Greener Groceries

By Simone Slykhous

April 9, 2013 5 min read

What's that grumbling noise? You look down. It is definitely your stomach. You are past due for a trip to the grocery, and it is time you made the trek. However, you are also trying to be as environmentally conscious as you can. To ensure that you are leaving as small a carbon footprint as possible, you stop to think about all those eco-friendly shopping tricks.

* Transportation

You could easily hop in your car and drive to the store, but it's only a mile away, and the weather is great. However, you also are planning on a pretty big trip, so walking and biking are both out. After a look at the local bus schedule, you realize that none of the times works well. You decide to ask your neighbor whether she would like to go to the store with you. Cutting down on the gas you would both use to get to the store adds up in the long term. With your grocery buddy at hand, you are ready to begin your trip.

*Grocery Prep

With your reusable totes in tow, you decide to write down your list on the back of an old receipt. This trick from Alex Eaves of the green-certified ReUse apparel brand helps you reduce any unnecessary use of paper. It also helps you remember your favorite food brands from your most recent trip. You also have your empty containers for filling up bulk items instead of using lots of plastic bags that end up in the trash. The clerk at the grocery can weigh your containers separately from the bulk items to ensure that you don't pay for their weight along with your healthy and delicious food. Bringing smaller, washable bags for your produce also eliminates the need for those plastic bags provided by the stores, according to Eaves.

*Staying Local and Seasonal

You know what season it is and what produce should not be on the shelves around you. In January, you will not find local ripe corn. In September, asparagus season has already passed. Knowing which fruits and vegetables are in season allows you to shop local and enjoy fresh produce. It is not always easy to head to farmers markets or roadside farm stands as suggested by Shel Horowitz, the author of "Painless Green: 111 Tips to Help the Environment, Lower Your Carbon Footprint, Cut Your Budget, and Improve Your Quality of Life-With No Negative Impact on Your Lifestyle." Finding the freshest fruits and vegetables in your local grocery is a great trick. Trying to keep your choices to producers less than "60 miles from where you live ensures that there was a minimal carbon output to get your products to their destination and to your table," says Maria Liberati, the author of "The Basic Art of Italian Cooking." You can always go to the local farmers market next weekend to pick up delicious jams while supporting your local economy.

*Keeping an Eye on Labels

"Look for meaningful certifications like organic or fair trade. 'Natural' has no legal definition," reminds Horowitz. You take this advice to heart and are not swayed by packaged food with false advertising. However, you are paying close attention to your choices of meat and eggs. Choosing free-range foods safeguards the human treatment of the animal products you are putting on your table.

*Avoiding Overstocking

Though it is very easy to grab more food that you need, especially if you venture to the store with a rumbling stomach, reducing your amount of food waste is an important step in reducing your impact on the environment. According to the report "Global Food Losses and Food Waste," conducted by the Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology, the average consumer in North America wastes between 200 and 250 pounds of food per year. That is a lot of food, and you do not wish to contribute to the excess. If you do find yourself with more food than you can eat before it spoils, Horowitz reminds you that drying, freezing or canning your surplus food can be an excellent way to enjoy your local produce all winter.

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