An Ode to Bulk

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

 

I love thee for thou savest me allll the money.

I love thee for thou savest the environment.

I love thee as I now have beautiful *almost* plastic-free cupboards that look like they are straight outta Pinterest.

 

Bulk buying has changed my life. When I first heard about it, it seemed much too intimidating and if I’m being real, TOO MUCH WORK. Plus, I was certain it would be more expensive. After careful consideration* I made my way to the least intimidating option, my local Bulk Barn. After some fumbling, and awkward conversations** I got it done. I purchased lentil pasta (bad choice, $$$ and just plain gross), some spices and hemp hearts. Despite the expensive pasta, I STILL spent less on those items than I would have at my chain grocer! I was shocked how much money I saved, and my next couple forays into bulk buying led me to have amazing conversations with people at the checkout as well as the customers standing in line. Who knew reusable produce bags were such a conversation starter?

 

So how do you get started?!

1. Get some reusable bags and some jars. You can use empty, clean jars from products you’ve used up or purchase them at a thrift store. I bought my produce bags on Amazon when I hadn’t yet fallen down the eco rabbit hole. I suggest sewing them (you can find a simple tutorial here) or supporting someone local through Etsy... like me.

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2. Purchase a funnel. Trust me. It will save you from awkwardly yelling CLEANUP IN AISLE THREE and then shamefully running away.

3. Make sure it’s all clean and, most importantly, dry.

4. Ask the cashier to weigh (or tare) your jars and bags.

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5. Fill em' up! Take a picture of the bin number, or type it in your phone.

6. Finally, pay for your purchases and bask in the glory of a job well done.

I honestly spend less money and have more time since bulk buying. Not having to recycle packaging or sent said packaging to landfill is so freeing, and I’m in and out of the store in less than 10 minutes.

I live in Kamloops, British Columbia, so I have created a list of stores where you can purchase bulk and package-free items, as well as their relative costs.  If you live anywhere else click here for Litterless blog’s amazing directory. If you have something to add to my list, hit me up here.
 

Bulk Barn

(Note: They almost ALWAYS have a coupon available, so make sure you sign up for their online newsletter! You can also get 10% off on Wednesdays if you are a senior or a student.)

·         Spices

·         Nutritional Yeast

·         Non-wheat flours

·         Hemp hearts

·         Dried beans

·         Flax and chia seeds

·         Peanut butter (slightly more expensive than grocery stores)

·         Tahini

·         Coconut oil (slightly more expensive than Costco, but cheaper than grocery stores)

·         Coffee beans (fair trade to boot!)

·         Dried fruit (some is more expensive than grocery stores)

·         Protein powder

·         Psyllium husks (don’t know what these are? Check out this post and recipe https://www.mynewroots.org/site/2013/02/the-life-changing-loaf-of-bread/ by My New Roots. It is truly life-changing.).

 

Nature’s Fare

(Note: 5% family/student discount on Sundays and 5% seniors discount on Wednesdays and Thursdays.)

·         Coffee beans (they even have a bulk local option!)

·         Plastic-free produce

·         Homemade dressings in glass jars

·         Local milk in glass (which can be returned for deposit)

·         Soap

Healthylife Nutrition

·         Herbs

·         Spices

·         Teas

·         Local soaps (not vegan)

·         Vegan soaps made in Alberta

Gary’s Deli

·         Meat packages in butcher paper

Chop N’ Block

·         Cheese and meat (bring your own container!)

Save-On Foods

  • Deli meat (bring your own container)

  • Buns, bread, bagels

NuLeaf Produce Market

  • Local, plastic-free produce

  • Local milk in glass

  • Dressings in glass

  • Local grains milled in house

  • Case lots for canning (come on, bring out your inner Laura Ingalls!)

4 Oaks Oil & Vinegar

  • Oil… and vinegar. You can bring back the bottles and they will reuse them.

Crazy 8cres

(While a little far-flung out in Westsyde, this sustainable farm has lots of zero waste items and is venturing more into bulk)

 

And don’t forget… if you forget your produce bags and are afraid of your veggies getting too intimate, use a couple brown paper mushroom bags!

Take a picture on your next bulk trip and spread the word. As they say #bulkisbeautiful :)


 

Saving the world one *mason jar* at a time,

 

Haley


 

*Just kidding, I grabbed a couple jars and hoofed it to the store. Impulsive is my middle name, uncomfortable scenarios are my game.

 

**The staff weren’t used to people bringing in jars. It’s literally what the company is about, but apparently jars haven’t caught on here yet. There is a giant poster of a jar on the front window. But, you know, convenience still abounds.

Reusable Bags: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Reusable bags is the FIRST suggestion I make to anyone who wants to reduce their waste.

Why, you ask?

Because we need to carry things every single day! Plastic bags are typically used for only 7-12 minutes (studies vary) and then we recycle them or throw them away.

Most people who choose to recycle plastic bags don’t do it properly (by taking it to a depot in British Columbia) and end up contaminating an entire batch. Like this. Which is sad.

So now that you have absolutely, 100 percent decided that you will never touch a plastic bag again, what should you use instead?

The Good

The best kind of bags, are bags that are made from something that has already been created, bags from a thrift store, or bags made from sturdy, sustainable materials.

These are definitely my favourite ideas:

above: Tote made from repurposed 2010 Olympics banners.

If you are looking for new bags, made from sustainably sourced materials, you have a couple options:

  • Hemp, which grows fairly fast and doesn’t use a lot of water to grow

  • Bamboo, which grows quickly, but uses significantly more water

Both are decent options, and the best part is once they’ve reached the end of their life, just throw them in the compost!

above: Hemp/Organic Cotton blend tote from Sitka (made in Victoria, BC).

The Bad

Cotton and organic cotton are two of the most commonly used materials in “green” products, however both crops use an insane amount of water. When comparing against hemp, cotton to 2-7 times more water from seed to finished product! Regular cotton also uses 16% of the worlds’ insecticides and more pesticides than any other crop.

If you must, choose cotton totes made from organic or recycled cotton, like the string bags from Montreal-based CredoBags.

above: 100% cotton Market String Bag by CredoBags in Montreal.

The Ugly

Not all reusable bags are created equal.

Grocery stores all seem to sell their version of a reusable bag. Unfortunately most of these bags are not made to last, and are often made of plastic. They are typically non-woven, and tear easily at the seams. They also don’t wash very well, and are ugly to boot.

Nylon bags are another bag I suggest avoiding.* They are super durable, but are made of plastic and will never break down. I made the mistake of buying a set the minute I decided to start my zero-waste journey, and although I will use them until they are no longer usable, I regret it every time I pull one out. Learn from my mistakes people!

I have created a printable door hanger to remind you to bring your reusable bags. SO BRING THEM! AND USE THEM! And when you forget, stuff your pockets with potatoes and balance your bananas under your chin and you will NEVER forget to bring them again.**

Saving the world one reusable bag at a time,

Haley

*Unless you can find them made from recycled plastic! When we buy recycled plastic, we are supporting the recycling industry. Although the goal of zero waste is little to no recycling, it’s not something that is going to end overnight. Purchasing goods made from recycled materials takes away from companies who make things from new plastics, and is always the better option.

**Personal experience. I had no fewer than three employees ask me 12 times if I needed a bag. I looked like a crazy person, but saving the planet takes sacrifice!