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How to use less plastic and shop zero-waste

Spurred on by the positive impact of fewer plastic bags on our oceans, Ellen Tout takes her conscious policies to the heart of her home

by Ellen Tout

plastic-free

3 minute read

The use of plastic shopping bags has dropped by 85 per cent since a charge was introduced – and, encouragingly, scientists recently found 30 per cent fewer bags on the seabed. How can we apply that mindset to the rest of our shopping habits? For me, the weekly shop used to be a late-night dash, where I’d moan about the unnecessary plastic packaging, palm oil and waste. I thought I didn’t have the time or money to change my routine.

For the last few months, however, I’ve replaced supermarkets with more sustainable and fulfilling ways to shop. Every Friday, I walk my dog to the market and stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables. They cost less, are plastic-free and are grown locally. This outing has become a joy – I chat to people from my community and the stall owner can tell me exactly where her produce comes from. I also notice that I connect with and value my food more when I shop this way.

My kitchen cupboards are now full of jars brimming with colourful seeds, grains, nuts and spices. I fill these up at my local zero-waste shop. The first time I visited, I questioned if I’d been undercharged! ‘It’s surprising what food costs when you’re not paying for packaging,’ said the assistant. Zero-waste shops are opening everywhere, stocking everything from washing-up liquid to oats, rice and shampoo. There’s no need to buy fancy jars – mine are old ones that I’ve cleaned and repurposed. Shopping this way also reduces food waste because you only buy the amount that you actually need.

Thoughtful consumption

By making a few simple switches, I’ve turned the chore of shopping into something I enjoy. I’ve reduced my plastic waste and I’m also avoiding palm oil and eating more seasonal food. When I have to visit a supermarket, I actively research my purchases. Apps like Buycott and Giki allow you to scan a product to see how ethical it is. They flag up ingredients like palm oil and where the company invests its profits. By making a conscious choice about who our money supports and the impact of our shopping, we send a message to businesses that we want change.

See this list of zero-waste shops.

Green finds

Join the concious shopping revolution.

  • Throwaway coffee cups take 30 years to break down. The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) sells eco-conscious household alternatives. Try Natural bamboo fibre Ecoffee cups, £10.
  • A Life Less Throwaway by Tara Button (Harper Thorsons, £7.49) takes an eye-opening look at our culture of shopping and throwing away. It asks how we got here and why mindful curation is the future.
  • Ditch plastic bags and invest in a tote that will last – and be strong enough to carry all your shopping. Try a cotton canvas bag.

Be an ethical consumer 

Read more from Ellen on her eco journey in the magazine each month and follow @Ellen_Tout

Image: Getty