Or, how I brought three little figs, all the way home, unpackaged.
It’s fig season here in Australia. A juicy, ripe fig is the stuff of dreams.
I eat them in salads, with spinach and goat cheese. Or for breakfast, as the showstopper finale in the ensemble hit that is the breakfast smoothie bowl. One of my favourites is figs on toast with a spread of labne.
I was shopping for figs today and, to my utter dismay, could only find them sold as a trio, wrapped up in plastic and seated on a polystyrene tray.
I had been daydreaming about figs all day and wasn’t about to leave the green grocer empty-handed. But there was no way I would buy them in all that unnecessary packaging.
Then I had an idea. I found a fellow who was restocking the produce.
Could I buy three figs without the packaging? I asked.
He didn’t understand at first (and this is normal, and where a smile and some patience will serve you well). I clarified – I’ll buy the same amount in the package, for the same price – I simply want three unpackaged figs. Oh! His face brightened as he registered understanding. We went to the back of the shop together, and three unpackaged figs were proffered. Smiles.
Upon checkout, I nestled the little fellas in with my bulk spinach, itself collected in a reused paper bag. Safe and sound.
No unnecessary packaging, no hard feelings, no sweat. All I had to do was ask. Maybe if all of us pointed out that no, we don’t need any excess packaging thanks, grocers will start offering them this way by default.
This story has an even happier ending. Those three figs were f#%king delicious.
I now keep a page for waste-free shopping in the Sydney area. You’ll find it over here.
When I first moved to Sydney from Vancouver, I felt lost without my carefully cultivated go-to shops for refill and bulk goods. Luckily, the trend for unpackaged foods is catching on, and if you live in Sydney, there are now a decent number of shops where you can refill your nuts, grains, seeds, beans, spices, baking supplies, superfoods and many other edibles. Don’t forget personal and home care products – many of the shops below cater to the Zero Waste lifestyle more fully by offering a small selection of packaging free cleaners, soaps and shampoos.
This fast growing chain began as a market stall and now offers four storefront locations in NSW and ACT + continuing market appearances. In Sydney, try Bondi Junction, Newtown, or Cronulla.
You’ll find (most) staples, including basic and speciality flours, grains and cereals, dried fruit, spices nuts, snack foods, oils and vinegars as well as more obscure ingredients that are a challenge to find unpackaged. I’m talking hemp hearts, chia seeds, spices rice pasta, vegan chocolate, bee pollen, and ahem, maple syrup. Also try their unpackaged soaps for home, body and laundry.
Another bulk food chain. They really do focus on foods – the only personal care item I found at the new Bondi shop was epsom salts. The stores are well-organized, with plenty of ingredients to inspire.
This cozy co-op has been in existence longer than I have, and offers a small selection of personal care and household cleaners. This is where I first met and fell in love with the humble coconut husk dish scrubby.
Olive oil and preserved lemons on offer, as well as a range of biodynamic meats. Olive oil is refilled by volume (apparently this works out to the same as by weight), so just bring a container with one or the other listed.
You can return your Kombucha bottle for refill to their market stall, or refill around town at places like the Fruitologist on Bondi Road, where it flows from the tap. If you want to try making your own, $10 will get you your very own SCOBY (message Cha Cha a few days prior to arrange).
Perfect Potion is a chain with a focus on aromatherapy. The goods are mostly packaged, but there is a small selection of body care ingredients like clays, cacao butter and beeswax that can be bought in your own container.
While not necessarily a mecca of packaging-free goods, Dr. Earth is a place to find items like beeswax food covers and bamboo toothbrushes. Their Newtown store has a tiny bulk refill area for laundry powder if I recall correctly.
I met Toby at the Bondi Farmers Market, where he sells a variety of soaps (including shampoo bars), scrubs, and oils. He will refill essential oils upon request. Send him a note a few days prior to arrange with him. So far this is the only essential oil refill option I’ve found.
You’ll find healthy, organic food with as little waste as possible at the Flame Tree Co-op. If you, like I did, stumble upon this place without your arsenal of refill containers – rejoice – for they have a pile of clean, donated jars to use, free of charge.
Bulk food, home and laundry supplies, as well as local food organic produce.
This not an exhaustive list, simply the places I know about. If you know of someplace good in Sydney, post in the comments below!