15 Ways to Reduce Food Packaging

It is now a common sight to see shoppers carrying their own reusable shopping bags to the grocery store. That is fantastic, and such an easy eco-friendly action for most of us to take. Still, there’s a ton of material we continue to schlep home when shopping — the cellophane, unrecyclable bags, plastic, and cardboard used in the packaging of many common items. Much of this packaging is unnecessary, but manufacturers know that flashy packaging translates into increased sales.

As of 1994, the European Union requires manufacturing companies to take back and recycle at least 60 percent of their packaging waste, including that used for food items, thus taking the burden off of the consumer and local communities. No such incentive for reducing packaging exists for manufacturers in the U.S. or Canada.

As consumers, there are a number of items we can use or purchase in order to reduce our consumption of excess packaging:

  1. Bring a travel mug whenever you go to your favorite coffee shop. Many cafes will fill your mug at no additional charge, eliminating the need for those one-time-use styrofoam cups with plastic lids.
  2. Use a reusable, stainless steel drinking bottle instead of individual drink boxes or bottles.
  3. Buy fresh fruits and vegetables instead of produce in cans, frozen boxes and bags.
  4. Buy in bulk, using your own containers from home to eliminate the use of can, carton, and plastic bag packaging.
  5. Use cloth napkins instead of paper napkins.
  6. Buy big boxes of cereal instead of individually packaged cereals.
  7. Never buy individual “snack-sized” boxes or bags.
  8. When washing non-bagged greens, use a salad spinner. That way you won’t have to use paper towels to blot the greens dry.
  9. Buy quarts of yogurt instead of eight-ounce or smaller cups.
  10. Use cloth or a gold coffee filter rather than paper filters.
  11. Buy bulk cheese instead of individually wrapped slices.
  12. Make your own popsicles using reusable molds, rather than buying boxed popsicles.  Be sure to use BPA-free molds.
  13. Use metal and ceramic baking pans instead of aluminum disposable pans.
  14. Use loose tea instead of one-use tea bags.
  15. DIY, green cleaning products instead of commercial cleaning products. Care2 is a great resource for recipes for these easy to prepare recipes, from window cleaner to furniture polish.

Do you have any tips to reduce packaging? Share them below.

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LM Sunshine

good suggestions, thank you.

Spoorthi B.
Spoorthi BS4 years ago

hi everyone, please sign this petition and help

Jennifer C.
Past Member 4 years ago

Thanks for sharing these great ideas.

Carole K.
Carole K.4 years ago

This was an excellent article with wonderful tips & suggestions. I felt a powerful surge of affirmation in the reading as our family already follows a majority of these practices just as a matter of course. Is it a figment of my imagination, or is it really true that the more processed a food is, the more packaging it has? I must admit to one weakness though; I love individually wrapped cheese slices & granola bars though. They are so convenient if one is packing a lunch & on the go. I figure that since our family does not buy cereal much at all, we can allow this exception in an otherwise packaging free existence....LOL! (these wrappers are very small anyway)

Loesje vB
Loesje vB4 years ago

I buy prefer fresh fruits and vegetables than produce in cans of frozen boxes.
Thank you for your advices Terri.

Valerie G.
Val G.4 years ago

Thank you Terri, good tips...

Lynn C.
Lynn C.4 years ago

Great suggestions - I do them all myself, except the paper towels and napkins. Will try and talk my Mom into doing this switch, but at 87 years old she's pretty set in her ways.

Marlo Suderski
Marlo Suderski4 years ago

Buy bulk meats too. you can separate the portions into smaller parts at home, if need be. Store the smaller proportions in reusable glass containers. it is not a great reduction of material but over time it will make a difference. And don't forget the food will also be less per pound with bulk so you save your pocket book too.

alicia m.
alicia m.4 years ago

the cloth napkins are terrific (although a little small in my opinion)
(gracias Elizabeth!)

Elizabeth M.
Elizabeth M.4 years ago

Thanks for the great article Terri H. A good idea you mentioned also Brittany R. I wouldn't care if the cashiers like it or not, cause I do not like the plastic bags either and some stores are still not using the recycled kind.
Thank you Alicia for the site..sounds worthwhile to look at it!