These days, it seems like living a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle is becoming increasingly popular - I am LOVING it. The amount of waste that is created by a single person in one day is outrageous, and there are easy ways for us to reduce it. I've wanted to try going zero-waste for a long time, and I decided that there is no better time than the present. Let's get zero-wasted!


apple, juice, sweet, pasture
Grace Bodkin

I'm going to be honest when I say this: going zero-waste is expensive AND time-consuming, but it's certainly not impossible. Prior to this challenge, I already owned Stasher bags (aka reusable storage bags that are good for you and the planet), tons of Tupperware, stainless steel straws, bamboo utensils, reusable grocery bags, reusable water bottles, and travel mugs. I also use cloth napkins and paper towels every day. These are the most basic plastic-free alternatives to some of the items that are thrown away most frequently.

For the purposes of this challenge, I decided not to consider the items that I already had on-hand as waste. Although lots of them (oats, cocoa powder, spices, etc.) were in plastic packaging, it didn't make sense to buy those items again. To me, that just seems wasteful, and that goes against the point of the challenge.


cereal, Aloe vera, herb, Trader Joe's, shopping basket, Market, Grocery
Caroline Ingalls

I never truly realized how much plastic goes into a single week's worth of groceries. I opted out of a meal plan because I'm vegan and prefer to cook for myself so I know exactly what's going into my food. I did some research and stumbled upon a grocery store in Gainesville called Ward's that advertised itself as a place where people could easily shop without creating waste.

As a car-less college freshman, I sought out another Spoon UF member (shout-out to Daniela!) to take me across town to the quaint store. I was planning on purchasing reusable produce bags there and was disappointed to find out they had stopped selling them a few months ago. I ended up putting all of my produce straight into my reusable grocery bags, which was inconvenient for the cashier, but hey, it's not my fault I was misled by the website. 

I also took my own mason jars and plastic containers to put bulk items in. The main attraction at Ward's is their bulk section, and it did not disappoint in the slightest. My only wish is that I had taken more containers with me! Their prices were great, and I was able to find everything from gluten-free flour to nutritional yeast. 

Meal Prep and Planning

vegetable, berry
Kristine Mahan

Before shopping, I compiled a list of foods that I was almost certain I'd be able to find free of plastic and then found recipes based on those ingredients.

Here's what I ended up making: black beans from scratch, stuffed bell peppers (stuffed with zucchini, black beans, and rice), lentil soup, Cuban-inspired bowls with rice, black beans, and plantains, salads (my personal favorite meal), baked french fries, oatmeal/overnight oats for breakfast, banana bread, and banana ice cream (frozen bananas, peanut butter, cacao powder). 

The Verdict

parsley, Bag, shopping, baguette, farmer's market
Caroline Ingalls

Overall, going zero-waste for a week was a positive and eye-opening experience. One of the most difficult parts was getting all of the ingredients I needed without creating any waste. I ended up with a few stray pieces of plastic that went straight into the recycling bin, but I would say that my zero-waste week was pretty successful. 

I was saddened by the lack of blueberries and strawberries that aren't sold in plastic containers. Bluebs and strawbs are two of my favorite fruits, and I missed eating them every day. Instead, I opted for oranges, peaches, and apples. I also bought about 20 bananas, but that's nothing out of the ordinary for me. 

Making coffee without creating waste was also a challenge thanks to coffee filters, but my mom sent me a French press in the mail about halfway through the challenge! I went coffee-less for a few days until the French press arrived, but I made it through. Unfortunately, some waste was created because it came from Amazon, but I was able to recycle everything.

Although it wasn't perfect, my experience going zero-waste was positive. It was definitely a challenge, and I was forced to think more mindfully about everything that I ate. Due to the nature of the challenge, I ended up eating more whole and natural foods, which is certainly a wonderful thing. I would recommend this challenge to anyone who wants to make a difference in the environment and live a more sustainable life. After the challenge, I have found myself making more environmentally-friendly decisions without even thinking about it. 

Even if everyone makes a couple of small changes in their lifestyles, we can make a huge difference overall. Our planet won't stay beautiful forever if we don't put in the work to keep it clean and work to live more sustainably. Now, ditch those plastic straws and grocery bags and help save the planet!