By Emily Vidovich, founder of Small Steps for Earth.
Grocery shopping is one of the biggest sources of trash production in our daily lives. Bringing a reusable bag for your groceries is a great first step, but it’s what you put into the bag that counts the most. While buying food is a necessity, creating trash along the way is not. Transforming your shopping habits and shifting towards unprocessed, unpackaged foods is better for you and the environment, and it’s easier than you may think! Here are six easy ways to make sure you’re being a friend of the earth when you’re at the store:
- Buy Foods in Bulk
Bulk buying is amazing because it allows you to buy your food completely package free. You can find bulk sections filled with a multitude of foods in most organic stores, and they’re starting to pop up in normal supermarkets as well! Simply bring a reusable cloth bag to the store, fill it up with the item you want, write down its identification number on the label, and you’re ready to check out! Buying in bulk is awesome because it’s totally waste free, you can buy as much or as little as you want, and it keeps your food away from the harmful toxins in plastic packaging. Plus, when you get home you can store all your goods in repurposed glass jars, which is such a cute aesthetic!
- Liberate Your Fruits and Veggies
One of the best ways to reduce your grocery trash is to avoid packaged fruits and veggies and stick to the ones that are sold loose, free from needless Styrofoam and plastic wrapping. This means you should also quit using the plastic bags many stores provide to group together produce such as apples and onions. Your produce will be totally fine if you leave it loose, but if you want a bit more organization you can always bring along a reusable cloth or mesh bag. Fruits and veggies are meant to be free, and keeping them natural keeps you from creating needless waste!
- Check Your Options
If you have to buy a packaged item, take a moment to make sure you’re getting the option that is using both the least amount of plastic and least amount of packaging in general. For example, choose drinks in glass bottles instead of brands that use plastic bottles. If you need to buy something packaged in plastic, try to opt for a “hard” plastic option (think plastic bottle consistency) as opposed to “soft” plastic such as the bags many cheese brands come in. The reason for this is that hard plastic can be recycled at home, whereas soft plastic is either unrecyclable or needs to be dropped off at a plastic collection site (which some grocery stores have). By being conscious about the kind of materials you’re using, you’ll greatly reduce the amount of items you send to the landfill.
- Channel Your Inner Chef
From cookies to protein bars to bread, if you’re cooking it at home you won’t have to buy packaged ones at the store! As an added bonus, when you cook at home you know exactly what is going into your food, and you avoid having to eat things that are processed. There are easy recipes for everything imaginable available online, so give it a go!
- Skip the Single Serving Packaging
We’ve all seen them: tiny “snack sized” packages of crackers or cookies that are sold inside a bigger box wrapped in plastic. You can eliminate most of the trash by avoiding single serving baggies and looking for the biggest box possible, then pouring the food into a reusable container when you’re packing a snack to go.
- Less is More
Even if no food came in packaging, food trash would still be created because of the tendency of people to buy excessive amounts of food that ends up going bad. According to the United Nations Environment Program, between 30 and 40% of the U.S. food supply is wasted annually. You can reduce the amount of food waste you make by creating a list when you go shopping and sticking to it so that you don’t buy unnecessary items. Reducing the amount of items in your kitchen will help you to concentrate on utilizing what you have and making sure you don’t buy more than you’ll be able to eat!
Every purchase you make is a vote for the kind of world you want to live in. So by making your food purchases more environmentally friendly you’ll not only lessen your individual environmental impact, you’ll be helping to shape a more earth friendly market as well. It’s as easy as following these six simple steps, so go ahead and get started!
For more tips on earth friendly living, follow along on Instagram: @smallstepsforearth