Getting to Zero

Why I called it quits with plastic.

On a cold Tuesday evening in February, I approached my local Bulk Barn in Prince Albert, Sask., ready to try something new. I took with me not only fabric shopping bags, which have become almost common over the past few years, but also a selection of empty Tupperware containers and glass Mason jars. With the introduction of Bulk Barn's reusable container program, I was ready to go on my first zero-waste shopping trip.

The program is simple: bring in a clean, empty container, ask the cashier to weigh it, then fill it from the bulk food bins. At checkout, the cashier will deduct the weight of the container from your purchase price. I was excited to give it a try.

The cashier seemed a bit more reluctant than I was, eyeing me with trepidation as I approached the till and pulled out my assortment of reusable containers. He confessed that I was the first to make use of this new program, despite it being five days since the program launched nationally.

With help from the shift supervisor, he weighed my containers, wrote the weight on tiny yellow tags and sent me shopping. I left with flour, quinoa, pasta, nuts—all of the dry goods my family needed—without using a single piece of waste packaging.

Most disposable food packaging is plastic. From bags of pasta to produce bags and even plastic-lined paper bags for flour, our shopping habits are saturated with plastic. But the truth is our earth simply cannot absorb this much plastic.

The Plastic Pollution Coalition warns that if we don't change our habits, the ocean will contain more plastic than fish by weight by 2050. Our plastic-saturated lives are creating a plastic-saturated earth.

Scripture reminds us that God's “greatness is seen in all the world!” (Psalm 8:1 GNT). The pristine snow-capped mountains of the Rockies, the living skies of the prairies, the sun reflecting off ocean waters—all of these demonstrate how great our Creator God is. But the psalmist continues by emphasizing that God entrusted us with caring for this beautiful creation: “You appointed [people] rulers over everything you made; you placed them over all creation” (Psalm 8:6 GNT).

When we don't care for God's creation, we are not living as God intended. When we soil the earth with plastic packaging each time we shop, we are not only spoiling God's beautiful handiwork, but we are also putting ourselves at risk. The more plastic that enters our environment, the greater our exposure to toxic chemicals that can cause a host of health challenges. It is not what God has intended for us. When we don't care for God's creation, we are living outside of his will for our lives.

Old habits die hard, and it may be difficult to cut plastic use out of our lives entirely, but we can modify our shopping habits with a few simple changes.

  1. Bring along fabric shopping bags whenever you hit the store. You can even buy fabric bags that are made of recycled plastic water bottles!

  2. Reusable produce bags are also available. These lightweight, mesh bags are perfect for fruits and veggies sold by the pound.

  3. Make use of Bulk Barn's reusable container program. There are other local stores that also allow you to bring your own reusable containers from home, such as Zero Waste Market in Vancouver and Loco in Montreal. A quick Google search may guide you to other zero-waste stores in your area.

  4. Be prepared to refuse items based on packaging. This may be the hardest change to make, but learning to say no to the item on a plastic-wrapped Styrofoam tray or a processed food that comes in plastic packaging may just be one of the best things you can do for God's creation.

While I may have been the first to make use of the reusable container program in Prince Albert, I hope I'm not the last.

Lieutenant Laura Van Schaick is the corps officer at The Salvation Army, A Community Church, in Prince Albert, Sask.

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