From the midst of coconut-shelled smoothie bowls and #ecofriendly Insta posts, a new movement is emerging that’s challenging the abundance of packaging in our everyday lives. Beyond ditching the straw or the coffee cup lid, environmental warriors are now opting to forgo packaging completely and embracing a new form of shopping: going naked. Full disclosure: we’re not talking about streaking through Checkers, but rather opting to lower your plastic impact by bringing your own bags and containers to your shopping, thus eliminating plastic packaging.
The logic is simple: plastic is a problem. It’s in our water, our oceans, and even in our bodies. The bottled water you grab at the yoga studio because you always forget to pack your own? One massive multi-national study of different bottled water brands found plastic particles in almost all of them. Then there’s the way plastic is creating dense islands in the oceans. One video made a stir on social media, showing literal waves of trash on the beach of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic:
One pioneer in the naked shopping movement is Janneke Blake, founder of Shop Zero, a zero-waste grocery store in Cape Town’s trendy Woodstock suburb. Instead of bags, packets and plastics, the store is lined with giant glass jars, dispensing drums and large tins of wholesale beans, oats, dishwashing liquid eco-friendly containers, like cork coffee cups. Or try these cute reusable eCoffee Cups (R181 at Cape Coffee Beans).
“We ask our suppliers to send their products to us plastic-free as far as possible,” says Blake. “For example, our shampoo is sent to us in a reusable bottle. Anything that is sent to us that we can’t reuse or recycle we make into an eco-brick.”
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Customers bring in their own containers and can take as much or as little of a product as they want. This is great if you aren’t sure about something, like that new gluten-free flour you’ve been hearing about. “In a conventional grocery store you’d have to buy a 250g packet, but here you can take just 50g if you want.” Shop Zero also offers free paper bags for unprepared customers as well as boxes and jars that have been donated.
Shop Zero isn’t alone. Nude Foods is another naked store in Cape Town, and a slew of Instagram accounts have cropped up championing the zero-waste lifestyle, with actionable tips on how to do it yourself without losing your mind.
“It can be a bit overwhelming to people to begin a zero-waste lifestyle,” says Blake. “I don’t live a completely zero-waste lifestyle myself – it’s a journey rather than a destination.” But there are easy steps that anyone can follow to greatly reduce their waste contribution to the planet.
“Start off with the big four,” says Blake. “Plastic bags, plastic water bottles, plastic straws and disposable coffee cups.” All of these single-use items can easily be replaced with a reusable product. Start with flimsy plastic shopping bags and keep a reusable cotton bag in your car for impromptu shopping trips. Try these FreshBags, R66 for two at Faithful To Nature.
Chuck your single-use water bottle with something more stylish and long-lasting. Typo has endless designs to choose from. There are many reusable options to the plastic straw now, in all ranges of colours, metals and glass. Lastly, use mugs at coffee shops or simply ask for it to be made in your reusable cup. Simple.
This article was first published on Women's Health SA.