Shopping with produce bags is actually really satisfying and it gives one a sense of being proactive and making their own tiny but highly valued contribution to combat plastic pollution and the negative impact it is having on our planet, specifically but not limited to by any means, marine life and marine birds.
It’s also pretty fun if you’ve made the bags yourself or managed to pick some funky designs up on etsy -the cheerful and bright patterns beats brown paper any day.
Furthermore, produce bags are practical, and fundamentally avoid the need for single use packaging. If you are finding it difficult to remember to take yours along, hang in there and set yourself little reminders and you’ll eventually get into the swing of having them ready for any given shopping opportunity that might arise, even the spontaneous ones.
Plus, you might, like myself, fall in love with scoop shops and actively shop in these more than mainstream supermarkets that fail to offer scoop option. In doing so you’ll be supporting your local independent shops and the local economy so it’s a win for localism and a win for plastic reduction.
What is a scoop shop?
Scoop or bulk shops are shops that provide loose unpackaged produce allowing the customer to take as much or as little as they need and want.
I discovered the concept of scoop shops when I moved to Bristol nearly 4-years ago. As a customer you have the option to try an abundance of food options from seeds, lentils, grains, dried fruits, teas, coffees, sweets, flours and cereals. It can feel like a tempting invitation to get excited by the prospect of experimenting with foods we seldom or have yet to taste! It also offers you the option to buy healthy produce while sticking to a fixed budget.
This morning I paid a visit to my closest and favourite scoop shop, the aptly named , Scoop Away on the Gloucester road, Bristol.
At the time of my visit I seemed to be the only customer with produce bags. The other shoppers were making use of the abundance of plastic bags available.
Granted there are paper ones too, but these are small and if shoppers intend to stock up then they’ll have to opt for the plastic ones as they’re much bigger.
What amazes me is that scoop away don’t sell produce bags. This makes me think that unlike Unpackaged or other package-free stores we are still patronising scoop and bulk shops for primarily economic and health reasons rather than an opportunity to avoid packaging. Yet I think it’s high time we marry these elements together to enable us to tick all the boxes that means we eat well, manage our budget while refusing destructive plastic.
Health+economics+package free= happy earth
By simply documenting your scoop shop visit you are actively alerting others to the importance of refusing single-use packaging while demonstrating others forms of packaging are available. With this in mind I have included a few tips for shoppers on how to shop in bulk shops without relying on plastic or paper bags.
TOP TIPS to avoid single-use packaging when shopping at scoop shops (and loose products in mainstream shops):
- Take your own jars but weigh them empty before you go and write the weight down on the jar
- Take tupperware or take-away pots that have been gathering dust, these are light and easy to carry
- Make or buy about 10-20 produce bags. Why so many? I think if you commit to owning a lot of produce bags you are more likely to use them, and also you will have surplus when the others are in the wash. Etsy is a good place for this. I made mine and it took me about 30 minutes.
How to take care of your produce bags:
Produce bags need to be clean to store and transport your produce. I keep mine clen by generally ashing about once per week.
- Turn your produce bag inside out and soak in warm water with 1 part vinegar to 5 parts water, a sprinkle of salt, sodium bicarb and just a few drops of essential oils.
- You can add a couple of soap nuts too. I leave mine soak for about 20minutes and then give them a really good rinse.
- Dry in the sun if this is possible or air until completely dry before using.
Go forth and shop happily without single-use packaging!