of Plastic Day’, which encouraged consumers all over the country leave behind excess plastic at supermarkets. Since then, many stores have installed specific bins instore for excess plastic to be left in, but according to Naomi Sheridan of Noms in Dublin, this isn’t enough.

Noms, which stands for natural products, organically produced, mindfully chosen and sustainably sourced, is a store in Phibsboro. Founded by Ciarán Smyth and Naomi Sheridan last year, Noms stocks fruit, veg, grains, household products and more with little to no packaging. Customers are encouraged to bring their own containers to measure out their products and to only buy what they need.

When we asked Naomi about how consumers can be more eco-friendly when shopping, she told us:

“Leaving behind packaging in supermarkets isn’t going to do anything on a massive scale, as the plastic is already in the system – leaving it behind just means that it’s in the supermarket’s bin instead of your one at home. The supermarkets need to move towards less packaging altogether and the way they’ll do that is if people stop buying their products. I would encourage consumers to find alternative shopping options, like Noms or farmer’s markets, as they can use their own containers and limit plastic. If consumers stop shopping at supermarkets with too much plastic, they’ll listen as they will be making less money.”

Tips And Tricks

Noms isn’t the only place to shop without packaging – thanks to the demand for more eco-friendly options, lots more stores are cropping up. Some of our favourites are The Dublin Food Co-op in Kilmainham, Organico in Cork, Super Natural Food Market on Pearse Street and Minimal Waste Grocery, which is an online store for all your no-waste grocery needs. We love farmer’s markets as well, as the food usually has a small carbon footprint due and there is often little to no packaging on the food.

To help you get started with your sustainable shopping endeavours, we asked Naomi from Noms for her top five tips:

  • Make a gradual change towards a zero-waste lifestyle, as even one product at a time will make a difference.
  • Keep any packaging that you already have, wash it out and reuse or refill it. You don’t need anything to start living waste-free.
  • Try to speak out where you can and let retailers know that you’re not happy with the level of packaging found in their stores.
  • Use your brown bin as much as you can for both your compostable waste and food waste. It’s the best way to break down organic waste so we all need to utilise our brown bins more.
  • Avoid big supermarkets and shop in smaller, more environmentally conscious stores instead. When the big retailers see their profits decrease, they’ll realise that they need to make a change.

How do you try to live a waste-free life? Let us know in the comments below.