Waste-Wise Purchasing for America Recycles Day

November 15, 2020
| Created by Harmons

This post was written by Kate Whitbeck, Harmons director of sustainability

At Harmons, we believe that caring for our environment is part of being a good neighbor. In honor of America Recycles Day on November 15, 2020, we are focusing on how we can help you reduce waste through sustainable purchasing choices.

Not only is reducing waste good for the environment but it’s a great way of cutting costs and using resources more efficiently.

There are three important waste-related goals to keep in mind when shopping: replacing disposables, closing the loop, and eliminating packaging.

Replacing Disposable Items

Replacing disposable items helps cut costs and reduces unnecessary waste. Think of all the common disposables that we encounter on a daily basis, like paper towels, plastic bags, paper cups, plastic utensils, plastic wrap, and aluminum foil. Many of these can be avoided with the use of some creative alternatives.

Stashers or Full Circle’s Ziptuck Snack Bags are two of my favorite reusable snack bags. Both brands come in a variety of colors, sizes, and patterns. Stashers are made of a thick food-grade silicone and the Ziptuck bags are made from a BPA-free plastic. They are great for packing snacks on-the-go for picnics or even just storing leftovers at home. Harmons carries a wide selection of food storage containers (Anchor, Rubbermaid, Good Cook, Ziploc, Simply Done) allowing you to avoid single-use plastic bags or containers. All of these containers can be washed and reused countless times.

During the pandemic, my family has been supporting our local restaurants by ordering more takeout. Making sure we have a set of reusable bowls, cups, utensils and napkins for the whole family means we are picnic-ready and can enjoy our zero-waste takeout wherever we like. When we eat or drink out of reusable containers with lids, any leftovers are ready to stick into the fridge. Camelbak, Contigo, Fifty/Fifty and Thermos are a few of the brands to check out for bottles, cups and mugs.(See above for food storage containers that can double as bowls with lids).

Another great product is the Chef’n Cloud Cover silicone reusable lid which can replace disposable plastic wrap or foil. These handy lids create an airtight seal on bowls, pots and pans for storage, transport or cooking. They are both microwave and dishwasher safe.

We have all been doing a lot more cleaning lately. Reusable cleaning cloths can replace paper towels for almost every use. Full Circle and Mr. Clean are two brands of reusable cleaning cloths and micro-fiber mop heads that Harmons carries. In my own home, I use a different color cloth for the bathroom, the kitchen and the rest of the house and sterilize them in the washing machine when I’m done. Zero waste and zero hassle!

Closing the Loop

Closing the loop means recycling and buying products made from recycled content. When I make a purchase, I ask myself what will happen to this product when I am done with it? Can I recycle it, reuse it or will it need to be landfilled? Packages that are all one type of material are more easily recycled – think of a plastic milk jug, aluminum can or paper bag. Packaging that has layers of different materials like plastic, foil and paper are much harder to recycle. Remember that just because a product or the packaging has a recycling symbol on it doesn’t mean that it can be recycled locally. Check with your municipality or the hauler that provides your recycling service to make sure they accept the materials you are trying to recycle.

There are plenty of opportunities at Harmons to buy products in 100% recyclable packaging. Harmons-branded vitamins are all packaged in amber glass bottles. These can be easily recycled when empty or sterilized and reused. For other products, check the fine print on the packaging to see if there is recycled content in the plastic bottles or fiberboard boxes. Mrs. Meyers, Seventh Generation, Ecover, Boulder Clean, Burt’s Bees and countless others all use recyclable packaging. In addition to recyclable packaging, EO, Ecos, and Dr. Bronner (89%) all manufacture their products in zero waste facilities meaning they divert 90% of their waste from the landfill.

Eliminating Packaging

Buying concentrates and buying in bulk with your own containers are great ways to avoid creating more packaging waste.

  • Meyer’s Multi-Surface Concentrate and Murphy’s Oil Soap concentrate are two of my favorites cleaning concentrates. Depending on how strong you need your cleaner to be you can save 10’s or 100’s of bottles and dollars.
  • Rather than buying a single bottled or canned beverage you can mix your own in a glass and skip the packaging. Nuun, Mio, Crystal Lite, Gatorade are powdered drink mixes sold at Harmons. Tang and Country Time Lemonade are some old classics that give you the best bang for your buck.
  • Using a Brita filter water pitcher allows you to eliminate plastic water bottle waste.
  • Visiting the bulk aisles and filling your own containers is an easy way of avoiding packaging. Beyond food options, we recently started offering bath salts in refillable glass jars. Now you can take a soothing bath with no packaging-waste guilt!

There are myriad opportunities to make waste-wise choices on your next shopping trip. Consider how you can shrink your packaging footprint with smart waste-wise purchases. Supporting companies that are investing in safer, healthier products for the consumer and the environment is a win for everyone!

Tell us about your favorite sustainable product or waste saving tip, or reach out with sustainable product-related questions: sustainability@harmonsgrocery.com.

Kate Whitbeck

Kate Whitbeck is Harmons’ new director of sustainability. She is a profound believer in the powers of the plant-based diet as a solution to climate change. Unfortunately, her bacon habit continues to thwart her ability to embrace plants for every meal.