A lot has changed in the past 10 months and I have big news for you! I have finished my doctorate and moved continents! I am happily settling into one of the most forward thinking cities when it comes to zerowaste – San Francisco. So much of my life has changed, but my commitment to being more environmentally friendly has not. In my last post I mentioned that my PhD was leaving me too exhausted to make some of the efforts required to be zerowaste in Dublin (like getting up at 8am on a Saturday morning for the farmers’ market). Obviously the last few months of writing up and examination alongside visa applications and moving were intense, but once I arrived in SF I took some time for R&R, re-calibrated my body and mind, and now I’m ready to start sharing some of the progress I’ve been able to make as well as sharing some of the things I still find difficult.
I’m writing a post about furnishing our place that will be published soon but for now I’d like to give an update to my last post on how I’m doing in the kitchen with zerowaste.
First of all, we have compost and recycling chutes in our apartment building because it is illegal in San Francisco not to offer compost facilities! How amazing is that!
I bought a tiny 2 litre landfill bin (made from 100% recycled plastic) because I knew we weren’t hitting zerowaste anytime soon. A tiny bin makes it very clear how much landfill we produce and requires extra trips to the garbage chute. The less we produce the less we need to empty it. At the moment I think we’re filling the 2 litre bin about once a week loosely packed. That means we produce 8 litres a month and 96 litres a year. An average large kitchen pedal bin is about 30 litres, and a large standard black bag is 50 to 80 litres. That’s a huge improvement and I find we don’t need to use plastic bags because it isn’t messy food waste and I can disinfect it when I need to. I’d love if I could try half our amount of landfill waste in the next year. Our recycling bin is an empty medium-sized amazon box and we fill this maybe once a week.
My major success is that I have not bought any packaged grains except for one bag of brown sugar for cookies (oops). Our rice, lentils, oats or granola, barley, quinoa, flour, and anything else you can imagine is available in bulk purchase where I fill up jars I bring with me to the supermarket. Most of these are available in organic options and in several different nearby supermarkets so it’s never inconvenient.
Likewise, lettuce leaves, spinach, herbs, and most vegetables and fruit are all available sans packaging. There can be metal ties to keep bunches of kale or coriander together and this constitutes a lot of my waste now along with stickers on produce. I’m experimenting with a produce delivery service that sells ‘ugly’ organic fruit and veg that the supermarkets won’t take and it comes in a cardboard box and has no stickers but my last delivery was stolen.
One thing I still buy in packaging is cheese, and I really love cheese. If anyone knows of somewhere in San Francisco city that has unpackaged cheese please do let me know!
My absolute favourite supermarket, which is a 20 min walk away, has an incredible selection of bulk items. I can buy chocolate, energy chunks, dried fruit and nuts, grains, teas, coffees, dried herbs, spices, kimchi, miso paste, olives, hummus, tahini, tofu, maple syrup, honey, freshly ground peanut butter, chocolate spread, olive oil, vinegars, cooking oils, things I’ve never even heard of and so so so many things for cooking – ALL WITHOUT PACKAGING! The first time I went I almost did a little happy dance!
Our wine is now all local and from independent wineries in California through a great app we found. It delivers them in a cardboard box. Maybe once we can drive I’ll consider renting a car and going to the wineries themselves and see if I can refill them from the cask like Bea Johnson!