Image for Zero Waste Shopping Challenge, Week 3

By Mississippi Market Board Chair, Heather Haynes

As we celebrated the 49th Earth Day (it began on April 22 in 1970) I contemplated how much easier it would have been to go 20 days without generating waste 49 years ago. Here and now in 2019, I was able to cut down on the waste I generated but was unsuccessful at eliminating it altogether, even for 20 days, because truly living zero-waste takes resources and time that I don’t have – that most of us don’t have. And it’s exponentially harder to find some of the food I eat and the items I use regularly without plastic packaging than it was 40 or even 20 years ago.

But maybe 20 days isn’t long enough and didn’t provide me with enough time to do research and make the connections I need to get as close to zero-waste as humanly possible. I am not going to stop challenging myself now that the public phase of this Zero Waste Shopping Challenge has ended. I am going to continue working at this and will keep reducing and reusing where I see opportunities to do so. I plan on getting more creative, continuing to educate myself, making more connections, and strongly advocating for zero waste packaging options.

I am also going to keep requesting products I use regularly be sold in bulk or be sold packaged in compostable, biodegradable, or at least easily-recyclable packaging. Last week it was cat litter, dry cat food, and health supplements that I couldn’t find without far more plastic packaging that I felt was necessary. I will write comment cards at the co-op and ask for an easy way for members to “ditto” comments we support so we can easily build momentum for things we all want. I will also call producers and manufacturers and buy products from individuals and companies that are making a concerted effort to reduce wasteful packaging. And again, I ask you to join me in this effort, because combining our consumer buying and advocating power will go much farther than any of us doing it alone.

There are so many additional things we can do, many with a minimum investment of time and effort on our part, to reduce our negative impact (and increase our positive impact) on our planet and our community. And many of them benefit us in multiple ways as well. There are enough to fill weeks and weeks of blog posts! Some of them are not the most “convenient” option, but convenience doesn’t always add value or meaning to our lives.

Thanks for reading my Zero Waste Shopping Challenge blog posts, and extra thanks if you participated! I didn’t reach my zero-waste goal, but if I have helped even a few people reduce the waste you are generating, and recruited a few fellow advocates from our member base, I will still consider this a success!

If you have any insights of your own to share, or any questions, please email me at Thanks again!

Zero Waste Shopping Tips

Below is a short list of some things I have been using/substituting for a long time to cut down on plastic and packaging waste. You probably know about most of them already, but maybe not everyone knows all of them. A few generate a little more laundry than you’d have otherwise, but the extra time to do a load of laundry is well worth the avoided waste.

  • Use cloth napkins instead of paper napkins.
  • Use cloth towels instead of paper towels.
  • Use handkerchiefs instead of paper tissues.
  • Use Diva cups and washable cloth pads instead of tampons and disposable pads.
  • Save glass jars from things you can’t buy in bulk and use them to hold everything you can buy in bulk (i.e. grains, nuts, legumes, flours, chocolate covered almonds, sesame snack sticks, olive oil, tea, spices, etc.).
  • Save plastic containers from previously purchased dish and hand soap to buy bulk soap.
  • Bring reusable produce bags to the grocery or go without a bag.
  • Bring reusable shopping bags to every store you visit instead of using plastic or disposable bags.
  • Bring a reusable lidded mug when you need to buy coffee or tea to-go.
  • Bring reusable to-go containers for food when eating out.
  • Choose the most environmentally-friendly packaging options every time you shop.