How To Shop Eco-Friendly At The Grocery Store With 8 Sustainable Hacks
Think about your last trip to the grocery store: How many plastic bags did you use? Did you shop for seasonal produce? Did you check to see where your cut of fresh fish was sourced? Though many of us probably restock your kitchen on at least a bi-weekly basis, there's a lot of waste involved in the process of grocery shopping, from the plastic used to the products we choose. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to be more eco-friendly when grocery shopping. Sure, it's only a trip that you probably make a few times a month, but a lifetime of making eco-friendly shopping decisions can make a large difference on your environmental footprint.
In fact, many of the most impactful, Earth-friendly changes you can make probably involve slightly tweaking your spending habits and daily routine in a way that doesn't hurt your wallet or your schedule. You don't have to buy all natural everything (or anything) to make a change — it can be as simple as choosing not to bag your veggies individually. From choosing certain types of plastic, to buying in bulk, here are eight hacks to make your next trip to the grocery store a little bit more eco-friendly.
1. Use Reusable Plastic Bags
For starters, skipping paper and plastic bagging is a great way to help cut back on pollution. "If you know you need to go grocery shopping, pack a tote at the start of the day and do your bit for the environment," Frida Harju-Westman, the in-house nutritionist at health app Lifesum, tells Bustle.
However, there is a catch: As The Verge reported in May, studies have shown cotton tote bags are actually worse for the environment than plastic bags, thanks to the amount of water and pesticides the crop requires. So, your best bet is to actually purchase a reusable plastic bag — such as ones made of recycled plastic, or nylon. Or, simply reuse the regular old plastic bags you get from the grocery store. It may take a bit to get into the habit of remembering to bring along reusable bags, but the Earth will thank you in the long run.
2. Don't Wrap Your Fruit And Veggies
While we're on the topic of plastic, another way to cut back on single-use waste is by skipping out on the plastic bags kept in the produce section. Most fruits and veggies need to be rinsed off before you eat or cook them anyways, so might as well forego on pointless plastic. "Not only does this reduce plastic," says Harju-Westman, "but you will also reduce the amount of food that you waste, as you are more likely to buy for the exact amount you need."
3. See Where Your Seafood Is Coming From
According to the organization the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), overfishing and unsustainable fishing practices have caused over 30 percent of fisheries across the globe to go beyond the "biological limits" of their area. This poses a large threat to marine life and ocean ecosystems. Fortunately, The Monterey Bay Aquarium created The Seafood Watch App to combat the consequences of overfishing — an app that helps you find seafood at your local grocery store, or even your favorite sushi spot, that's been ethically sourced.
4. Buy Your Food In Bulk
National Geographic reported that one study found that 91 percent of plastic isn't recycled. So, if you have the funds to do so, buying groceries in bulk may be a useful way to cut back on individually-wrapped food products. "Buying in bulk not only reduces the amount of plastic you use, but it can also save you money, as bulk products often have offers on them," Harju-Westman explains, adding that what you don't use immediately can be frozen for meals at a later date.
5. Shop Seasonally
There are plenty of environmental and financial reasons to opt for produce that is in-season: "Not only does seasonal food cost less, but it is also tastier and better for the environment, as it requires less artificial energy to grow," Harju-Westman explains.
What's more, if you enjoy cooking, it may be fun to to challenge your culinary skills with making more seasonal dishes. Harju-Westman says that, "With fall fast approaching, you have a variety of nutrient-rich vegetables to look forward to, including pumpkin and squash, which you can cook as a side, make delicious soups with, or incorporate into a main meal."
6. Shop Locally
Shopping locally often goes hand-in-hand with shopping seasonally, and Harju-Westman says that foods that come from around the world can end up costing you more. Not to mention, shopping locally can also help support your local economy, and sustains some of the nutrients produce can lose in the process of being picked and shipped thousands of miles. Consider hitting up your local farmer's market, or next time you go to the grocery store, look for products that specify they are locally grown.
7. Or, Buy Imperfect Produce
According to Imperfect Produce, "More than 20 percent of the fruits and vegetables grown in America never make it off the farm because they aren’t perfect enough for grocery store standards," which leads to an huge amount of food waste every year. That's why this company collects perfectly good fruits and veggies that have been deemed too "ugly" to sell, and they deliver a customized boxes of produce to customers. While online grocery shopping has its own environmental drawbacks, Imperfect Produce tries to reduce their carbon footprint every step of the way.
8. Check The Labels
Harju-Westman explains, "While this might sound tedious, especially when you are tired and all you want to do is grab your food and go home, labels have a lot of important information about the food and the packaging it comes in." She says to specifically to choose items with plastics one (PETE) and two (HDPE), which are the most likely to be recycled in the U.S.
Eating and shopping in environmentally-friendly fashion doesn't require you having to stretch your budget or buy expensive groceries. By switching out your grocery bags or taking an extra second to find out where you food come from, you can live a little more green.