We love the farmers’ markets! There’s really no better way to support your local food system than buying local and organically grown produce from growers & producers close to home. When you buy closer to the source, there are less opportunities for plastics to creep into your food purchase.
Much of the packaging at the farmers market is either conventionally recyclable or compostable… but let’s remember that the 5R’s of zero-waste livin’: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot.
How can these be translated into your trip to the Farmers Market?
Refuse packaging you don’t need. Most farmers are happy to sell their product with little or no packaging, as that is one less cost they have to take on. Simply bring your own cloth bag (those mesh laundry bags work great for this!) and ask to have your produce put there instead of in plastic bags.
Reduce packaging you can’t refuse. Of course not all products will be available package-free all the time (think cheeses, eggs, and those lovely seasonal preserves that are popping up all over the place). When you’re looking for these items, choose the ones with the least packaging, and consider how the packaging might be reused, recycled, or composted down the line…
Reuse what you can. One of our favourite zero waste discoveries was when we realized we could give back packaging to our friends at the farmers market! Many stands are happy to reuse empty egg cartons, berry containers, elastics and twist-ties! You can either return it right at the source (for example by emptying berries into your own bag and giving the berry carton back), or take it home with you and bring it back next week for reuse. Products like pickles or jams are often sold in glass jars, a zero-waster’s best friend. Reuse these for storage of dry goods, as drink containers, or to freeze batches of soup.
Recycle what’s left. Once you’ve followed the tips above, there shouldn’t be too much left to recycle. If you think your packaging can be given another useful life, try to do so, or send a message to the Zero Waste Vancouver Facebook group to see if anyone will take it off your hands. Once your options are exhausted, make sure it goes in your recycling container rather than the trash can!
Rot (compost) everything else. We always say that the best packaging of all is nature’s packaging. Egg shells, cherry stems and pits, onion skins… once these have done their job keeping your product nice and fresh, send ‘em over to the compost, where they can nurture the next generations of fruit and veg.
You can find a full list of farmers markets in Vancouver right here.
See you at the market!