In the fall of 2014, I noticed a lot of my garbage came from food packaging. I don’t like when people pollute my world, so I try to avoid polluting theirs.
I thought of an experiment: to try to go one week without buying any food where I’d have to throw away food packaging. For six months I planned and thought about doing it until one day I realized all the planning and thinking wasn’t getting me anywhere.
I decided to start the week then and there. I knew I wouldn’t die.
It turns out you succeed more when you act instead of planning for six months. You just go to the store, buy food without packaging, and don’t buy food with packaging. You have to buy different than you used to, but when you haven’t lived by your values, living by your values requires change.
I made it two-and-a-half weeks before buying my first food with packaging—no bags, no boxes, no bottles, no rubber bands, no stickers, no packaging. Just as humans lived for 300,000 years before a few decades ago.
In the years since, I’ve kept my waste below 10% of what I used to. As one measure, I have to take out my landfill garbage once or twice a year now. I’m trying to bring it down.
The most important measures for me are that my diet is
- More delicious than ever
- Cheaper than ever
- More convenient than ever
- More social than ever—that is, people come over for meals more and I know the farmers who grow my food
- Accessible, including to people in food deserts, with little time or money, with dependents like children or elderly
I also eat more food than ever since most of what I eat has a lot of fiber and not many calories. You can’t beat food being delicious, cheap, convenient, social, and eating to stuffed every meal. I can’t believe I ate different before.
Click the contents to read posts I wrote on avoiding food packaging.
- Avoiding food packaging
- More than a year since I emptied my garbage
- Independence from garbage, even on my body
- 052: Emptying my garbage for the first time in over a year (transcript)
- Buying no food with packaging, eighteen days and counting
- Bought first food with packaging after 2.5 weeks
- Leadership and the Environment Podcast episode #3: Freedom, empathy, garbage, and compost
- Eating at restaurants seems weirder the more healthily I eat. Same with pre-prepared food.
- American Cuisine Has 2 Rules and I Found Them
- How do you justify polluting?
- Recycling doesn’t pollute much less than throwing stuff away
- Restaurants make “entertainment for your mouth,” designed for profit, not health. Same with packaged food.
- Less food packaging = more food variety
- Why can’t you stop polluting?
- Trying to solve everything before doing anything leads to nothing done
- Emptying my household garbage for the first time in 2019
In the meantime, here is the opposite of packaged food — growing plants from the farm I get most of my summer and fall vegetables from. People visibly react when they taste how much more flavor they have than what stores sell. Visiting it is one of my summer highlights.
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