A Glimpse Into Our Low Waste Pantry

This article first appeared on The Mindful Wanderer.

When my fiance Alex and I first moved in together in May of last year, the first thing I wanted was a beautiful pantry, inspired by my decor Pinterest board.

What started as a purely aesthetic motive has transitioned into being a lifestyle staple for me, and what really opened my eyes to it was learning more about plastic pollution and the harmful effects it has on our planet.

Here are just a few of those, courtesy of this great article:

  • Over the last ten years we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century.
  • 50 percent of the plastic we use, we use just once and throw away.
  • The average American throws away approximately 185 pounds of plastic per year.
  • Americans throw away 35 billion plastic water bottles every year
  • It takes 500-1,000 years for plastic to degrade.
  • Plastic chemicals can be absorbed by the body—93 percent of Americans age six or older test positive for BPA (a plastic chemical).

It seems like we can’t escape plastic these days.

One way we eliminate the use of plastic in our home is through our pantry and shopping in bulk. First, we bought some jars from IKEA and instead of going to the grocery store and buying spices, nuts, pastas, rice, beans, etc. in packaging, we just go to Bulk Barn, bring our jars and fill them right there on the spot.

Not only does this save us quite a bit of money, but now I don’t have extra packaging around the house to dispose of. Granted, it does take a little more thought and planning, but it’s been such a fun thing for us to do together and we love packing up our jars in a canvas tote bag and heading to the store.

We walk through the aisles and learn about new kinds of foods we’ve never tried before. Because we’re both vegan, we don’t shop for meat or dairy products, so pretty much everything we consume can come from the bulk store, save for almond milk and butter.

PRO TIP: once you finish a jar of pickles, olives, what-have-you, wash it out well and reuse it for your bulk purchases. As you can see in the photo above, I have a container from a cold pressed juice that I put split peas into.

 Photo: Vanda Dobritoiu

Photo: Vanda Dobritoiu

Our plastic consumption doesn’t end in our kitchen, though that’s where it was housed mostly, but it also extends into our bathroom (soap, shampoo, conditioner, razor, toilet paper, etc). It’s actually mind blowing how much plastic is all around, once you take a mental inventory.

To reduce plastic use in the bathroom I’m hoping to transition our soaps and shampoos into the bar kind, and instead of buying toilet paper in plastic packaging, order it off Amazon in the biodegradable packaging that you can just compost after opening each roll.

I’m also very guilty of paper towel usage. To say I overdo it is an understatement. Once the current rolls of paper towels are finished, I will not continue buying more, but instead using kitchen towels or cut up old t-shirts and repurpose them that way.

 Photo: Vanda Dobritoiu

Photo: Vanda Dobritoiu

Here are a few more quick ways to reduce plastic use that I’ve learned this past year:

  • Don’t use plastic straws, and if you’re at a restaurant, ask to not be given one
  • Always bring a reusable bag when grocery shopping, so you can opt out of the plastic bags
  • Instead of buying individual water bottles, buy a Brita for your home and just refill it with water from the tap
  • Also on the topic of beverages, bring your own travel cup when going out for coffee. I have my eyes on a Keep Cup I really, really want.
  • Buy clothing made of natural, not plastic or synthetic materials

These are just some of the ways Alex and I do our best to reduce the plastic use in our home. We’re not perfect, nor are we trying to be. We’re doing our part and doing our best to be mindful consumers. I’d love to know how you reduce the plastic use in your home and what are some handy tips & tricks you could share with me. I’m always looking for new ways to better my practices!