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A series looking at zero waste in northern Illinois

Northern Illinois Residents Shop With The Environment In Mind - And Tote Bags In Hand

Shoppers (and their pups) browse the selection at the Batavia Farmers' Market

We’re talking about zero waste this week. And we spoke with some northern Illinois residents about finding more low waste choices. For some, it’s easier said than done.

Kim Valentine recently visited the Batavia Farmer's Market. She says waste reduction is a priority for her. She will even go out of her way to reduce waste. She isn’t deterred by the extra effort.

Credit Claire Buchanan
Kim Valentine shops at the Batavia Farmers' Market

Valentine said, “I have had to inconvenience myself through those choices. Say, I’m at the store and I’ve left my tote bags in the car, I will say, ‘Sorry, I can’t take the plastic bag, please we’ll just put it in my shopping cart, and I’ll take it out to the car.’”

Mara Hill Buckner owns Muffins With A Message. She has a stand at the Batavia farmers’ market. When Valentine buys muffins from her, she brings her own reusable containers instead of taking them home in plastic packaging.

Hill Buckner is happy to have customers like that, but says she can’t afford to make the switch to more sustainable packaging. As a business owner, she says waste reduction is a real challenge.

Hill Buckner explained: "I have to find a plastic or a product that'll keep my muffins fresh but yet at the same time be cost effective. And that's sometimes where we get into… where we can have some problems. Because what's cost effective may not be the most sustainable for the environment."

Credit Claire Buchanan
Mara Hill Buckner at her Batavia Farmers' Market stand

Another farmers’ market-goer, Keith Dobin, also says waste reduction is important to him. But he says, "I just think it's a little bit... it goes beyond convenience. You have to be really purposeful in doing it, and it sometimes is very difficult to be that way, to be, you know, constantly aware and mindful of what you're producing and where it's going."

Dobin takes steps to reduce his waste, like avoiding plastic water bottles. But he’s frustrated by companies and governments not taking more action.

He says it’s frustrating "Seeing things like, really a lack of industry effort on behalf of beverage producers to really push for recycling of those plastic containers.” And he adds, “I think even you see the continued use of Styrofoam or the styrene containers. Some states have already banned them from being used. But I think again if you looked at it from a national or even global perspective, there are other alternatives that are much more environmentally friendly."

Cities like New York and San Francisco have banned styrene food containers. And here in Illinois, state lawmakers considered a measure earlier this year that would implement a statewide 7 cent plastic bag tax.

But are rules like that enough?

Valentine agrees with Dobin that people in positions of power should be doing more to address waste. And she adds everyone can help influence those changes. For example, she says, “If we all chose to bring our tote bags, our merchants wouldn’t have to be spending money on plastic shopping bags. And in the end, that savings is going to pass on to us.”

Valentine says the savings may not be immediately apparent, but for her, reducing waste is the most important factor.

That’s not the case for Trent Snyder, who recently moved from DeKalb to Chicago, where they already have a bag tax. He says the tax is an effective motivator because most people want to reduce expenses.

He says, “My choices are not extremely affected by wanting to reduce waste. A lot of them are affected by cost prevention. And I think that just is kind of a general thing for most people.”

Snyder thinks he and most others are more likely to make low waste choices when they are also the less expensive option.

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