I have been on my plastic free mission for a few years now. And I love sharing ideas with friends and family to inspire them to find easy swaps to reduce their plastic footprint and walk more gently on our beautiful planet earth. This passion of mine, my love of the oceans and our world as well as my experience of 20 years working in the consumer-packaged goods led me down the path to open my own low waste lifestyle grocery store. I am so excited to bring Replenish Grocers to the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco.
Being a road warrior and traveling a ton for work for my previous jobs, I started with what I used on the go. I refused plastic water bottles, to go coffee cups, single use utensils and straws. I would literally hike half way across the airport for the one place where I could refill my coffee cup and report the café that would not refill. Every once in a while I get asked to go for coffee and don’t have my reusable coffee cup with me. In that case, I will ask for the coffee without the plastic lid.
In our house, I started with the kitchen since plastic is seemingly everywhere! Here are some things we cut out that you could consider as well as you start or continue your journey:
1. I cut out flavored carbonated water that was bought at a very high frequency. I would say easily 4 bottles a week and transitioned seamlessly to the Soda Stream. That’s around 210 bottles on an annual basis!
2. We also cut out single use Keurig pods and purchased reusable pods. Our household was easily using 14 single use pods a week or 728 a year. Looking back I am embarrassed we used these and thrilled to have made the change.
3. I started making my own almond milk as often as I could when time permitted. Sometimes I will buy a carton of almond milk due to work travel and time constraints. Don’t beat yourself up. It’s all about progress, not perfection!
4. I have made some yogurt and have switched to brands that come in a glass jar. I absolutely love St. Benoit yogurt. Once you are done, you can reuse the jar to shop for other bulk items. Or if you have tons of jars, drop it off at Replenish Grocers. We will wash it in our commercial dishwasher and offer it for free to someone who may not have a container.
5. I buy bulk as much as possible which includes items like nuts, granola, dried fruit, rice, sugar, salt, tea, flour, vinegar, olive oil, chocolate chips. I use reusable cloth/ mesh bags as well as glass jars for my shopping excursions. I really love shopping and seeing how much I can buy that has no packaging. I walk away happy and with a sense of accomplishment.
6. I shop at Farmers Markets and back at my local Safeway vs. Trader Joes to buy produce with as little packaging as possible such as lettuce, other vegetables, and fruits. I actually eat so much more fruit now because it is zero waste since I can compost things like banana peels and apple cores. And I even lost weight. Double bonus points!
7. We now compost in our home. We were worried about the smell but not an issue at all! We do get some fruit flies, but a little dish of vinegar seems to do the trick.
8. We no longer use paper towels or napkins and have converted to cloth towels, the unpaper towel and napkins. We do keep one roll of paper towels tucked away for oil and such. My house is not plastic free. I would love it to be someday but for now I am thrilled with the progress.
9. When I shop and I have a choice of something that may come in a plastic bottle vs. a glass bottle, I always will choose the glass bottle.
10. If I am shopping and my only option is in a plastic container, I buy the larger size as long as I know I can use it all up before it expires. An example is feta which I love on my salads. My salads are all plastic free with the exception of the feta when used so I consider that a win!
11. Vitamins have been also slowly switching over from plastic bottles to glass jars where possible.
In the bathroom:
1. Bottled shampoo and conditioner has been converted to bar soap, bar shampoo and bar conditioner. I love looking at my bathroom. It is arguably my favorite room as I have made so much progress on going low to almost zero waste.
2. Boxes of tissues have been converted to handkerchiefs
3. I no longer use cotton rounds to wash my face but use reusable cotton rounds that I wash weekly
4. For lotion, I will refill the bottle I have at a local store. Soon I will refill at Replenish Grocers.
5. Toothpaste was switched from Colgate to David’s and more recently I have started using toothpaste tabs
6. Dental floss was switched from glide to dental lace which is silk floss in a reusable glass container. You just buy the floss and refill.
7. Toothbrush was switched to a bamboo toothbrush. I now refuse the toothbrush and dental floss my dentist gives me.
8. I have a safety razor by Leaf Shave, and I have to say I am in love!
9. Most recently I have been refilling my witch-hazel, almond oil, jojoba oil and shea butter to make a lot of my own DIY face wash and creams. I love researching which essential oils help with what skin condition.
Is there still plastic in our house? Absolutely! We work full time, I used to travel a bit for work, and I have a heavy training schedule for my upcoming marathon swims. That said, sometimes due to time constraints and convenience, we may not be able to make it over to a farmers market or to a store that has more plastic free options. It is all about progress not perfection. Try not to beat yourself up if you end up buying a spring mix of lettuce in a plastic container. Think about all the other areas in your life and home where you can make a notable difference! Just keep at it and slowly you will see that your household has significantly less plastic. Come on by Replenish Grocers and tell us all about it! We love to hear about your journey and support you every step of the way.