Using our own containers to buy foods from bulk bins is one of the primary ways to avoid plastic packaging while grocery shopping. But it’s not always easy, especially when you’re just beginning your plastic-free journey. First, you have to find shops in your area that offer foods from bulk bins, and then you need to find out how they handle customers’ containers. You only want to pay for what’s inside, so the store needs to have a way to deduct the weight of the container. Some shops prefer customers to weigh their own containers, while other stores like Whole Foods require customers to visit the customer service desk to have their containers weighed by a staff member.
The Solution to Plastic-Free Bulk Shopping
San Francisco plastic pollution activists Eva Holman and Carolyn Box got tired of having to weigh their containers every time they went shopping (yes, you can put a sticker on the jar, but eventually, the sticker washes off or the writing fades.) So they invented a bulk buying system, which includes jars with the tare weight (in ounces, pounds, and grams to accommodate various scales and cash register systems) printed right on the side of the jar itself,
an erasable grease pencil for writing the bin number on the white lids (avoiding the stickers and twist ties most stores offer),
and an organic cotton shopping bag with a flat bottom and built-in pockets around the sides that prevent the bag from collapsing the jars from falling over. And the bag has plenty of room to put produce and other groceries in the middle.
Eva and Carolyn call their venture Goods Holding Company, and in December, at the Plastic-Free Holiday Market in San Francisco, they gave me a 4-jar kit to try out. (All of the items in the kit are available separately as well.) I brought the kit back home with me to Maryland and promptly forgot about it… until today! I took the kit with me to both MOM’s Organic Market in College Park and Whole Foods in Riverdale. The cashiers loved it! It makes their job easier, and a happy cashier is a happy customer.
Now, of course, some of you are going to say that buying brand new jars is wasteful when we can just reuse the jars we already have, e.g. pasta sauce jars, peanut butter jars, pickle jars, etc. And yes, of course, using what you already have saves money and reduces your environmental impact. BUT buying packaged foods and avoiding the bulk bins because it’s too much of a hassle and you just want to get in and get out has a greater environmental impact than investing in a system that you will use over and over again. Yeah, you still have to remember to bring your bag and jars. But that’s a topic for another day.