Zero Waste Shopping in Action!
By Deanna Freeth
Leaving school I had a dream to become cabin crew – and at 21 my dream was realised when I packed my life into 2 suitcases and moved to the UAE. It was living here that I discovered my true passion of environment and waste management. What started as a passion for recycling led me to really question waste as a whole and consider my impact I began to question everything I used, and so began a progression toward generating less waste.
We can argue about how ethical it is to be a cabin crew, and care about my environmental impact, but being cabin crew pays my bills and keeps me in the UAE so I can continue all my eco projects in my down time. It also granted me the opportunity to observe and be inspired, and sometimes shocked, at waste around the world. Aviation is a wasteful industry, and because of my passion I was able to initiate several initiatives in the Airline to divert waste from landfill.
The job also granted me the opportunity to experience zero waste shopping abroad! While there are some options for shopping zero waste here in the UAE, overseas they are miles ahead of us here! There are some places we go where Zero Waste or bulk food shopping is easy to find – Australia for example – I use my time there for shopping and meeting people.
Early 2017 was my first visit to a bulk food store House of Health in Adelaide Central Market. I used to fly frequently to my hometown, I went to get Australian Honey, but of course walked away with Bamboo Toothbrushes!
It was here I learned my first tip: Glass jars with a plastic lid do not like to travel! After 9 years travelling that’s the only thing ever to break in my suitcase – the plastic lid, not the glass jar!
My second visit was to ‘Good For’ in Auckland in December 2017, upon recommendation by my best friend! This time I came prepared, armed with various containers and a list of things to buy I will need to cook with over the coming month.
It was here I learned my second tip: When stocking up on spices – bringing your spice jar is actually not ideal! The scoop is usually too big to get the spice into your small jar without making a big mess! I advise bringing a wider mouthed container and transferring it at home.
I was very slow because it was my first true Zero Waste shop and I was a bit unsure!
How it works:
- You bring your containers and they weigh them at the desk, noting the weight
- You shop! Fill everything up, noting the number of the item (making for faster checkout).
- The weight of the container is deducted at the end, so you only pay for the item, not the container.
- Place them back in your reusable bag and you are set to go!
In Europe I may be more likely to use my time to explore – however once you have visited many times, or don’t find the city exciting, (sorry Frankfurt!) I decided to use my time to check out a zero waste store! Gramm.genau offers a different experience where you drop off your containers, highlighting what you want, and they fill them for you! They also had a cafe in store!
The best concept of a Zero Waste store was ‘The Eco Larder’ in Edinburgh, UK. Again recommended by my best friend I was lucky to get the flight within their first 2 weeks of opening! Their store is a social enterprise – crowdfunded by the community! The result was a beautiful store which enabled the community to shop ethically and zero waste. With a wonderful motto of Planet and Purpose before Profit, they have since expanded their offerings including a yoga studio, podcast and community workshops.
It was here I picked up the best, longest lasting package free soap, and my switch to plastic free dental floss
My favourite store that I had the opportunity to visit several times making it highly practical is ‘The Source Bulk Foods’, in Sydney Australia. They have over 50 stores across Australia, and stores in New Zealand, Singapore Ireland and the UK. The staff were super helpful, the store is gorgeous with an impressive selection! Each time I visited I stocked up on dishwashing and laundry liquid, along with some pantry staples.
Tip 3: Always pack plastic containers for dish washing and laundry liquid with the ML printed on it!
Hygiene is important, and most stores nail it – however one of the most pretty selections I saw in a supermarket bulk section had the handles of scoops in and under the food. This is an absolute no from me, and means I wouldn’t shop there.
Shopping Zero Waste takes a little getting used to, and a bit of trial and error, however it is a super rewarding experience. I will leave you with a few last thoughts and tips from my experience:
- One of my favourite and simplest things to zero waste shop were cleaning and personal care products.
- I have a selection of old plastic jars which are very lightweight, ideal for travel and shopping. A few times I took glass jars, but considering the collective weight decided against this. I still prefer it for honey.
- Another option for lighter travel would be bringing snaplock bags or stasher bags – something you can reuse. – Lastly the shops always have paper bags, but while I see most people shopping with these, I feel it somewhat defeats the purpose.
- If you buy package free soap and don’t want it rolling around in your bag or to use more paper bags – take a bag or container with you and reuse!
While my work as cabin crew brought me from Australia to the UAE, it was here I discovered my true passion in environment and waste management. My personal goal is to eventually be zero waste to landfill, trying to waste as little as possible by reducing and reusing and making sure everything is disposed of in the best way possible. I love to challenge wasteful practices and find solutions for people where there are none – leading by example by being the change I wish to see in the world.
Follow Deanna on Instagram @https://www.instagram.com/mindsetearth/