Food packaging

How to be zero waste when there are no bulk options!

“I’ve had a lot of fun with zero waste, I’ve learned and am learning so much, I’ve become more practical, I’m healthier and have found a real purpose”


In a perfect world, there would be a bulk supply store on every corner and we could all easily live a zero waste lifestyle in perfect harmony. Sadly, this is not the case. But never fear, there are ways around this little problem. However, I may have to introduce the words compromise, adjust and adapt to the equation.



Firstly, I just want to point out that it is absolutely impossible and impractical to be entirely zero waste and you could spend countless hours allowing the concept to boggle your mind. While it may be possible to be zero waste in your home or on the road by not sending anything to landfill; there are other issues that arise such as emissions created through personal transportation, a wardrobe made from synthetic materials or water intensive natural crops, water and electricity usage, the food you eat, oh the list goes on. You could really go a little crazy trying to reduce your impact to zero but it’s important to remember you are human and you can only ask the best of yourself. To do your best with what you have.

One thing I’ve discovered whilst travelling is that it’s not always possible to access bulk food stores, they could be too far away or they just might not exist in the place I’m staying. And since food is generally my most major concern and biggest waste creator, this is where I personally make compromises. If I can’t find rice in bulk, then I go without until I find it again. I find a way to substitute it in my diet with maybe beans or more vegetables.



– The number one thing you can do when heading to the supermarket is to make sure you have your reusable shopping bags and fresh produce bags with you. Infact, just never leave the house without them! By cutting down on your plastic bag use you are already winning the fight.


veggies in my fresh produce bags


– Be sure to buy your regular grocery products in recyclable packaging – glass, metal, cardboard or paper. Steer clear of plastic packaging at all costs. This includes any fresh produce that may be packaged in plastic. One thing that really grinds my gears is strawberries. Every market I go to packages them in plastic containers, it’s so frustrating because I love them and I can’t eat them!


– Shop locally at farmers markets and regular markets or seek out people in your community who make home made products or sell their extra produce. Look out for that ‘Jam for sale’ sign or that ‘Free oranges’ sign. Not only is this supporting your local community but this is also cutting down emissions on food and product transport and local and preferably organic food always tastes better too.


farm stand


– If you have a bulk supermarket (not loose but bulk products) in your home town, then don’t be afraid to purchase necessities in large quantities, ie the biggest package you can find it in. It will be more economical in the long run and it will last longer. But again, do your best to avoid the plastic packaging.


– A great way to lower emissions, packaging, your food bill and your risk of heart attack is to start eating a more plant based diet. Even if you don’t want to give up meat completely, at least consider giving it up for a few meals per week. Substitute with more fresh fruit and veggies, beans (legumes) and grains. Check out these easy recipes!


– If you can, try and grow some of your own food. As I’ve said before home grown foods always taste better. Even if you have a small space, you could try something small, like growing herbs. I have a friend in San Francisco who has a great little balcony garden with herbs and fruits and other little plants.


balcony veggie garden


– Another great way to cut down on packaging is to stop eating processed foods and start cooking more. I personally really dislike cooking but I have found since starting my zero waste journey that there are quite a few easy meals I can make quickly and that don’t require packaged foods. It has also brought to my attention how bad processed foods are for us. They are full of so many nasty things, I wonder why I was so keen to eat them in the first place!


– Do some research online and talk to people to find out if there are any companies nearby recycling, reusing or collecting different types of packagings or products. For example a lot of shipping or postage companies will reuse packing nuts or bubble wrap (if it’s in good condition). Walmart and Target provide collection bins for plastic bags (although that shouldn’t provide an excuse to use them). Companies like Terracycle who recycle/upcycle many types of non-recyclable packagings (ie: toothpaste) into new products (ie: handbags) have representatives in many different places including rural areas.





The reason I mentioned the words compromise, adjust and adapt earlier is because you may find (as I did) that you will have to change the way you perform regular daily routines or even change your diet to accommodate your new lifestyle.

This doesn’t have to be negative though, infact I have only had positive repercussions from the changes I have made.

For example, I had a complete overhaul of my bathroom and body care products and routines. I converted all my store bought products to home-made, chemical-free and disposable-packaging free products (you don’t have to DIY if you don’t want to, there are many new companies popping up making these sorts of products). I also cut down on the amount of products I use because I realised that I just don’t need them.

When it comes to food, as I’ve said many times before if I can’t find a product in bulk then I won’t eat it. This usually refers to foods such as rice, pasta and oats (which are usually staples in my diet). Whilst I am travelling I am prepared to buy products such as beans in a can as I don’t always have the time or place to rehydrate dried beans (and I can’t always find these in bulk either).

This doesn’t mean I go hungry, it just means I supplement my diet with other foods, usually salads, fresh fruit and veggies and sandwiches.

Another thing I have done is to just stop buying things I don’t need. this includes clothing, jewellery, knick knacks, food, electronics. Basically anything. If I don’t really need it, then I don’t buy it. Not only is my bank account healthier but I also don’t produce waste from the packages of pointless purchases and I’m not encouraging our consumer driven society.


Zero waste icecream - eat in (1)
The easiest way to be zero waste and still have all the treats – eat in!


I’ve had a lot of fun with zero waste, I’ve learned and am learning so much, I’ve become more practical, I’m healthier, I’ve slowed down and have found a real purpose. One thing I really enjoy whilst I’m travelling is seeking out bulk food options in the places I am visiting. It’s actually quite heartening to find so many eco options in many of the towns I’ve travelled through so far in the US. I can’t wait to try this out in a different country!

Love Kat xx





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