I’ve got 99 problems, and Zero-waste is one


There are some days where it feels as though the zero-waste gods are laughing at you, or at the very least have shunned you for some unknown reason.

Over the past few weeks I have slowly gotten into the zero-waste groove, bringing my own containers and finding new places in Adelaide to buy unpackaged goods. I successfully bought ham over the counter in my own container (which they calculated the tare weight on with no fuss) at the Magill Foodland (591 Magill Road, Magill). Next door at the local butcher we have managed to buy meat a few times in our own glass containers with no eye-rolling or weird looks, just a big grin from our lovely local butcher with his waxed moustache :). In the same complex is a BBQ chicken shop, which we have gone to a few times (when we are too lazy to cook)- they’ve put chips and gravy in our containers, as well as putting a rotisserie chicken in our own (food-grade) bucket! Rob went by himself the other day expecting a humiliating experience, but he found that they were perfectly fine with it. Hooray!

Riding on the ease of these “first experiments”, I went out to do my weekly food-shop in the suburbs of Norwood and Burnside. This area is the “affluent East” of Adelaide, which to me means that it is filled with the type of people I resent- rich angry ladies who brunch and who also “accidentally” ram your legs with their double-strollers whilst vapidly talking on their phones. Ugh. Norwood Foodland is my favourite “big supermarket”, which boasts a huge bulk snack and nuts section and a long deli counter. Unfortunately when I went up to the cheese and olive counter to ask for some cheese in my container I was knocked back- the only thing they could offer me was weighing the cheese in their own plastic bag/ container, giving it to me, then I could then put it in my own container (not the point).

Next up was the fishmonger (Seafood on Parade), also in the same complex as Foodland. I asked if I could get two salmon fillets straight in my container, and if he could tare the weight on the container on the scale (I figured if two butchers in the area could do it, these guys could handle it too). It was not to be. He weighed the fillets in a plastic bag, then put the fillets in my container, whilst asking, “Is this clean”, and, “Do you have a way of keeping it cold?”, whilst giving me a look. I was treated like some dirty person with no food hygiene principles, and for the first time in almost 3 months I felt ashamed. I know that this business has never been known for their customer service, but now that I have confirmed this I’ll be happy to give them a wide berth.

We’re running low on tea, so I went to Burnside Village (angry rich lady mecca) to visit T2, a tea specialty store. For some reason I confused them with the T-bar (which has stores in the Central Markets and the City) and mistakenly thought they sold loose tea by weight. Definitely not true. Enter walls and walls of foil packaged tea. 😦 I then popped by the deli counter in Burnside during a quiet time to chat to the girl behind the counter about buying unpackaged cheese in my container. After a long conversation I thought she understood me when I said, “Can you please cut off a piece of this cheddar with NO plastic wrap and put it in my container?” She turned, plopped a pre-plastic wrapped bit of cheddar on the scales and charged me $8 for it. I took the cheese, paid and tasted true defeat.

The nicest part of my day was finally going to my lovely “egg man” (Lian Hua Asia Grocery, 462 Payneham Rd, Glynde), who sells loose eggs by the dozen and lets me bring my own egg box to fill up. I also noticed today that he sells vermicelli loose for $5.50 a kilo! We don’t need vermicelli currently, but will remember for next time.

I guess for people who aren’t sold on the zero-waste concept, the bull-headedness and courage that it takes to seek out unpackaged “everyday” foods and risk being laughed at or shamed (for trying to reduce my landfill contribution) is quite foreign. It also begs the question, “Is it worth it”. My answer is always going to be yes. It’s amazing how plastic has turned us into a society of “convenience consumers”, and how much it dictates our day to day existence. In the mere act of trying to source food that would otherwise take seconds to buy (pick up some shrink-wrapped cheese, pick up some salmon in a plastic bag), I have realised that some days it is hard, and I also noted the fact that food-shopping has never pushed me to the brink of tears before. I honestly felt defeated and wanted to cry today, and felt very alone in the world.

I know that when I buy my meat in a container, the container ends up being washed in the dishwasher ready for next use. What happens to the plastic bag dripping with raw chicken juice? Would you honestly tell me that you diligently wash and sterilise it so that it is clean enough for soft plastics recycling or for your own re-use? I know what happens- it goes in the bin. And where does stuff in the bin go? It goes to landfill. And then what? Will it blow away in the wind, will it strangle and choke and starve sea life, will it eventually break down in the estimated 1000 years, will it impede the breakdown of organic matter in landfill and contribute to methane emissions?

