A Guide to Sustainable Grocery Shopping: 6 Simple Techniques

Some Tips on Sustainable Grocery Shopping: 6 Easy Ways to Be More Sustainable When Shopping for Food

By Lilly Miller

Being committed to preserving the environment has long become a necessity rather than a fad. The climate change and the enormous amounts of garbage that have polluted the oceans are alarming and it’s essential that we start making a positive change right now.

However, no matter how willing some people are to improve the state of the environment, they just don’t know where to begin. If you’re one of them, you should know that every act, as small as it may seem to you, definitely counts.

So, why not start with how you shop for food? Here are 6 simple ways to make your grocery shopping more sustainable, starting today.

Shop Locally

There are several benefits that nature can get from you shopping locally.

Probably the most significant one is that any goods that are produced and sold at the same place don’t require to travel anywhere to reach the consumers. This cuts down carbon emissions and lowers air pollution.

Even if such food has to travel a short distance, it’s still a less harmful option for the environment than having to transport it to another country or even continent. In addition, when food doesn’t have to travel far, it’s bound to get to the buyer sooner, which reduces food waste, since it’s less likely that the product will get damaged or go bad in transport. Plus, it needs less packaging than it would if it was to travel a long distance.

Finally, locally produced food is normally considerably fresher than any other and it allows you to support your local farmers and small businesses.

Sustainable Grocery Shopping: Raglan Roast storefront under blue sky

Buy Seasonal Food

Another way to shop for food sustainably is to opt for seasonal food whenever possible.

First of all, it’s much healthier for you to buy fresh food than processed, as fresh food will retain all of its precious nutrients for longer. It’s also important to note that processed food will produce a higher carbon footprint throughout the production process, so choosing fresh seasonal food will not only be a healthier source of nourishment for you, but it’s also good for the environment.

Furthermore, seasonal food is often sourced locally, which is another eco-friendly upside to buying it. After all, when you buy tropical fruit out of season, you can be sure that it had to travel a long way to get to you, leaving a noteworthy carbon footprint.

One good idea would be to make a shopping list based on what meals you plan to cook during the week and then visit the closest farmers’ market or grocery store, preferably on foot or by bike, and buy what’s in season.

Bring Your Own Bag

The single-use plastic shopping bags are extreme polluters and, by using them regularly, you add to the gigantic piles of garbage in landfills and, consequently, the waters.

They need about 300 years to degrade, breaking down into particles that are toxic and that end up in the soil and waters. It’s not uncommon that these particles are ingested by various animals, becoming a part of the food chain. In fact, animals frequently mistake plastic bags for food, swallowing them and paying for it with their lives, which is why these bags present a danger to marine life globally.

While some countries have already banned plastic bags, this is still an important issue to tackle in the rest of the world. While waiting for the governments to react, do your part by purchasing or making your own reusable shopping bags, but also smaller produce bags, for your fruit and vegetables and even meat and dairy products.

These can usually be folded so that they don’t take up too much space in your backpack or your handbag, and you can carry them with you at all times, using them when you need them.

Sustainable Grocery Shopping: fresh fruit in baskets in a local food store
Local Bulk Organic Stores are Perfect for Sustainable Grocery Shopping

Turn to Online Shopping

Although it’s quicker for you to just run to the store, buy what you need and bring it home straight away, online shopping is a more environmentally friendly way to go about this.

The brick-and-mortar stores need plenty of electric power and water to run normally, producing a lot of waste and carbon emissions. Ordering food online and having it delivered to you directly from storage is much eco-friendlier and is something you should start practicing.

This is especially true for the rural areas, where the bigger stores are further away from you and you need to travel by car to reach them. Being organized and ordering your food on time, so that it reaches you when you need it, can make a huge difference in protecting the environment.

Nowadays you can order pretty much anything, from tea and coffee to cooking needs to top-quality vegan snacks online. This type of shopping is practical, as websites list the ingredients of different products so that you can read them thoroughly before deciding what you want to purchase, and the best ones even offer free shipping if you spend a certain amount of money on their site.

Whenever you can, choose standard shipping over express one, so that the online store can focus more on delivering the product to you with the environment in mind, rather than delivering it faster.

Shop in Bulk

Driving cars causes air pollution and is something that we should limit to the best of our ability. This is why you should plan your trips to the store or the local market meticulously so that you don’t have to drive more often than absolutely necessary.

Similarly, you should avoid buying food in individual packaging, since that means more plastic in landfills.

One excellent way to deal with both these problems is to start buying in bulk whenever the circumstances allow it. The great thing is that many shops now store food like nuts, dry beans, or tea in large containers, from which you can simply take as much as you want. If you bring your own reusable bags and cycle to the shop, this can mean a zero-waste shopping trip.

And if you buy enough to last you for a while, you’re saving yourself an extra run to the store, which reduces your personal cost but also promotes good environmental habits.

Sustainable Grocery Shopping: Jars in a bulk food store

Don’t Go Overboard

As smart as buying in bulks can be, it can also be a bad idea to buy more than you’ll actually eat.

When you purchase too much fresh produce, and then you don’t eat it all before it goes bad, you’ll end up throwing it away. You should be reasonably restrictive when buying perishables.

Sometimes they’ll be on sale and it will seem that you’re getting a bargain if you buy a bigger amount, but if your food eventually goes to waste, you aren’t really saving any money. This is something that often happens when people take bigger shopping trips less frequently, so perhaps going weekly instead of monthly is a better idea, particularly so if you don’t live too far from where you do your shopping.

Another solution is to store your food more mindfully. Placing perishable foods in the front part of your fridge will make them more visible and you won’t forget to use them before they expire. Learn which foods should be kept in the fridge, and which in the pantry, but also what food you can freeze for later use so that you lower food waste.

Key Takeaways on Sustainable Grocery Shopping

Being slightly more attentive when it comes to nature preservation can get us all a long way. If you take small steps and begin making changes for the better gradually, you’ll soon become the difference you’re hoping to see in the world.

Following the good advice above can help you contribute to the environment and make this planet a better place for you and future generations.

About the Author

Lilly Miller is a freelance writer, who focuses on interior design, well-being and sustainable living. She loves to experiment on daring new home decor trends and write about it as a regular contributor to Smooth Decorator. Settled in Sydney for the time being, Lilly shares home with two loving dogs and a gecko named Rodney. You can find her hanging out on Twitter.

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