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Zero Waste Grocery Shopping— Shop at Farmers’ Markets

By Larraine Roulston :

Whether you shop for fruits and veggies from farmers’ markets or directly from farms, or stop at a roadside stand, your experience will be nourished by purchasing produce and meat from those who grow it. In addition, it cuts back drastically on waste, as you won’t find boxed processed foods, or unnecessarily prepackaged or over-packaged foods such as three zucchinis sitting under plastic wrap on a Styrofoam tray or sprigs of rosemary encased in a thin hard plastic container. And most vendors might have a supply of donated bags on hand if you find yourself without a sufficient number of reusable tote bags.

At a farmers’ market you’ll find fresh produce, a variety of cheeses, and ethnic specialties as well as a diverse selection of baked goods. It is also an opportunity to discover where and how your food is grown, and to ask whether or not pesticides were used. For meat, egg and dairy products, inquire how the farmer’s animals are raised, if they had a good life and if antibiotics were used. Some farmers’ markets may also have an area displaying local hand-crafted jewelry, art, homemade pottery, soaps, beeswax candles, flowers and plants — all of which make great gifts to celebrate any occasion.

Farmers’ markets are not only places for picking up your weekly goodies, but also are becoming drop-off locations for your kitchen compost. This is especially convenient for apartment dwellers with no time or space to manage a worm bin or take advantage of a municipal green bin organics collection system. My daughter, who lives in the United States, keeps her fruit and vegetable peelings in her freezer. Each week she takes them to GrowNYC, a nonprofit that organizes the compost drop-off spots at all the parks hosting farmers’ markets within the greater New York City area. Some farmers’ markets in NYC also have a depot to collect unused shoes or fabrics.

Markets are experiencing a renaissance in both large and small cities across North America which is being driven by a society wanting access to local food, and desiring knowledge about the source of its food. Many cities boast more than one farmers’ market. Such a city is Hamilton, Ontario, where there is a large central indoor year-round market — the Hamilton Farmers’ Market and seven smaller seasonal outdoor markets.

As well as demands for food access and information, the transactions between the vendors and citizens are at the heart of markets. Donna Lee Macdonald, food activist and past manager for the Hamilton Farmers’ Market adds, “When markets are distilled to what is the #1 reason people like markets, beyond the quality and pricing of food, it is the humanity inherent in the conversations and the identity of belonging in community. Citizens that are engaged in their communities, where they can be known and celebrated, are citizens that will invest more care and effort into their communities. Markets help to make more active citizens willing to take care of our environment.”

Another way to enhance your zero waste efforts is to return empty egg cartons, mason jars and bags for vendors’ reuse. As well, be sure to bring several small bags for items such as loose beans or cherries.

Even the smallest steps to reduce waste make a difference towards slowing climate change. What better way to shift our buying habits than to take that important step to visit a farmer’s market and, by doing so, support your community.

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Larraine authors children’s adventure stories on composting and pollinating at  http://www.castlecompost.com/

About Larraine Roulston

A mother of 4 with 6 wonderful grandchildren, Larraine has been active in the environmental movement since the early l970s. When the first blue boxes for recycling were launched in her region, she began writing a local weekly newspaper column to promote the 3Rs. Since that time, she has been a freelance writer for several publications, including BioCycle magazine. As a composting advocate, Larraine authors children's adventure stories that combine composting facts with literature. Currently she is working on the 6th book of her Pee Wee at Castle Compost series, which can be viewed at www.castlecompost.com. As well, Larraine and her husband Pete have built a straw bale home and live in Ontario.

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