Meet Jayne Truesdell of The Naked Grocer

(Signe of Gloria's Provisions and Jayne)

Hi, my name is Jayne Truesdell and I’m the owner of the up and coming “waste-less” grocery store in Capitol Hill, The Naked Grocer! One of my original reasons for starting The Naked Grocer was how difficult it is to avoid single-use plastic packaging at the grocery store. There are many great reasons to avoid single-use plastic packaging and I’ve linked below to a couple articles that further expound on various aspects of why plastic is a problem: 

If you're feeling stressed by the “eco-doom” surrounding you right now, just ignore the links and focus on what you CAN do. When Lauren reached out to me about doing a feature for Earth Day (Week?) I knew I wanted to share some tips for avoiding plastic and sustainably shopping at grocery stores. I know it seems a bit odd since I am opening a grocery store of my own, but, the reality is that even if you end up shopping at The Naked Grocer, you most likely will still shop at other places too! It’s ok, I’m not offended! I want to help you be your most sustainable self.

Originally, I was thinking this piece would be for “conventional” grocery stores like Safeway, but once I began writing, I realized that stores like Whole Foods pose a lot of the same quandaries in terms of plastic packaging. So wherever you shop, Trader Joe’s, QFC, or the PCC, here are some handy tips for making your shopping experience as sustainable as possible. Keep in mind these rules are by no means definitive, but more of a jumping off point:

  • Know What You Already Have At Home
  • Ugh, I know, a tip that is homework doesn’t really feel like a “life hack”. The annoying truth is that, using up what you have before it goes bad is a great cost-free way to be a planet protector. It doesn't have to be a super formal list but it’s important to have a general idea of what needs to be used up in your fridge or pantry. This also keeps you from duplicate buying things you already have or continuing to buy things that KEEP going bad without you getting to them. Rumor has it that “pre-washed spring mix” is a big offender of this.

  • Keep Those Veggies LOOSE
  • This is undoubtedly the easiest and most touted trick, don’t bag those fruits and veggies! If you do need a bag for your brussels or loose mushrooms try to find a paper sack to scoop them into. It’s true, your soaking romaine lettuce might get some other things wet, so I try to always bag all my fruits and veggies together at the check out. I also eschew all the pre-bagged potatoes, apples, cut fruit, and salad mixes/lettuces. I like to save the plastic packaging in my life for things that are truly impossible to get without plastic.

  • Buy in Bulk When You Can
  • Why bulk? Because you can use reusable or easily recyclable containers and you're saving the energy/resources that would go into packaging the product. A side bonus is that it allows you to purchase the exact quantity you need which means potentially less food waste at home. Obviously, what is available store to store varies significantly and some do not allow you to bring your own container. 

  • Look for Metal, Paper, and Glass
  • Do your best to purchase what's on your list packaged in paper, metal, or glass. We have been using these materials to store food for at least a couple hundred years. Metal and glass are infinitely recyclable and paper can be composted when it is no longer viable for recycling. Bread is usually available in paper, sometimes milk or cream is available in glass deposit jugs, condiments and canned goods are relatively easy to acquire. With canned tomatoes make sure the can is lined with a BPA-free liner. The high acid content of tomatoes means the metal can has to be protected from corrosion by an interior coating, which is usually plastic but not always.

  • Avoid Anything You Heat Then Eat In Plastic Containers
  • The heat of the microwave or oven increases the leaching of chemicals (mainly phthalates) into your food. If your food is in a plastic container, even a microwave safe one, do not heat it in this container. Remove the food from the plastic container and heat in glass, metal or ceramic.

  • Consider Geographic Distance & Farming Practices
  • I bet you do this one already! Since you are someone reading the Kinfood Journal you are most likely already interested in the “slow food” movement. I try to always choose a local, sustainable producer no matter if I’m buying something in plastic or not. It's a great way to vote with your dollars, shorten the supply chain, be more environmentally friendly and eat fresher, more delicious food. 

  • When You Must Buy Plastic, Buy Big.
  • An example from my own life is frozen fruit. I love smoothies, particularly in the depths of winter when local produce is pretty much non-existent. It’s true, the most sustainable thing for me to do would be to freeze my own fruit in the summer for the winter but I just don’t have that bandwidth (or the capacity of a chest freezer).  Since there is no way for me to get frozen fruit outside of plastic, I will opt for the largest bag from the local berry farm that is also organic. As a quick plug, The Naked Grocer will have frozen fruit and other hard to find items in bulk like tofu, cheese, olives, and fermented veg.

  • Be more flexible in packaging rules with BIPOC producers
  • It’s important to get money into the hands of BIPOC business owners. If we want to see more BIPOC businesses then we need to prioritize supporting them. I ultimately believe supporting these businesses is more important than the small amount of waste that might come from you buying one or two plastic packaged items. 

  • Say No to Plastic Grocery Sacks
  • This is potentially the most obvious most publicized “tip”. I personally forget to bring my own bags to the store more than I would like to admit. In those cases I will get a paper bag. However, most of the time, if it’s not a crazy amount of items, I will put as much as I can in my purse and pockets, then just juggle the rest in my hands. It’s hardly elegant and looks a bit suspicious but it’s always satisfying to know I beat the bag.

  • Last But Not Least, Self Compassion
  • Life has been feeling like a bit of a depressing slog these past couple of years. I get the impression that we are all burnt to an emotional crisp. So cut yourself some slack! Do the best you can and whatever that is, is great. I personally shoot for following these guidelines 70-80% of the time, I’m definitely not perfect. The systems we have in place for growing, producing, selling, and buying food are not set up for us to consume less and/or more thoughtfully.

    Thanks for reading! I hope to see some of your faces when the store opens.

    The Naked Grocer is located at 620 East Pine Street in Capitol Hill.

    Follow us on instagram @thenakedgrocer for updates on our opening timeline :)

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