How to Go Grocery Shopping Sustainably
Going zero-waste might be the right thing to do for the planet, but it is certainly not the easiest to accomplish. Almost every grocery store you visit will have food packaged and stored behind layers and layers of plastic. Most foods are produced with high carbon emissions. It costs both your wallet and the planet way more than it should.
Practicing sustainable measures while grocery shopping is the only solution to this lifestyle problem that impacts Earth as much as it impacts us. To make your journey towards a sustainable life more accessible, there are 8 tips you can follow. Let’s dive in.
1. Bring Your Own Reusable Bags
Statistics suggest that nearly 40% of all the plastic produced every year is single-use plastic used for packaging. This kind of plastic is really difficult to recycle as it gets tangled in the machinery and interferes with robotic sensors used in the recycling process. Their obvious fate is ending up in landfills and water bodies where they have detrimental impacts on the environment.
Each time you purchase something that uses single-use plastics, you contribute to the growing plastic crisis. Bringing your own grocery shopping bags really pays off in this scenario. If you resolve to bring your own reusable bags and containers, you can say “no” to single-use plastic every time while grocery shopping. With a few storage and organization tips, incorporating reusable bags and containers into your life can be easy as pie.
2. Buy Loose Produce
While we’re on the topic of plastic packaging, you should know that using reusable bags only works when you buy loose produce. Putting a container of packaged vegetables or meat in your tote bag defeats the purpose. You are still creating significant plastic waste. To prevent this, visit stores that contain fresh, unwrapped foods.
Buying loose produce helps you control the amount you want to buy and save money in the process. In organic stores, you will find a wide range of loose products — fruits, vegetables, spices, pasta, cereals, rice, biscuits, and much more! In a supermarket, however, most of these products will be wrapped in plastic.
3. Steer Clear of Processed Food
How much do you pay for packets of chips, biscuits, or cookies per month? $20? $50? More? Try spending that amount on buying whole, raw ingredients. You’ll easily make twice as much food that’s thrice as healthy!
It’s called “shopping the perimeter”. When you shop the perimeter, you buy your cheese and pasta separately instead of buying a box of microwaveable mac and cheese. Better yet, make your own pasta from scratch!
Processed food comes with a lot of drawbacks: huge carbon footprint, higher costs, loss of nutrients, unhealthy additives, and excessive packaging, just to name a few. These impair your health, tarnish the environment, and snowball your grocery bill. You can live a much healthier life by sacrificing snacks and easy food options for more healthy recipes.
4. Opt for a Plant-Based Diet
Does making your own pasta sound like an odious task to you? Were you thinking of veering towards meat more? If so, think twice! Eating a predominantly animal-based diet can be even more detrimental than eating overly processed food.
Plant-based foods have a smaller carbon-footprint. Most animal-based foods are way more resource intensive and harmful for the environment. A study found that beef production requires 20 times more land and emits 20 times more greenhouse gas than common plant-based protein sources such as beans, peas and lentils. Chicken and pork require thrice the amount of resources as plants.
5. Read the Labels
Labels can reveal so many secrets about how the food is produced and the impact it has on the environment. Not all processed food and meat out there hurts the planet. Some of it is responsibly and consciously produced. Certain food labels can certify that. Lookout for trustable certifications like Fair Trade, American Grassfed, Organic, Bird Friendly, Animal Welfare Approved, Safe Catch, BPI Compostable, Non-GMO, and so on. Eat responsibly!
6. Shop Local and In-Season
Food can have a high emission tag if it is transported from somewhere far away or exported from another part of the world. This is often the case when we try to eat fruits or vegetables that are not in season. This means more energy consumption, higher carbon emission, and outrageous prices.
If you eat what is locally grown around you, you consume food with negligible carbon emissions and low prices. Shopping from your local farmers’ market is a great way to start.
7. Know Your Plastics
Sometimes, purchasing items with plastic packaging is unavoidable if you do not have any plastic-free alternatives at your local grocery stores. In such dire scenarios, check the plastic resin identification number. It’ll be a small code inside of a triangle. This symbol reveals which type of plastic is used to make a packaging material.
Always go for HDPE (high-density polyethylene) and PETE (polyethylene terephthalate) plastics since they are more easily recyclable than other kinds of plastic. Learn more about recycling and upcycling to keep yourself updated about ways you can repurpose plastic containers.
8. Always Carry a List and Never Go In Hungry
Going grocery shopping without a list is how you get confused. Going in hungry is how you lose focus and self-control. The result is buying a bunch of stuff you don’t need. Overbuying leads to food wastage. Annually, Americans waste 30-40% of the US food supply. You sure don’t want to contribute to this number.
If you’re already living a pretty sustainable lifestyle, the above tips will only add to it. And if your next grocery trip is going to be your first attempt at being sustainable, following these tips will make for an effortless transition into this lifestyle. Either way, more power to you!
Carolyn Mitchell is a freelance writer and content strategist with a passion for home décor. She can often be found re-painting and updating the furnishings in her home, and she is also a dedicated cat mom to two adorable kitties.