Going Plastic Free? 8 Tips to Shop Zero Waste

Quitting plastic to live a waste-free lifestyle can be a challenge at first. It requires a change of habits that can feel like a lot of work but with a little perseverance, you’ll be making a huge difference for our planet and your carbon footprint. You’ll also save on your grocery bill, purely because you aren’t paying for packaging.

1. Say No to Plastic Bottles

Get in the habit of carrying your own glass or metal water bottle around with you. It will not only save you money, but it’ll also be one less plastic bottle floating in our oceans. It can be a challenge to find a spot to refill your bottle in countries where you can’t drink the tap water so fill up at the hotel before you head out for the day and look out for cafes that offer free drinking water where you can top your bottle up. In Kuala Lumpur we can’t drink the tap water so we’ve had to buy bottled water for the longest time. It’s a lot of plastic waste which is niggling at my conscious so we’re looking at getting a water filter that we can install directly to our tap. 

2. Buy Second Hand

The next time you need something new, whether it’s clothing or homeware, why not check out your local thrift store before heading straight to a shopping mall? Shopping second-hand means pre-loved goods don’t end up in landfills and new ones don’t need to be made, saving our natural resources. Thrift shopping is also one of the best ways to combat the modern-day slave trade caused by the fast fashion industry. 

3. Carry Your Own Shopping Bag

With so many cute tote bags and shoppers on the market, carrying your own shopping bag is now a fashion statement in itself. They’re so lightweight that this is one of the easiest plastic-free habits to implement. I often substitute my handbag for a tote when I know I’ll be stopping by the store on the way home.

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4. Find Your Nearest Zero Waste Store

Visiting a zero-waste store for the first time is a lot of fun. They’ll usually stock a host of edible dry goods as well as cleaning products. The natural, toxic-free detergents are the thing I love most about shopping at my local zero waste store. Some may have fresh produce but since you can buy loose fresh produce from the supermarket you may need to make 2 stops. Be prepared. You may want to call the store ahead of time to check if they stock the items you need. It might sound obvious but you will need to take your own containers along. Think about the quantities you need and scale your containers accordingly. After many trips to The Hive, sounding like a drunk with all the clinking glass bottles in my shopper, I’ve now realised it’s easier to take small mesh bags for the dry goods and then transfer them into my containers when I get home. If you’re in Johannesburg, The Refillery is an awesome zero-waste store. They’re opening a new store in Morningside very soon which I’m super excited about.

5. Buy Loose Fruit and Vegetables

It is possible to reduce your plastic purchases at everyday supermarkets. Instead of choosing the onions that are pre-packaged, opt for the loose ones. Don’t make the mistake of putting the loose items into the free plastic bags from the reel. Instead, reuse a plastic bag from another purchase or take your own vegetable bags along.

This has been a personal challenge for me as the supermarket I go to in KL has an amazing organic section so I got really into eating organic produce at the start of 2019. Sadly, all the organic food is packaged in plastic and often, way less mindfully than standard fresh products. Last weekend for the first time I chose products that had no packaging rather than the organic ones and I managed to get every single fresh item with no plastic packaging! That felt so good! Because of this conflict between organic and zero waste products, I am more inclined to order a fresh box of whole foods which I’ve covered below.

6. Support Local Farmers

Farmers markets are a great way to spend a weekend morning. Buy stopping by the local market with your own bags, you’ll be getting the freshest produce, supporting local farmers and reducing your waste. If a farmers market is not accessible to you, look for fresh produce drops. The Munching Mongoose delivers organic seasonal fruits and vegetables straight to your door in Johannesburg and Wild Organics offers fresh produce collection points in Cape Town.

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7. No More Takeaways

This is a twofold process. The first is when eating out, either refuse the takeaway if you don’t finish your meal or start carrying your own container with you. Another option is to request that your takeaway is placed in a paper box and not in plastic. This is super convenient if you’re a pizza lover like me. The second step is to avoid ordering food via delivery services as these are some of the most overly packaged items, when you consider the bag, the container, the plastic knife and fork, the serviettes and the condiments. If you really can’t resist ordering in, opt for ordering from restaurants that are mindful of their packaging. We recently ordered from Nando’s in KL and first, the delivery app prompted us to refuse plastic cutlery, secondly when the food arrived, everything was packaged in paper beside the condiments. Next time, I’ll add a note to say don’t bring sauces.

8. Refuse Single-Use

Single-use plastic gets a really bad wrap but glass, paper and textiles can also be harmful to the environment. Aim to refuse anything that is single-use. What we really want to be doing is using sustainable products that can be used time and time again so we’re not having to dump more things into landfills. 


All the best on your zero waste journey. If you’re looking for more ways to help the environment this year, check out this post.

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