James and I made our first zero waste grocery shopping foray on Friday. We ran into a number of challenges and had to do some thinking and problem-solving. But we also discovered some new products we would not have noticed otherwise.

In the produce aisle we had to change how we buy our carrots. We eat a lot of carrots and usually buy a 3 or 5 pound bag. But we can’t do that any longer because the bags are plastic. Kudos to our co-op, we have the option of buying loose carrots. Since we use mesh produce bags, this was not a hard thing to do. We felt pretty darn good about this.

However, kale and broccoli, while not in bags, come twist tied or rubber banded in bunches. There is no way to get around this. We will have to be sure to save the rubber bands and ties and reuse them.

The only other difficulty we ran into in the produce aisle were the stickers on apples and bananas. We asked and these are not recyclable or compostable. We are pretty sad about this and not sure what to do. Will have to think on it.

In the bulk section, we jammed along with all our own containers. We have to mark the container weight and the item PLU on our container and use the stickers the co-op provides for this. We inquired about the stickers. Not recyclable or compostable. So we have been brainstorming what to do. I think our solution just might be to use a china marker to write directly on the containers. The markers are essentially wax crayons wrapped in paper. So that seems like it should work pretty well all around.

Then we got to the rest of the store with all the packaged items. Standing before the freezer section looking at the frozen veg, all of it comes in plastic bags. Generally what we buy is frozen spinach, corn, peas and green beans. Well, no more. There was no fresh spinach in the produce section so fresh kale is now going to be our green of choice to toss into stews and soups and stir fries. And we won’t be buying corn, peas or green beans out of season.

Peas and green beans are easy enough to substitute (cooked) dry beans and cowpeas. Corn, well next summer we are going to have to hit up the farm stands and cook up and freeze a bunch. We will be growing quite a few more peas and green beans in the garden next summer too.

Our next challenge was dental floss. The container of the floss we usually buy is plastic and not recyclable. But on the shelf was a different brand we never noticed because we didn’t look. It is contained in a 100% recyclable paper package. We cheered but then cringed because the price was $2 more than our other floss. But upon closer examination, the higher price was because there was twice as much floss in the container. That means we have to buy it less often and it is overall cheaper than the floss we usually buy. Big win! The floss is called Eco-Dent Gentle Floss and is unfortunately made out of nylon but real silk floss would be much worse in my opinion, plus not at all vegan. So also a small compromise.

Our next dilemma came with toilet paper. We usually buy unbleached Seventh Generation but it comes encased in plastic wrap. We had three choices between single rolls wrapped in paper, one is cheaper by the roll than what we usually buy, one is the same price, and the third one is a slightly smaller roll made of bamboo priced in the middle of the other two. Not completely out of TP at home, we have time to sample. So we bought a role of the cheaper one and a roll of the bamboo. The bamboo also comes in a four-pack that, if I remember right, is not wrapped in plastic. But that needs verification, especially if we decide to make that one our TP of choice.

The one thing that we bought and are stumped on is cat litter. Litter does not come in anything but plastic bags, even the wheat derived variety. And the litter itself is not eco-friendly. We decided we need to do some research on this to find out more information about what is available. If you know of any good options that don’t cost an arm and a leg, please leave a comment.

The remainder of our shopping went just fine with the only blip being the locally made tortillas have a plastic tie on the bag. But I think I might be able to figure out a way to use the ties in the garden. Putting on my thinking cap for that.

Everything else we bought that came pre-packaged was in 100% recyclable containers. There are some items we did not need to buy on this trip that may present some future dilemmas, but we will figure those out when we get there. Until then, we are overall pretty pleased with how well we did.