Processed and store-prepared snacks are one of the biggest culprits for being wasteful. They come in lots of packaging, most of which is difficult to recycle due to multi layering and mixing of plastics used to make them. Packaging makes up for 40% of all plastics generated annually, much of which is made for processed foods including snacks. Chips, chocolate, candy, you name it! They all come in packaging that is single use, heading straight to the landfill after consumption.
When it comes to low waste snacks, often fruit and produce are at the top of the list. But have you ever had a craving for doritos and satisfied it with an apple? Probably not. Fruits and vegetables are the best packaging free options for quick convenient snacks, but it is just unrealistic to offer them as solutions and alternatives to those sugary, salty, or carb filled snacks we may want every once in a while.
If you are trying to implement more low waste habits, snacks are a good place to start. However, all of your favourite ones might be pushed to the side unless you have done your research to find good comparative alternatives. Store bought snacks also offer a kind of convenience that zero waste habits can’t compete with. They are pre-prepared, quick to buy, and ready to eat when you need them. To find something packaging free or with minimal and recyclable packaging, snacks tend to take a little more effort and preparation on our end. I have compiled a list of good low waste snacks you can make or buy that are still delicious and will satisfy those salt, sugar, or carb cravings.
SNACKS TO MAKE
Popcorn from kernels Candied orange peel Roasted chickpeas Homemade sweet potato chips Homemade muffins Homemade sourdough crackers Soft pretzels Oat bars Homemade granola Roasted pumpkin seeds (seasonal) Nacho chips made from corn tortillas (bought in recyclable bag) Dehydrated fruit Chocolate covered banana & peanut butter sandwiches
These are all low waste and mostly packaging free snack options, all of which are quite easy and quick to make. My personal favourites are buttered popcorn, garlic dill roasted chickpeas, and chocolate covered banana & peanut butter sandwiches. The reason I like to make these three snacks is because they are very fast to prepare and easy to munch on at any time of day. They can also be prepped in advance and stored. The banana and peanut butter snacks are made of slices of banana with peanut butter in the middle, then dipped in chocolate. I always store mine in the freezer and use them as an after dinner snack.
Candied orange peel is another great one because it uses the rinds from an orange that would otherwise be composted. Once candied, the oranges have the texture of gummy candies with a little more tang. They store well in the freezer and can be dipped in chocolate too (have you noticed I love chocolate dipped fruits). Ginger and berries also candy very well by simmering them in a sugar and water mixture. The sugar water, or simple syrup, can then be used to sweeten cold summer teas and drinks.
If you have an interest in sourdough starters, maybe give these sourdough crackers a go. Or if you are a lover of chips, you could try to make your own baked sweet potato chips once in a while as a packaged chip alternative. Homemade nacho chips are also fun to make from corn tortillas. Not zero waste, but another alternative to non recyclable chip bags.
The other snack options are carb heavy and can also do a pretty good job of hiding healthy ingredients. Oat bars are a quick alternative to packaged granola bars, muffins and homemade soft pretzels can substitute for store bought pastries, and granola can be another option for packaged trail mix.
Really, all of these snacks are good low waste options that also do not require special equipment (except maybe the dehydrated fruit). They are really delicious, satisfy cravings, and are made from real ingredients (no more preservatives). If you are embarking on a zero or low waste journey, give this list of snacks a try, you may be surprised how much you will like them!
SNACKS TO BUY
Alter Eco Chocolates & Candies – This company uses completely compostable packaging for their products. The only issue with this one is it’s not widely available in Canadian stores. I have seen some selection of chocolate bars at local markets who support organic and Fair Trade products, but I have not seen it in regular grocery stores. It can be found on Amazon, but of course ordering chocolates from Amazon has its own set of issues that I won’t get into at the moment.
Dutch Chips – The company Dutch has chips available in box form! Inside the box the chips are packaged in two recyclable plastic bags (which is accepted in most larger area recycling centres if placed in a bag with alike materials). Other chip bags contain 7 layers of plastic bonded together, and the reason they are not recyclable is because there is no way for those layers to be separated. The Dutch chips that come packaged in a box contain all recyclable materials, and another added bonus, they are a Canadian company.
Camino Chocolate Brand – Camino is another Canadian company based in Ottawa with high environmental values. They support organic and Fair Trade farmers, as well as sustainable packaging in the form of compostable wrappers. Their products are a little on the pricier side, however, that extra couple dollars ensures the ingredients are real and the cacao bean farmers are paid a fair wage.
Buying in Bulk – This is another great option for snack purchases, however it isn’t available to everyone and the largest bulk stores are no longer offering container refills due to global circumstances. There are still zero waste options out there for snack purchases at stores that offer refilling options. For example, the zero waste store in Calgary called Apothecary offers a refillery program with a jar return and deposit system. They clean the jars and then refill orders placed online. This is a great way to get your fix for chocolate covered nuts, gummies, or pretzels, and at the same time support local businesses. Recently, Apothecary even introduced a “Snack Attack” curated kit that makes ordering refillery snacks a little easier.
Junior Mints – These mints are packed in cardboard only, which means no plastic bag inside like many other candies! The cardboard is obviously recyclable, and if you like mint flavours these little candies are a great alternative to other chocolate covered snacks.
Chocolate Bars – If the chocolate bar is packaged with aluminium wrapping on the inside of the box, it can be recycled. To recycle the aluminum wrapping it must be squished into a ball and combined with other aluminum, forming a ball about the size of a baseball.
There is definitely a limited number of buyable snacks out there that offer both convenience and sustainable packaging, which is why the Snacks to Buy list is much shorter than the Snacks to Make list on this post. This is the reason it is important for environmentally minded individuals to take a stand by not purchasing excessively packaged products. Your purchase is like a vote, the more you vote for something the more popular it will become. Whether saying no to terrible packaging or yes to sustainable ones, each purchase shows the industry how to meet the interests and needs of the consumers. Making informed buying choices is important.
Lastly, zero waste is not just about the packaging at the end of the road. Packaging only makes up a small part of a product’s total environmental impact, but is also the only part we can physically see. Zero waste should include the journey items and food products travel before they get to you, meaning that buying a recyclable packaged snack that is made locally may have a better total environmental impact than that of a compostable packed one that ships overseas. Hopefully this information allows you to make some bold snack choices and cast your buying vote towards sustainable practices.