So although we can't completely get away from packaging at the farmers' market, we have an incredible opportunity to practice the 3 R's of the environment. We all know them, right? Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
Everyone pretty much knows to take those egg cartons back to the farmer who sold them to you. In fact, I now have a neighbor that saves all hers and I take them to the market to distribute them among the egg vendors (believe it or not, those egg cartons really eat into the profit). But don't stop there! Here are some other ideas of things you can save and give to your favorite market vendor:
- Plastic Bags - Not that we have many of these floating around, because we ALWAYS remember to bring our canvas bags when we shop, right? Well, none of us are perfect and one way or another, we end up accumulating a few of those notorious plastic bags. Some of our market vendors have had to actually buy new plastic bags (because we haven't completely trained our customers to remember to bring their own reusables). So don't take those plastic bags to your recycling facility. Take them to the farmers market and let the vendors give them one last hurrah!
- Glass Jars - I'm not talking about canning jars (but that's next). I'm just talking about regular old nut butter or mayonnaise-type jars. Glass jars are one of those things that are super easy to recycle. But don't forget, our first priority is to reuse! Most of my glass jars get saved to store food in the fridge, but I only need a few. So, I take my extra glass jars to our honey vendor who sterilizes and reuses them to sell honey.
- Canning Jars - Ok. I get a little greedy here. I do actually keep all the canning jars that I get from the farmers' market (pickles, jam, etc) because I'm a canning addict and I NEED the jars. Seriously, though, if you're not a canner, take back your canning jars (Ball, Mason, etc) to the person from whom you purchased it. Some will even give you a discount on your next purchase when you return the jar.
- Ziplock Bags - Some of our vendors sell baked goods, spinach, and roasted peanuts in Ziplock baggies. And these baggies, as useful as they are at home, end up adding up over time. Why not wash them and take them back to the vendor to use again?
- Newspaper - Newspaper, as we all know is great for packing delicate items. Ask market vendors who sell such items (crafts, jams and jellies, etc) if they need your old newspapers to wrap their wares for customers.
- Plastic Cartons - You know, those cartons our berries come in. I haven't quite figured out how to repurpose them at home, but the market vendors love to reuse them for their own berries, snow peas, brussels sprouts, just about anything small.
- Rubber Bands - The mint I buy every week comes bound in a teeny-weeny rubber band so the stems all stay together. Take them back to be reused.
- Twine - My greens come tied with twine. Again, don't toss it, return it to be reused.
Those are just a few ideas. The point is, don't stop with the obvious. Really think about the things we so mindlessly toss. Can they be reused at home? If not, maybe one of your market vendors can benefit.
Now it's your turn. What do you take to your farmers' market to be reused?
UPDATE: A friend just reminded me about another recycling venue - We have an artist at our farmers' market. Her business cards are made from cut up cardboard boxes. She uses fabric scraps and brown paper bags in many of her creations. So ask around. An artist near you may have a need for things you never even imagined!