How to: reduce plastic waste
First of all: Why?
I don’t know whether I still have to tell you why we all should reduce our plastic waste. Decreasing resources, increasing islands of plastic in our oceans, microplastic in our bodies – I’m sure you’ve heard of it. If you haven’t, I can recommend to you to watch the documentaries Plastic Planet or Plastic Ocean.
Apart from all of the ‘saving the environment’ reasons, there is also a very cool positive and immediate effect for you if you reduce plastic waste: You’ll have to bring out the trash less often! I promise, this works. Try it for a month and you’ll see yourself (but careful, you might get addicted to reducing and whenever someone uses plastic that can be easily avoided, your heart will ache).
Enough talking, here are some tips how to reduce your plastic waste in Groningen
Fruits and Vegetables
Most of the supermarkets unfortunately have a lot of their greens only available packed in plastic. Therefore, I’d recommend mainly one place to go if you want to shop plastic free in Groningen: the market! If you bring your own bag – and of course ask the market person to use this one instead of a plastic bag – you will get anything you want without plastic. Sometimes you’ll have to look at a different stand for ie. eggplants or broccoli, and of course you can’t get any of the ‘everything in this is 1€’-bags that are for offer on some of the stands. However, this way you get to pick exactly the amount of fruit you want to for the next week and you make sure you won’t get any rotten veggies. If you want to bring your own bags for fruit and veggies to a supermarket, they should be see-through, in some Albert Heijn stores you can buy even food nets specially made for that. They are also quite good for keeping mushrooms, spinach etc fresh longer and preventing them from going soggy.
Pasta, rice etc
There are – to my knowledge – three stores in Groningen that sell dry food in bulk. One is ‘Le Souk’ in Folkingestraat, which has a focus on Arabic food (and an amazing salad and hummus bar!) The other one is called ‘De Nieuwe Weg’ (conveniently located in the street Nieuweweg) and provides you with all sorts of eco-friendly products, from fresh vegetables over self-baked bread to laundry detergent. And then there are two stores of the chain ‘Ekoplaza’, which is a Dutch chain of supermarkets mainly selling organic food.
All stores are not fully package free, so there are still items in plastic etc. If you want to buy stuff there, you can get paper bags at the store, however, it’s of course always better if you just bring your own container.
And if you look closely, a lot of the dry foods like rice or cous-cous are available in carton packing instead of plastic in normal stores as well! You can get tomato sauce, beans and other product in glass jars (and, bonus point, reuse the jars as containers for stuff you buy in bulk at the market or the above-mentioned stores). Most bakeries and often the bread places in the supermarkets also allow you to take their bread in your own bag.
Fish, meat and cheese
You can get all of that stuff in your own containers (if you ask) at the market.
Frozen meals, take away etc
I know, student life isn’t often about buying fresh food and cooking wholesome and complicated meals and take-away is perfect for all those rainy hangover days we experience oh so frequently here in Grunn. However, frozen meals, lunch salads, take-away and all the quick fix foods are often massively packed in plastic (and often cost a lot more money than the fresh ingredients), so if you want to reduce your plastic waste, you should definitely cut back on that. Try out cooking bigger portions when you do cook instead and then store them in the freezer for the rainy hangover days.
Bring food to class, the library or any other place in glass or metal (or, if you don’t have any of that, plastic) containers that you can reuse, bring your own cutlery and: buy a nice bottle that you can refill so you won’t have to buy bottled water. And if you go out for a drink or two, ask to get it served without a straw. It’s the little things…
Reducing plastic waste is not only about groceries, but also about all the bottles of shampoo, face wash, laundry detergent, make-up, … The list can be continued endlessly, and even though there are a lot of things that can’t be bought plastic-free, a few things are easy to get without wrapping. Shower-gels and liquid soap for handwashing can be easily replaced by bars of soaps. Just drop by Dille & Kamille for example, they have amazing soaps and even shampoo bars. De Nieuwe Weg and Ekoplaza have laundry detergent you can fill in your own bottles and the cosmetic store Body Shop mainly uses packaging made of recycled plastic for their products. Ekoplaza also has wooden toothbrushes. Or try and produce your own face masks and hair conditioner, which is a lot of fun to do as well.
Clothes and other items
Buy things second-hand, so you avoid the plastic wrapping around decoration stuff for example. Bring your own bags to pack items in after buying them. And simply don’t buy as much. You see, things kind of get repetitive by now.
So, I think it’s time for a conclusion: Always, always bring an extra bag with you, buy fresh food whenever possible and second-hand items for anything that is non-food. And do not only reduce your plastic waste, but pretty much whatever you buy to not only reduce the plastic in your own bin, but also the plastic that is used in the production of clothes etc.