Ways to reduce plastic use: Your guide to plastic free fruit and veg

Shopping list - plastic free fruit and veg

Inside: All the options we have found for plastic free (and almost plastic free) fruit and vegetables. Learn about the pros and cons of each approach and how Ecojam's Eleanor Williamson keeps her family of 4 on track to consume their 5-a-day. 

This guide is a result of my failed mission to find a step by step guide to going plastic free. We hope that it will save you time, money (as you won't need to spend money on options that don't work for you) and stress.

1) Find a local greengrocer or farm shop and look for plastic free options

PROS
You can ask staff in the shop where the produce comes from
You can let staff know that you would like more plastic free options
You can check the quality of the produce before you buy it

CONS
Be prepared for less choice as much of the produce will have plastic packaging
The plastic free options may not be organic
The plastic free options may not be local
This is unlikely to be the cheapest way to buy fruit and vegetables 
Visiting the shop may take extra time and, if you need to drive, extra carbon emissions for the journey

2) Find a local fruit and veg box scheme

PROS
You will get a regular supply of seasonal produce
Lots of veg box schemes are organic

CONS
The produce may not be completely plastic free 
You may have to collect from a central location – this may mean it takes extra time and, if you need to drive, extra carbon emissions for the journey
Veg and fruit boxes can be expensive

3) Choose only plastic free options from the supermarket

PROS
No need for an extra journey to another shop/veg box collection point
You can check the quality of the produce before you buy it (if you go into the store rather than shop online)

CONS
Options will be more limited
You might not be able to get organic
You might not be able to get local produce
You might not know whether it's going to come in packaging if shopping online
You might have to make a choice between packaged organic and non-packaged non-organic

4) Grow your own

PROS
Healthier
More satisfying (if it goes to plan!)
Possibly cheaper (depending on the cost of setting up your planting area and buying in compost and equipment)

CONS
This option requires a big time commitment
This option is only available to those who have outside space
Results are not guaranteed
You are unlikely to be able to provide a year-round supply

5) Find a local farmers market where produce is plastic free 

PROS
Produce is likely to be high quality
Produce is likely to be local
You can check the quality of the produce before you buy it

CONS
This is unlikely to be the cheapest way to buy fruit and vegetables
Visiting the farmers market takes extra time and, if you need to drive, extra carbon emissions for the journey

6) Forage 

PROS
Produce is free
Produce is local and seasonal

CONS
The process is time consuming (but can be combined with leisure time)
You are unlikely to find enough to become self-sufficient
Good plant identification skills are required to ensure produce is safe to eat

My solution to reduce (almost eliminate) plastic waste and get plastic free fruit and vegetables

For us, the farmer's market option is out as there isn't one in the village we live in. This means it would be time-consuming to get to one and it would mean an extra journey in the car. When I first started out on my plastic free journey we signed up for a veg box but I was disappointed to see that it was not 100% plastic free (punnets of mushrooms, bagged salad etc) so I stopped it. My local Post Office has links to a local farmer who will deliver veg boxes to the shop weekly but only in the summer months. So I will sign up for this in the summer. I am also planning to grow some of my own supply this year and I have managed to hunt out a few good local foraging spots (there is a woodland near me that has wild raspberries in June/July – yum!).

During the winter I have been buying fruit and vegetables plastic free from our local Post Office. Not ideal as the labels do not state where the produce was grown and it is not organic. On the plus side, it is a 2-minute walk from my house and the shop owners are happy for me to take my own bags and containers. 

So, as you can see, not a straightforward solution and not one that I arrived at on day one. But I am happy to say that our fruit bowl and veg drawer are now free from plastic (except for the occasional last minute dash to the local Coop when I realise, 5 minutes before teatime, that the drawer is bare!)

This is the first article in our planned series looking at ways to reduce plastic. If you haven't already read our article which looks at why it isn't possible to write a step-by-step guide to going plastic free you can find it here:

Looking for a step-by-step guide to going plastic free? Read on...

What next?

Next up we look at the plastic free options we have found for meat and seafood including how to find no or low plastic options which don't compromise animal welfare standards.  

Plastic free: Meat and seafood

Help us out...

We do not claim to have found the perfect solution and we are always up for trying new ideas. If you have found solutions that are not on our list please get in touch via Facebook and Twitter