My first official zero waste shopping experience

Some of you know that I have recently started trying to reduce my household’s waste production. I have been quite successful at this by refusing to use single use plastic items like grocery bags, learning how to make some of my own products, learning how to compost food and how to recycle properly. Now I am definitely not perfect, and I do from time to time forget to bring my reusable bags and have to ask for plastic bags, and I do occasionally opt for the more convenient food that comes in packaging. But over the past few months our waste has significantly dropped significantly. We now use about three quarters of a black bag in a month, maybe less, and I hope to keep reducing it.

One area where I still struggled was grocery shopping. We do get a fruit and vegetable box delivered once a week, which is mostly package free, and the packaging there is generally recyclable. But when it came to staples like oats, coffee, tea and things like cleaning products, I wanted to find a better solution. Thus my hunting for a shop or market stall began. I am lucky to live in Cape Town, as there are quite a few options. There are many markets around that offer some package free items, but not many places offer the service of refilling your own containers. I found the Zero Waste Shop, which is a lovely market stall found at a few different markets. The one closest to me was the Earth Fair Market in Tokai area. I had to wait until my current products ran out, and I tried waiting as long as possible so many of them needed replacing so I could buy a few things at one time.

I gathered my empty glass jars, and coffee and tea containers and headed out to the market on a Saturday morning. It’s a lovely market, great idea to go out there for breakfast! After we ate, I went to the Zero Waste shop stall and met the helpful and friendly owner who assisted me. He was of course very excited that I had brought my own containers, but he does sell some glass jars if you need them.

How it works is you put your container on the scale and he tares the weight (sets it to zero), then he’ll add what you want into the container until you are happy with the amount and he records how much he gave you in weight. You do this until you have all you need and he calculates the total for you to pay. The great thing about this is if you bring your own container, you cut out the cost of packaging, which saves you money! There was so much that’s available, a range of spices, tea leaves, coffee beans, grains, oils, balsamic vinegar, cleaning products and many more. The guy is so friendly and helpful and made it a lovely experience.

I filled up on quinoa, cous cous, coffee beans, loose leaf tea and bought a new ‘clean it all’ liquid soap decanted into a glass bottle with plastic nozzle. The cleaning liquid is made locally, using natural ingredients, and can be used to clean basically anything from dishes, laundry, glass, tiles and even hands and body. I’m so excited to try it out, I love the smell of it, especially since it smells chemical free and has the essence of citrus instead.

After that, I had a look round at the fresh fruit and veggie stalls, and I was so impressed at what was available, all package free. One of the more challenging things to buy package free are mushrooms, and I’m always on the look out for them. At the stalls, I could buy a whole variety of mushrooms loosely, paid per weight, and that excites me as I love exotic mushrooms!

Reducing your waste doesn’t have to be hard, it’s actually quite fun exploring new places like markets you don’t often go to otherwise. It’s all about the small things you change that make the biggest difference. I am grateful to have so many options available to me, as I know many do not have that luxury. And probably one of the most exciting things is that in November, South Africa’s first plastic free shop is opening in Cape Town, which I think is a great step in the right direction. I am looking forward to visiting, and expanding my horizons as I try to continue reduce my waste and support local businesses.

I hope you enjoyed this shorter post, if you have any questions, please ask away!


  1. jane

    16th October 2017 at 12:40 pm

    Kristin, I have always thought it would be a good idea to buy a product without having to buy it in a container. Definitely going to visit that market! I also like buying something that is just wrapped in paper, as it used to be, from meat to cheese to bread.

    1. Kristin Hofmeyr

      16th October 2017 at 12:51 pm

      Yes, meat and cheese wrapped in paper is a great idea, but can be hard to find. If you find any, let me know!

  2. Branda Jean Piersall

    13th May 2018 at 3:40 pm

    Where exactly is this market?

    1. Kristin Hofmeyr

      13th May 2018 at 3:50 pm

      Hi! It’s at the Earth Fair market in Tokai, Cape Town. There are other zero waste markets around Cape Town, if you can find them 🙂

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