An Uncomplicated Life Blog: How Bulk Shopping Is Environmentally Friendly

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Monday, June 8, 2020

How Bulk Shopping Is Environmentally Friendly

When looking to make environmentally friendly choices, don't discount wholesale stores! Bulk shopping is (usually) friendlier to the earth


One of the coolest things I've seen start to "trend" is that most people are actively looking for ways to be more environmentally friendly. Whether that be via reducing waste, reducing the use of plastic, or searching out companies that go out of their way to help environmental causes, most people I know would prefer to shop in an environmentally friendly way at a "good" company (and there are many ways to define good). If you're looking for ways to reduce your carbon footprint, and also be more cost effective, look into local area wholesale clubs! I'm going to outline exactly how bulk shopping is environmentally friendly. And also, the most cost effective.


Now, here's the thing we need to get out of the way really quick: if you take all your provisions home and break them into smaller amounts using plastic bags or plastic wrap, you've essentially un-done all the good you just did. Not from a cost perspective, but from an environmental perspective. I wrote this post on super simple (and also cost effective!) product swaps to get the bulk of wasteful plastic out of your home, so if you're looking for ideas, please go check it out! Most items in that list are under $10 and reusable to boot.

One thing that IS super environmentally friendly? This new laundry detergent from Revive. It's packaged in cardboard and is in strips, so you break a strip off and throw it in your load, right in with your laundry. It works wonderfully, is 100% PLASTIC FREE, and contains no fragrances, no toxic dyes, no parabens, no phosphates, no chlorine. If you want to scent your laundry, you can add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to the strip, then place it in the washer. Hello, no more plastic jugs of laundry detergent that take anywhere from 450-1,000 years to decompose!



Ok, back to bulk shopping: I prefer to shop at Costco, mostly because I'm really partial to their store brand, Kirkland. That brand is every bit as good as name brands, and sometimes better. We like to buy just about everything food-wise there, since we have so many people to eat it all. Crackers, a favorite snack food of my kids, comes in a large cardboard box with three large foil bags inside it. If I bought the same product at a regular grocery story, I'd have to buy two boxes to equal one of the bulk bags. That equals to two cardboard boxes, and the store brands use plastic to house the crackers, not foil like the bulk packaging, so essentially I'd double my environmental input for the same amount of product.

At wholesale stores, you get 1.34 lbs whereas at conventional grocery stores you get .85-.95lbs -that's a half pound more meat for the same amount of plastic!

Let's chat meat products. Yes, the meat I do buy there is wrapped in plastic. But here's the thing: at Whole Foods, the other location I buy meat from, I can get a pound of ground local beef (actually, it's just shy of a pound now... Yay for less product for the same cost) that's wrapped in plastic. When I go to Costco, organic ground beef is packaged in a pound and a half. I currently can use one of those packages to make a meal for my family, but I'd have to use two pounds (and therefore double the plastic waste) of the beef from Whole Foods.

Buying larger sizes means more product for less plastic. And more product for less money!

Fruit is another one I get in bulk, as all of my kids LOVE it. When I buy it wholesale, I get one large container that will be several meals for my kids. When I buy it at Whole Foods, I have to get multiple (plastic) containers for just one meal. We go through over two pints of berries a meal, so you can do the math on that destruction. The majority of our recycling is plastic berry containers! I love when I go to Costco and can get one big one for several meals worth of  fruit, it's such a breath of fresh air for me and my guilt about my family's plastic consumption!

The last component that I really like about shopping in bulk is that no plastic bags are used at checkout. Down here in the South, plastic bags still reign supreme at conventional grocery stores (as well as Target and Walmart) to pack up your goods upon buying them. Study after study has shown that those bags wind up in rivers, lakes, oceans. They wind up in landfills and take years upon years (decades, actually) to decompose. If you're not bringing your own bags to conventional stores, please consider doing so. Those plastic bags are amongst the worst. And bulk stores don't offer them (they will offer you a cardboard flat to put smaller items in - and cardboard is not only recyclable, it's also decomposeable!)


Bulk shopping isn't environmentally perfect. Yes, plastic is still used. And yes, not everyone has access to bulk shopping, whether they don't have a facility nearby or they don't have the funds to purchase all their food in bulk. But, it IS a *more* environmentally favorable choice. Perhaps the best choice of all is shopping at your local farmers market with your own bags. We've done that, and taking the family to the Dallas farmers market is actually really fun! But we can't always shop there. So when we need a regular trip to get food and other household items, I try to shop in bulk, because it's the more environmentally friendly choice.

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