I dream of owning a grocery store where zero-wasters are welcomed, and mindless consumerism with single use plastic is shunned. People wanting things in single use plastic will be the ones who would feel ashamed walking into the store, not the ones who have gone to the effort of having enough clean containers to grocery shop. You can have all the cheese you want. You can get your butter cut for you. There will be milk on tap, yoghurt to put in your container. Asian groceries by bulk- rice, noodles, nori, frozen dumplings, soy sauce. Frozen berries and vegetables to scoop and put in your own freezer. In a society where everyone is now so busy and convenience is king, would it not make sense that if we make unpackaged shopping more convenient, we could make a difference? We can’t go back to the cart and buggy years, but we need to start making more sustainable choices and need to make the choices available to the mainstream. I agree that a handful of people world wide bulk shopping won’t make a difference, but what if more and more people did it?

The zero-wasters out there around the world are trail blazers. They are the ones who have endured the awkwardness of being “the first person ever to bring their container here”. They’re the ones who have put in the time and miles and effort to source bulk buy options and to share their findings with others. They have voluntarily stepped off the giant mouse wheel that we are all genetically engineered to stay on until we die- and have said, “enough”.

We have had enough.

10 thoughts on “I’ve got 99 problems, and Zero-waste is one

  1. Hi! I’m also living zero waste and also from Adelaide, though I am now living in the states. I used to live near the burnside shops and it wasn’t a pleasant experience for me either- even though I wasn’t living zero waste at the time. It will be hard at times but keep it up. Any change is hard in the beginning.


    1. Hi Bronwyn sorry this reply is 3 months’ late!! Thank you for your comment, I do get frustrated shopping there, but over time I have branched out and sought out smaller businesses- I’ve finally managed to find a place to sell me unpackaged cheese!! Thank you for the support x


  2. Lisa, I agree 100% with all your comments. We have had enough! And we are the ones to change things. However, it’s SO hard. Every single person around me might think I have some level of craziness. Well.. I think they’re the crazy ones: everyone is seeing the consequences of this consumer lifestyle we have been living (plastic filling up the ocean), worldwide temperature rise, etc. and nobody (just us) realizes that everyone carries their own responsibility. We watch on the news, we say that the government “doesn’t do anything”… But how about us? (And by us I mean society as a whole) We are a mirror that reflects each other’s hypocrisy. Zerowasters are the only civilians that fight against this disgusting system. I am here with you and I feel your pain when I go through the same situations! Faces and looks… but we do it for a greater good and people shall thank us in the future! Pick yourself up, dust your self off and start all over again! ;-D


    1. Thank you for your support as always my dear. It is a hard gig, but someone has to do it!! And it’s always nice to be reminded that we are not alone in all of this. I don’t get bothered by the states as often anymore, and I’m a lot bolder in my requests for “no straw” etc. I think of it as “paying rent” to the Earth for letting us live on it- everyone should at least do something to say thank you πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I couldn’t agree more! I think more and more of these types of stores are popping up, and even though most aren’t run by “crazy zero wasters” they do understand the environmental impact that unpackaged food has. The more stores there are, the less stigma about shopping at a “hippy place” there is (hopefully). I do believe things will continue to progress, and that unpackaged shopping will be readily accessible to everyone!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Lisa, how are you? I just recommended you for the Liebster Award! By being recommended you are already a winner. Check out my latest post for more information. It’s in Portuguese, so, if you have any doubts about it (e.g. google translator not working very well), you can ask me! See ya! πŸ˜‰


  4. You’re sweet on Instagram and I learn you’re super rad here! Great blog. You had me cringing. That damn cheese! I felt like the worst holding up my boyfriend’s corner deli checkout line that he frequents everyday. I was so embarrassed because I didn’t want them to get angry at him and his family. Zero waste takes guts!


    1. Hi Danielle thank you for your comment- I can’t believe it’s taken me a month to see it! I find it so funny (and endearing) that we can all get so riled up over cheese! You are right, it takes some guts to even ask, and then there is the flailing arms dance I do at the checkout whenever they try to wrap my order or put it in a bag. Great to see you blogging too- zero-wasters unite!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I know what you’ve been thought. My hubby doesn’t really support the zero waste lifestyle but accepts what I do.

    What makes my life easier when I ask no plastic is first go to a market for cheese and cream and cream cheese and tell them my 2yr old ( which almost always comes with me) is super allergic to plastic!! That he gets hives on his neck that Dr said it’s a plastic allergie and they are more careful and then they know me now. And yes it works. I live in Mexico and here meat is sold in styrofoam so yes it’s possible. At the deli or meat counter I tell them to tare the jars but they don’t get it so they put a plastic underneath, weight the product and then I repeat no plastic please. It’s their plastic they’ve used not mine so I don’t worry about.
    Those tricks have helped me.


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