Image for Zero Waste Shopping Challenge

Presented by Mississippi Market Board Chair, Heather Haynes

When I was young (in the mid-70s), “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” was an oft repeated phrase. Over the years, the phrase seemed to get reversed. Gradually, the emphasis on “Recycle” increased, the emphasis on “Reuse” decreased, and “Reduce” almost disappeared altogether from our collective consciousness.

More recently, a new phrase has emerged, “Zero Waste”, which incorporates “Reduce” and “Reuse” and de-emphasizes “Recycle”. But, over 45 years later, our lives are more hectic, and we’ve fallen into habits and lifestyles that are definitely not zero waste for the sake of convenience or out of necessity. And in these 45 years, we’ve purchased and generated a lot of waste, much of it packaging-related.

So, a recommitment to reducing and reusing comes not a moment too soon, and hopefully not a moment too late. But, can we get to absolute zero waste? Probably not, because unless we grow and produce everything for ourselves or buy it direct from a farmer or producer, there will still be packaging involved to transport food to the grocery store. Unless you have a direct relationship with your store’s buyers, you may not know how the food you buy is packaged for delivery (i.e. in reusable, recyclable, or compostable packaging versus plastic).

However, we can definitely reduce and reuse the packaging we purchase and bring into our homes, schools, and jobs. This seemingly small effort can aid in reducing the amount of packaging waste going into our trash or being recycled, being burned in incinerators, or ending up in the ocean.

Packaging Facts

  • Packaging represents about 65% of household trash.
  • The U.S. is the #1 trash-producing country in the world at 1,609 pounds per person annually. This means that 5% of the world’s population generates 40% of its waste.
  • On average, it costs $30 per ton to recycle trash, $50 to send it to the landfill, and $65 to $75 to incinerate it.
  • Plastic waste thrown away kills as many as 1,000,000 sea creatures every year!



Join me in Mississippi Market’s Zero Waste Shopping Challenge! This April, my challenge to myself, our co-op’s General Manager Gail Graham, and to you is to shop package-free from April 2 to April 22 (Earth Day).

There’s only one rule: purchase no new packaging. If you already have plastic bags, or other reusable containers or bags, plastic or otherwise, feel free to reuse them when shopping at the co-op.

Buying pre-packaged items in sufficient quantities to last you 20 days just prior to starting the challenge is cheating. The goal, really, is to find out if you can purchase what you already eat without using or buying new packaging, or, if you are able to change your eating and living habits enough to live happily with as close to zero waste as possible long-term.

I start today, and I hope you’ll join me! Revisit this blog every Tuesday until April 23 (the day after Earth Day) for weekly updates, successes, and challenges I face along the way to inform your efforts.

Share your Zero Waste Shopping Challenge photos online with the hashtag #MMZeroWasteChallenge for your chance to win a reusable water bottle, shopping bag, or lunch container. Winners will be randomly chosen from those who use the hashtag.