Should I Choose the Carton or the Jug?


So many choices… how do I make the best decision?

Shopping in our modern supermarkets, there is a packaging decision in every aisle. We want to make the choice that is the best for people and the planet, but how are we supposed to know?

  • Milk: carton or plastic jug?
  • Pasta: box or plastic bag?
  • Beans: canned or dried?
  • Rice: multilayer packing, boxed minute rice, or plastic bag?
  • Berries: plastic clamshell or frozen in plastic?

Here are a few universal tips to help you think about how to buy foods.

1.) Vote with your voice and your dollar.

Don’t see a kind of packaging you think is appropriate? Speak up and tell the store you want to see it. And if you don’t like what you see, try not to buy it.

2.) If you have the option, buy in bulk.

Food for less bulk aisle

When you buy in bulk, you use less packaging. Especially if you bring your own bags or jars. Buying in bulk could mean filling containers from the bins with scoops, but it could also mean just purchasing a larger container. Instead of 10 small applesauce jars, buy one large jar and scoop out what you need. We know there are some rules in flux about this due to COVID, but there is word from reputable scientifically backed sources including the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control, as well as  a letter signed by XXX scientists that the spreading of coronavirus via reusables is VERY unlikely. Wash your reusables and then reuse them.

We have tons of bulk buying options in Central Oregon! You can read all about them in our blog post here. We even have an unpacked store: The Pantry.

3.) Choose the recyclable option.

Milk carton or milk jug? Cartons are multilayer packaging consisting of paper lined with plastic — that’s how the paper can hold the liquid! Cartons are hard to recycle and not a desirable material and they are not recyclable at all in Deschutes County. Choose the plastic jug or head on down to Central Oregon Locavore and purchase milk in a glass returnable jug.

4.) Shop seasonally.

Clamshells are not recyclable in Deschutes County, but that’s how berries are transported these days. If you’re buying berries in January, they probably weren’t grown in the Northern hemisphere, which means they travelled a long way to get to the store. We all know strawberries taste better when they’re in season! If you can’t give up your berry habit, consider buying berries in bulk in the summer and putting them in the freezer.

5.) Avoid plastic when you  can, especially when it isn’t recyclable.

Plastic is really terrible for people and the planet. If you can avoid it, do so for your health, for your neighbor’s health, and for the health of the planet. Read these 5 reasons we should pay attention to plastic.

6.) Buy foods with lower weight.

It takes a lot of energy to transport liquids such as stock or soup that comes in tetrapak multilayered packaging, gallons of water or juice, and cans of beans. Tetrapaks are not recyclable in Deschutes County.

  • Instead of buying pre-made stock, save your bones and veggie scraps (like carrot peelings, onion bits and ends) and make your own!
  • Buy dried beans instead of canned ones.