Making Good Choices at the Grocery Store

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As consumers, one of our greatest powers is choosing what product to buy. When we purchase something at the store, we are giving our money to the company that produced or supplied that product.  Each dollar spent is a message to that store demonstrating that this product will sell, that you like what they are producing and you want them to continue producing it. Typically, especially at grocery stores, we make those decisions based on what we enjoy, what is most cost effective, and perhaps what catches our eye. However, as people who have pledged to help humans, animals, and the environment, we must consider more than just what we like or what is convenient. By making some of the following small changes to our grocery shopping practices, we all can work in unison to create a fairer, healthier, and more sustainable world!

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Shop Local

One of the best ways to sustainably grocery shop is to shop local.  When we make an effort to buy produce from farms closer to us, we are choosing produce that require less fossil fuels to be transported.  This drastically decreases our carbon footprint. One way to do this is to check the labels of the fruits and vegetables that you buy and see where they were grown. Another way is to find your local farmers’ market. Farmers’ markets are one of the best places to buy your produce because the fruits and vegetables are coming directly from local farms and straight to your hands.  Go to this website to find your local farmers’ market. Farmers’ markets are also great community gatherings and are an awesome way to support your neighbors!

images (1)Buy Produce in Season

When purchasing fruits and vegetables, buy in season. This means that you are buying fruits and vegetables when they are naturally ready to be eaten. In today’s world, it seems like every fruit and vegetable is always available.  However, when they are out of season, they have to be transported further to land in your refrigerator, using a lot of energy.  Buying in season leads to tastier, healthier fruits and vegetables, a smaller carbon footprint, and a better chance that the produce is sourced locally! Check out this website to find out what fruits and vegetables are in season throughout the year.

downloadLook at Labels

Labels can offer a lot of information about how the product was made. This allows you to buy products from companies that are transparent and responsible. Some labels to look out for are Fair Trade labels. These labels indicate that the company follows various standards and regulations that aim to protect workers and their rights along with the environment. Also, when buying meat and dairy products, labels such as “grass fed” and “free range” can give you more information in how the animals were treated, but may not tell the full story.  When in doubt, look up more information and check out this helpful label guide.

Research

Researching information about different brands can help you make the most informed decisions when you are buying food. There are a ton of websites that work to find this information for you and tell you the best products to buy. For example, Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program will give you detailed information on which seafood products are best to buy based on sustainability.

fruits-market-colorsLimit Waste

Lastly, limiting your waste when grocery shopping is a simple way that you can live a more sustainable lifestyle. Using reusable bags instead of throw away plastic ones is a great way to limit your waste. Also, try to buy products with minimal packaging and opt for paper packaging over plastic. You can also look out for packaging which uses recycled materials and is primed for further recycling once you are done! Most of all, buy only as much food as you need. In the United States, we waste about 30-40% of the food supply.  Buying only the food we know we are going to eat leads to less waste overall.

By educating ourselves, we can choose products and practices that are more sustainable.  It is these tiny decisions we make every day that shape and change the world. If we all work some of these sustainable ideas into our everyday that is how real change happens. A lot of people making small decisions leads to a better and more protected Earth. Be smart, stay informed, and most of all act!

Like these tips? Check out our sustainable technology guide and sustainable fashion guide.

About Author

Yanni is a member of the Roots & Shoots U.S. National Youth Leadership Council (NYLC). As a member of the NYLC, Yanni acts as a youth voice and works to make a positive change in his community — for people, animals and the environment. Yanni is a Senior at Sacred Heart High School in Massachusetts where he is involved in cross country, piano, and the school literary magazine. He has been the president of his school's Roots & Shoots club since 2011.