A peek inside my zero waste shopping kit

Wouldn’t you think that since I already have a zero waste shopping kit that I’d be so on top of this game? Between the idea and the reality falls the shadow, Simple Year friends. *

My kit contains a crapload of reusable shopping bags (I swear they multiply when I’m not looking), plus a rather large selection of cloth produce bags that I’ve managed to amass over the years.

Figure 1: Reusable shopping bags.

Figure 1: Reusable shopping bags.

Don’t ask me how I know this, but just because a produce bag is large does not mean you can fill it, say, to the top with apples without some major seam splittage. (Ahem.)

Mine are made out of old curtains, purchased at a craft fair a couple of years ago. I also got a few from a vendor at the farmers’ market last year because I cannot resist cute little produce bags, apparently. They’re all in different sizes, which is helpful, too.

Figure 2: Reusable produce bags.

Figure 2: Reusable produce bags on my severely marked up table. Johanna is an artist, that’s why.

P.S. One of my goals this year is to make my own produce bags – or actually bread bags. I need my mother for this, though, because she’s got the sewing machine. And the patience.

I also have a collection of glass jars in a variety of sizes, some of which have been inherited (no one cans anymore and when people discover I do, I end up with boxes of the things), as well as some nifty plastic lids (uh, does that go against the zero waste code? Possibly, but they’re certainly reusable) that make marking tare and product codes easy. Oh, and the aforementioned bright orange Tupperware container (thanks, Grandma!) that I use at the meat counter.

Figure 3: Jars! Orange container!

Figure 3: Jars! Orange container!

Yes, sometimes my jars have broken, although not at the store. I’ve only had that happen a handful of times, once on vacation with some Walker-grown blueberries. THAT was a hard loss.

One question I’m asked periodically in the bulk section is if I have to pay for the weight of the jar as well as the weight of the food I’m putting inside. The answer is no. My first stop is always to the customer service desk to weigh my jars. (For some reason, even identical-looking jars have different weights. Asserting their individualism, I suppose.) Everyone at the store is used to me at this point, and have started pulling out the permanent marker before I even ask. They weigh them and mark them and off I go. It takes literally a minute.

Figure 5 (? I'm losing track): All ready to go!

Figure 4: All ready to go!

One very important step to all of this is to clearly mark the tare and the product code on the jar – those plastic lids I have? Give me a nice slate for that. (The marker tends to wash off, I’ve noticed, so that’s a plus.) The cashiers really appreciate that because it makes it easier for them to plug the numbers into the cash register. I figure since the store is letting me use my bags and jars, the least I can do is make it as easy on the clerks as possible.

Especially because one time, there was this dude in front of me who hadn’t written down tare OR product codes on ANY of his jars (there must have been 8-10. It was a nightmare) and then went nuts on the clerk when she became flustered (because he kept changing the tare weights and product codes on her – couldn’t read his notes, maybe), like it was all her fault. So not cool.

Anyway, that’s it. The hardest part is just remembering to toss the kit back into the car (I have bags hanging close to the door so I don’t forget. Sometimes I still forget).

Oh, bonus content alert: One of our local elementary school robotics teams came up with a reusable bag program – below is one of the barrels the have set up – where you can take a bag if you forget one, or leave any extras. So far they’ve had a hard time keeping them filled because people take but forget to return. But still, how fantastic is this?! Leave it to fourth and fifth graders to come up with such a brilliant solution.

Figure 5: Take a bag, leave a bag. Unfortunately, all that was inside the barrel was garbage.

Figure 5: Take a bag, leave a bag. Unfortunately, all that was inside the barrel was garbage.

Some of my excess bags need to go live here, I think.

Next up: Sunday’s shopping was the best of times and the worst of times.** I’ll tell you why.

*T.S. Eliot, “The Hollow Men.” That’s just a handy quote for a variety of occasions, really.

**Charles Dickens, “A Tale of Two Cities.” Another useful quote. Although not my favorite book. (The Victorians were too wordy.)

7 Responses to A peek inside my zero waste shopping kit

  1. Since moving to the south I haven’t been very good at reusable bags at all. I reason this out by saying I use the plastic bags for garbage and for dog waste bags (I live in an apartment). I’m not ready for the jars and the produce bags yet BUT this post is encouraging me to start bringing my reusable bags again 🙂

    • Technically I have a plastic bag lining my garbage as we speak, so I can’t really throw stones. 🙂 Hey, it all helps, and having bags already is most of the battle. It took me a long time to decide that I was ready for jars and produce bags, so I totally understand!

  2. You inspired me to use my china plates this past weekend for family party. Been married 23 years and this is the first time used my china for a big gathering. It went great! Thanks!

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