Tips to start out with Bulk Living
I think an issue with the whole zero-waste living thing is the way that it can be portrayed. At its nuts and bolts it is a frugal way of living, and nobody's life looks as idyllic as some of the social images that are used to market it. The pastoral way of life is really pretty, but living the pastoral life? It's not always so pretty. I mean, you're never going to walk into my house and see the children wearing all-white linen clothing and playing with some very expensive artisanal rocks. Sometimes I see these images and wonder just how many people buy into them and I feel sad for the real message being missed in the marketing - sustainability.
Bulk living does not have to be expensive and it does not require anything special or for you to purchase. Most of what you need you already have, you just have to get a little organized. It is a bit of a mind shift, and habit shift, and it does take a little bit of effort. Here's a list of tips from everything that went wrong on my journey!
1. Start Small
I think every time I talk about this stuff, I just repeat this like a bit of a Girl Scout. It's honestly the biggest lesson I ever learned on this journey! This is so overwhelming if you try to do it all at the same time. It's too tough to maintain and it would actually be really expensive, because you'll feel like you have to replace all the things you own at once. I know this because I felt this and it's so easy to just forget about it for another day. And also, it's not too sustainable to have to find something to do with all your part-used up things if it all gets thrown out, right? Round up all the stuff you have in one category (like lotion, or shampoo) and either pass it along (if you know you won't use it - family, friends, charitable donation sites and shelters are a great spot to do this) or use it up. Then, you'll run out of things one at a time, and you can just figure it out one thing at a time and there's no heavy stress.
2. Start a Habit with the Reusable Bags
Do you feel like you forget your reusable bags all the time? I did this so much. The thing that solved it was unpacking my groceries (which is just the worst already) so I just made myself but them back in my trunk every time. Or, well, at least put them at the door so I could take them out. This works most of the time, and now it's a habit.
3. Make a 'Bulk Basket'
I have a basket that I put my bulk shopping stuff in. It is mostly full of good containers I've collected, like protein powder containers, that were headed for recycling. If you don't have a mason jar, use a spaghetti sauce jar, or a relish jar... or a mayo container. Lemon essential oil removes labels so well, and you're being more sustainable than going out and buying fancy silicone zip bags and canisters from Bulk Barn (but if you want to do that, go for it!). I also got this great grease pencil at Unwrapped Kawartha, which I keep in there for labelling the jars at the store (as most bulk places have tags). Finally, I have a bunch of cloth bags that are easier to use for bulk items like flour, noodles, and grains.
When I know I'm going bulk shopping, I take this basket. This guy doesn't end up in the car at the end of shop, it stays inside. Then I can just put the containers in it after I use something up.
4. Make a Plan (or a Cycle?) for your Item
I found that I had to have a bit of a plan for whatever I replaced in a bulk fashion before I went ahead with it. My old routine was to grab a couple bottles of shampoo off the shelf, use it, and then toss it. Now, I have a pump bottle in the shower, a mason in the cupboard with extra shampoo in it (this is a rural living habit, really), and some spare masons in a basket for when I go shopping. Definitely took some failing to figure that one out... even writing that out feels like it's complicated, but if I take the mason jar out of the cupboard to fill up my bottle, I just write it on my list then, and have a ton of time to go get it. If something turns out to be on sale, I still have a jar while I'm there.
If you're going to have some nice containers for this endeavour, make it the ones you keep in your home and check out what you already have. I found that I already had some pretty nice amber pump bottles from a gift or my current soap that I just needed to take a label off of. I found some really pretty fillable jars at Bulk Barn, Canadian Tire, and even my favourite local hardware store. Value Village canisters hold a big lot of my cleaning supplies ingredients.
Using mason jars keeps it really simple for me. If you like having a labelled bottle so you know what's in it, I have tried to offer that in my shop, and if you like to keep it neutral, I have tried to offer that too. Labelled bottles can make it easier to remember what you need to buy if you just throw them in a your bulk basket when you empty one out, that could help too.
Anyway, I hope that was helpful!
Remember, even if you just fill up on thing, you're still saving the garbage that one time, and that's something to celebrate. Every little step matters, so don't let a missed step derail the whole effort.