Thursday, November 29, 2012

8 Simple Ways to Make Your Grocery Shopping More Sustainable

By Ariana Mullins

What does sustainable mean? Here is the definition:

1. capable of being sustained
2. a) of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged b) of or relating to a lifestyle involving the use of sustainable methods. (Merriam-Webster dictionary)

3. Capable of being continued with minimal long-term effect on the environment. (

When shopping at the grocery store, you make decisions that can have profound effects on both on your life and on the world as a whole. Regardless of who you are, how many people you feed at home, or what your dietary preferences are, you have lots of choices when it comes to shopping-- choices that have a direct impact on the environment. There are many ways to make small changes to the way you buy your food that really add up for a big impact-- especially considering how many times you will shop for food in your life! So here are some simple ways to make your shopping trips more sustainable. You can make a difference in the environment, with minimal effort!

1. Plan well, so you don't have to make multiple trips-- those gas miles add up! This will also save you money and time.
Photo by Foreverdigital

2. Take reusable bags-- it's not much extra time or energy, and over the long haul, this little gesture adds up to keeping hundreds (if not thousands) of plastic bags out of circulation. Stash some in your car or purse, so you have them on hand whenever you are buying something at a store.

3. Buy local produce, whenever possible. Local produce is fresher, has more nutrients, and doesn't require tons of fossil fuels to be transported for thousands of miles. Another important advantage to buying local produce is that you will be supporting your local economy!

4. Opt for bulk items or those with less packaging. Just think of all the boxes, plastic wrap, foil and needless material that our food is wrapped in. This is a huge waste of resources! Why not just buy the actual ingredients, rather than all of the packaging? You can do this by visiting your grocery store's bulk bins. Often times, buying in bulk is more economical anyway, so this is another win-win.

5. Don't buy bottled water-- pick up a reusable water bottle, and drink tap water, or filtered tap water. Bottled water uses a whole lot of energy-- from transporting the water from its source, to using the plastic bottles, which often don't get recycled. Plus, plastic compounds are often leached into the water. Opt to filter your water from the tap at home, using a Brita-type filter instead. Once again, this will save you money, too!

6. Be responsible in your protein choices. You don't have to become a vegetarian in order to eat sustainably. Choose meats that have been raised humanely, using traditional methods. For example, buying grass fed meat supports sustainable practices-- cows are made to eat grass, and their manure actually replenishes top soil! These meats are much better for our health, and do not require huge amounts of grain to be grown to feed them. Do a little research, talk to your local butcher, and make choices that support our ecosystem. Your taste buds and health will also benefit!

7. Buy seasonally. How do strawberries make their way to the supermarket in December? They were grown in warmer countries, picked, and shipped over. These were bred for long transport times, rather than flavor. The same is true for all kinds of foods that we take for granted-- items that are not in season year-round. The best, most nutrient-rich and flavorful foods at your market will be those that are in season. And the in-season items are often the most local! Choosing foods that are in season is a very sustainable practice, and you will discover that eating in season just tastes better, too!

8. Buy organics. Not only will you be supporting good agriculture practices and keeping chemicals out of our soils and water supply-- you will also be protecting your own health and that of your family! Certain crops employ more pesticides than others, so it's good to be informed on which choices will make the most impact. Here is a great chart that shows which items are most likely to be heavily sprayed, and should be avoided unless organic.

We all have so many choices today, when it comes to buying our food. This is great, because it means that food is abundant. However, we also have more responsibility now, when it comes to how we go about doing our shopping. A little thought and effort can make a big difference in the impact of our lifestyles on the environment. It's absolutely worth it to choose sustainable options, and these choices will often save you time, and money, while improving your health. You can make a difference!


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