How To Reduce Waste In Your Weekly Supermarket Shop, According To YouTuber Sustainably Vegan
My sustainable journey started six years ago when I first discovered videos on YouTube promoting an entirely plant-based diet that were so powerful that they made me rethink what I consumed and my view of the world. This diet and lifestyle was new to me and the community’s excitement to try new things had such a profound effect on me that I was inspired to become vegan.
A few years later, a TED Talk discussing the issues surrounding the waste pandemic and growing plastic crisis profoundly changed my outlook and inspired me to start promoting an entirely different way of living; one where the earth and those living on the front lines of the waste crisis were not the ones that suffered from the lifestyle choices I was making.
I started my own YouTube channel, Sustainably Vegan, in 2014 as a way to share, educate, and connect with people across the world — and hopefully empower more people to make sustainable choices, like I had been inspired to do years before on the platform.
Just as I had begun by discovering small ways I could alter my everyday behaviour to reduce waste, I encouraged others to do so through my videos. A good place to start is the weekly shop. As I learnt more about low-impact living, my grocery hauls began to look more and more natural, with fruits and vegetables being coated in their own natural skins rather than the excessive plastic packaging supermarket giants refuse to give up. After a couple of years, I began to look further into the importance of seasonality and how local the food was that I was buying. I also began asking myself questions like, "how far has this food travelled?" and "was it grown in a greenhouse or is it currently in season?"
Not everyone has access to bulk stores, and while the large supermarkets still have a long way to go to make zero waste shopping more accessible, there are a few small things you can alter when doing your weekly shop that will have a huge impact and help to drive real change. Here are a few ways to start:
1. Shop local & seasonal
Shop as locally and seasonally as you can where your budget permits. I often browse delivery services like Oddbox, Riverford, and Farmdrop to see what they're currently offering as this gives a good indication of what's currently in season. I also check out the local farmers' market and chat to the sellers there, while also taking note of the produce on offer.
2. Switch your soaps
Switch your hand washes, dish soaps and body washes to an unpackaged soap bar. If you live in London, there are loads of great zero waste shops like Hetu in Clapham Junction, BYO in Nunhead, and other more mainstream shops like Planet Organic dotted around the city. If you're looking for an online retailer, I would recommend Soap Daze.
3. Buy large
Buy the largest bag possible when food shopping if you don't have access to bulk stores. This reduces the amount of packaging you'll use as well as often being more economical. I have a huge array of cloth bags I take with me, from organic cotton bulk bags for rice to string bags for vegetables, or free canvas bags I've picked up at a festival. I also reuse old plastic bags I've stored and will reuse until they break. I have a few reusable grocery bags from Agnes LDN that I love.
4. DIY deodorant
Try making your own deodorant. It's actually really simple and super effective. There’s a really easy recipe on my channel — just make sure you remember to buy reusable pots to put it in, or reuse an old jar you have lying around!
5. Research recycling
Choose recyclable packaging like cardboard or tins (if they're widely recycled in your area) over plastic. Every area should have a council website and there will be a section about waste management and recycling which will show you exactly what is and isn't recycled in your area.
6. Prepare your lunch
Try making your own lunch to take to work to reduce packaging of convenience food. I am a huge fan of YouTube channels like Pick Up Limes and Rachel Ama, who share loads of really easy and simple vegan recipes. I love to make hummus sandwiches with lots of greens and homemade falafels, with some apple and peanut butter for a snack.
7. Reduce food waste
Try to reduce your food waste as much as possible as food waste is truly a climate change issue. Food waste generates 3.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases according to feedbackglobal.org, who also claim that reducing food waste is the third most effective way to tackle climate change. This means buying single bananas in the supermarket, supporting wonky fruit and veg companies like Rejuce, Oddbox, and Rubies in the Rubble, while also eating every piece of food you buy rather than chucking it in the bin.
8. Make your own staples
Try making your own staples like plant-based milk alternatives, nut butters, and breads, as they are surprisingly simple and can save you money. I have a super simple recipe for plant-based milks, which I love making because you can add so many ingredients and make such interesting and delicious combinations. My favourite is making a cinnamon and nutmeg almond milk to go with a super christmassy tasting porridge for breakfast.
To be brutally honest, I believe there is no future without sustainable living. As plastic builds in the oceans and natural disasters devastate and displace thousands of people, sustainability should be at the forefront of our leaders' minds.
Consumers should be given equal access to affordable, sustainable alternatives and we should work to eradicate food deserts, while also putting pressure on the government to meet the drastic needs to slow down climate change.
Head to Immy’s YouTube channel Sustainably Vegan for low-waste tips and tricks and inspiration on how you can become more sustainable.