All right, people …it’s time to talk trash. Yes, the sexiest of sexy topics to discuss! Actually, it is a topic I care (probably too much) about, so forgive me if I seem unnaturally excited about it. While it may not be a sexy topic, it is an important one. We’ve all seen those heart-wrenching photos of turtles with plastic beverage rings stuck around their necks, or straws stuck up their noses…
The unaltered stomach contents of a dead albatross chick photographed on Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the Pacific in September 2009 include plastic marine debris fed the chick by its parents. (Chris Jordan)

How fun for them! Grrr… with such a wicked problem, we often wonder what we can possibly do to help. Well, lots actually.

One solution? Stop buying plastic whenever possible. I know…easier said than done! Typical grocery stores don’t make it easy to be plastic-free. Here’s a “fun” activity…next time you’re in line at the grocery story, take a look at the person next to you. What do you see in terms of packaging? How much plastic is used for just one person’s purchase on just one day in his/her life? Now multiply that by 8.5 million—roughly the population of Switzerland. Do you have a nice visual?! And that’s only one small country! Now pick your jaw up from the floor…

Not so very long ago, people did not shop this way. Just ask Grandma. We as a society have valued convenience over conservation for decades, and we are now becoming quite aware of how that has hurt us, other living things and the planet. We must change. And we know this.

And after reading this and learning of some new ideas (I hope!), perhaps some of you will be moved to take action. Woo hoo!

Having transplanted ourselves into a new country nearly three years ago, it’s been my mission to find “my people” and “my places” with regards to my ‘eco’ lifestyle. This includes things like buying food from bulk containers to reduce packaging, refilling my own bottles with shampoo and laundry soap, finding the best second-hand stores for cool, good-quality clothing…and more. But rather than try and cover all areas today, I will focus on food packaging—cuz’ we all need to eat!

So, I buy organic fruits and vegetables. But when we first arrived here, I couldn’t find so much as a head of bio broccoli without plastic wrap. As you may have noticed, ‘bio’ produce is sold in plastic at the typical grocery stores. But if you’ve got a few containers and bags laying around, I give you the following suggestions for shopping without packaging:

For what we Americans call ‘bulk bins,’ meaning shops sell each item from a large container, and you buy as much as you want, you’ve got two excellent options for items above and beyond produce: Basel Unverpackt and Abfüllerei Basel.

People, these two stores have a great selection…various types of flour, sugar, pasta, rice, lentils, nuts, dried fruit, chocolate chips, oatmeal, and a selection of yogurt and milk in returnable glass jars. To me, buying in bulk is an ideal way to shop because not only do you not waste packaging, but also you tend to buy only what you’ll use, so you waste less food, or hopefully none. And that, my friends, is a win-win situation!

buying in bulk…my dream shopping experience!

For meats and cheeses, not every store will do this. I recommend farmers markets, your neighborhood butcher and deli, or Manor in Claraplatz. Bring in your own containers and they’ll fill them with sliced turkey, chicken, fresh mozzarella, fish filets, whatever you need…just look at all that waste you diverted from the incinerator/landfill!

And once you’ve shopped zero waste, you’ll be able to cook zero waste! Here are just a few tasty replacements of waste-laden foods that I like (yes, I actually make these!):

Here is another little gem of a resource—the Bio Swiss website. They’ve got a link at the bottom of the homepage titled: “Organic farms, markets, restaurants…” You might be able to shop at a local farm just down your street! Check it out and see what’s around town.

And finally, just an all-around excellent source of information on living a zero-waste lifestyle, go no further than Zero Waste Basel. 

All right, my friends, good luck! Keep on truckin’…

Carrie Aikman


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