Zero-Waste Shopping. It really is worth the effort.
Living up here in the PNW, I've really enjoyed the ease of recycling.
I've lived many places, and this is the most accessible. We have at home recycling (no need to sort - they prefer it all mixed together), compost/yard waste pickup, and lots of local businesses that recycle the things you can't put in the common recycling. Wine for Less will take old corks. Value Village will take any textiles in any condition, and your appliances and electronics. Styro-Recycling will take all forms of styrofoam, so I keep a bag to drop by them when I'm down shopping in that neighborhood.
Then, to add to the mix - Terracycle.com features company-driven recycling programs to take back the odd packaging and bottles. I collect items to send back to Tom's of Maine (all personal care packaging and bottles, toothpaste tubes and toothbrushes), Garnier (Makeup packaging and used compacts), Bic (pens, markers and highlighters), Brita (old water filters) and Mom's Cereal (Cereal box liners, and bulk cereal bags). It's a great resource - and they pay for your shipping labels!
But, I read "Zero-Waste Home" and watched a few youtube videos of other people trying to minimize their impact - and "Eureka," you don't have to recycle things that you never took in the first place.
What a concept!
It's taken me some time to get my "shopping kit" pulled together. Since I do a lot of my shopping via bike in the summer months, hauling around a lot of heavy glass jars isn't an option. I've looked at purchasing bulk bags on Etsy, and may do so in the future, but whipped up a few dry good bags for myself - but checkout people are a little suspicious of bags when they can't see the contents.
So with some trial and error, my shopping kit generally contains the following:
Zero Waste Shopping Bag Contents:
1 Large Burlap Carryall
1 Small collapsible bag
2-3 French Glass Jars with Flip Lids (great for the meat and deli counters - have them slap the sticker right on top)
1 Old Peanut Butter Jar (plastic)
1 Bag of old Bread Bags (turn them inside out, or the bar code will just keep scanning!)
1 Mesh Bag full of mesh produce bags
2 Paper Coffee Bean Bags (one for each store that I purchase beans - as they need the PLU scanning number to ring it in)
1 Ziplock Bag with bulk paper ties (I haven't found a good reusable alternative, so I try to reuse the twist ties as long as there is still room to write the bulk item number on them)
And you know what? My food may look a little funny as it comes floating down the checkstand, but it's exactly the same food as everyone else's. And after you get used to being the weirdo hippie chick purchasing items in strange containers - and thicken your skin a bit, because people will comment (either the checker or the person behind you in line), you realize - what does it matter if my bag is fresh, clear plastic right off the roll in the bulk section, or an inside-out bread bag - it does exactly the same job.
Here's my shopping from yesterday:
Coffee Beans, Quart of Milk, Jar of Hair Conditioner, Evaporated Cane Sugar, White Sugar and Salt
One thing I've been doing, is carrying around my baking powder jar trying to refill it. I've had NO luck. Not at the specialty spice stores, not at the grocery stores, not even at PCC. Something in the back of my brain was niggling at each location, thinking that it must be something whipped up from other ingredients, and that's why no one carries it. I mean, no one.
So, in the bulk section of the fanciest Hippy Grocery Store I could find, I looked up the recipe. And sure enough,
2 Tsp Cream of Tartar
1 Tsp Baking Soda
1 Tsp Corn Starch (optional, for clumping)
So there you have it, just another DIY skill learned - and another thing I don't have to buy prepackaged (but I will save my baking powder jar, 'cause I think it's cute).