Zero waste shops, where you can buy all your groceries under one roof minus the packaging, are still few and far between (Gram is still the only one in Sweden!). So, how can you cut down food packaging without one? Here are a few tips for reducing packaging wherever you buy your food.

Carry small cloth bags

If you’re in the supermarket, market or bakery you can skip disposable bags and use reusable cotton bags for fruit & vegetables and fresh bread. Some supermarkets even sell nuts and muesli loose, so just fill a cloth bag instead of a plastic one.

Look around you

Once you start looking for package-free options they seem to appear everywhere, and often in unexpected places. Many Asian and whole-food/organic shops sell products like rice, lentils and nuts loose, even tofu. Buy tea loose from speciality tea shops and ask your local coffee shop if you can buy beans directly from them in your own container. If the produce is sold by weight, you’ll need to fill a container that weighs very little like a cloth bag, as most places won’t be able to “tare” your container.

Image: Made Sustained

Be daring at the deli

For meat, fish and cheese head to the deli counter with glass containers or lunch box type containers. Ask them to weigh the product first and then put it directly into your box rather than wrapping in plastic.

Choose the best packaging

Sometimes packaging is hard to avoid, so what’s the best choice? There seems to be an endless debate about the most sustainable packaging. Raw material, recyclability, local recycling infrastructure, transport, product safety, etc. are all factors. One rule of thumb is to choose materials that are endlessly recyclable like paper, metal and glass, and avoid plastic that’s made of fossil fuels and that can’t be recycled into a like-for-like object endlessly. Also look for products that are produced locally to reduce transport emissions.

Do it with an air of confidence

Shopping like this can feel a little intimidating when you start. But if you do it like it’s the most normal thing in the world (which it should be!) you usually won’t have a problem. In fact, you will often get really positive and intrigued responses from the people serving you and queuing behind you. And who knows, you might even encourage some of them to start shopping zero waste themselves.