To test my aparigraha skills and move toward my challenge of a Reduced-Waste Home, I spent an afternoon in a large grocery store chain (with a bulk ‘Health Food’ section) and tried to do 3 weeks’ worth of shopping without buying anything that would be considered disposable. (This includes recycling.) My expert opinion: nearly impossible. There are hidden traps EVERYWHERE. I mean, even the bulk food section (I brought my own bags, one point for me) still printed labels for each bag, gave away twist ties, and required one-time use disposable plastic gloves (negative points for me). Good God. I should have just bought ONE pre-packaged bag of black beans instead of wasting all these extras. Oh, and toiletries? I have no idea how to buy conditioner that doesn’t come in a plastic bottle. There are about a trillion Nature’s Conditioner recipes out there, but I prefer to eat avocados, not put them on my head. Needless to say, it was tough.
This week’s challenge is about shopping smarter, because we know that we vote with our money. Where you purchase items and how you purchase items tells the producer where your heart is and your loyalties lie. Every penny is a vote for a more sustainable, ahimsa filled lifestyle. But it’s not always easy. So just remember my advice from Aparigraha 101: be patient and be kind to yourself. Take this with a grain of salt and a sense of humor… (like you did during your first Vinyasa Level 2/3 class with me at Westport Yoga).
Aparigraha April Challenge #5: Shop Smarter.
1. BYOC. Bring Your Own Container. As in, bring your own fruit and veggie bags, or don’t use any at all. No one ever said that your lemons need their own dinky plastic bag. They can sit in your cart. They can, heaven forbid, touch your other fruit. If you DO need to bag your veggies (sometimes broccoli heads are wet from the ‘stay-fresh’ misters used in the produce aisle) then bring your own. *Helpful Hint: If you do need to use one that is provided for you, be mindful to re-use that bag. Do not tie the bag into a knot at the top, because it’s usually so thin that the plastic tear. Also beware when buying in bulk—the barcode sticker that prints out after you weigh your items is, well, very sticky. After emptying a bag of garbonzo beans into a glass container at home I tried to remove the sticker in order to re-use the bag. “Wait!,” I thought. “If I fill this bag up with pears next time I go to the store, the clerk will be confused that I’ve labeled my pears as garbonzo beans.” Taking off the sticker tore a giant hole in the thin plastic bag. Unusable. Even for doggie-poop. (Actually, especially for doggie poop. Holes in poop bags = the worst.)
2. Buy in Bulk. Reducing food packaging can have an exponentially positive impact on the environment. In America, 80 million tons of food packaging enter landfills every year (Bach, Go Green, Live Rich). At the grocery store, challenge yourself avoid buying anything in a plastic package. Use the bulk item section to buy dry goods (you can even use your own bags from home to when purchasing, see above). At home: store your nuts, beans, lentils in glass containers. (Even treats like yogurt covered pretzels can be purchased out-of-the bag). Don’t want to purchase a matching set of glass canisters? (Good. That’s probably not aparigraha, anyway.) Didn’t inherit 3 giant boxes of Ball canning jars from your grandma this winter? Well… Have you ever purchased apple sauce? Almond butter? Cherry juice? All of these things come in glass jars. Eat/drink the jar empty, put it in the dishwasher, and then fill it right back up. Easy.
3. Become obsessed with Re-usable Totes. Even for Target runs. We are totally used to bringing our own canvas bags to Farmer’s Markets and grocery stores, but you can put other things in those bags, too. Like, um, every-thing. Take your bags into CVS, Walgreens, Target, etc. If you MUST have your items bagged in plastic bags, reuse them as: trash bin liners, doggie bags, packing padding for mailing gifts to your Mimi in California, etc. Do your part to reduce the 30 million plastic bags that end up as litter each year worldwide (Bach, Go Green, Live Rich).
4. Refuse a receipt. If you forgo printed credit card receipts for the rest of your life… you’ve just saved thousands of miles of bleached tickertape. And probably a few trees.
5. Clean your hands. Take your own hand sanitizer spray to the grocery store. Avoid the extra trash created by using the complimentary wet wipes offered to clean the handles of the shopping cart. My all-time favorite hand sanitizer is Clean Well Natural Hand Sanitizer. 1 full oz (a tiny bottle) is 225+ sprays of citrus-smelling cleanliness.
These may seem like small steps. They are. But if everyone takes one small step, then we are all walking together. This Challenge will really test you: next time you go shopping, train your eye to survey all the disposables in the store. Ask yourself: ‘Why would I pay for something, just to throw it away?’ Then, walk away.
Let me know how it goes,