Food and the environment: Make your grocery shopping greener

Food and the environment: Make your grocery shopping greener



Food and the environment: Make your grocery shopping greener

Everybody needs to eat and whether you pop out to the store every few days, order your goods online or frequent local markets, everybody has to shop. Grocery shopping is a chore that can't be ignored, but it doesn't have to be a bad habit – there are many ways to make your food purchases better for the environment.

Green grocery shopping tip #1: Bring your own bags
How it helps: Canadians use about 10 billion plastic bags every year, each of which takes hundreds of years to decompose once it reaches a landfill. Buying reusable bags or bins eliminates the need for plastic. Have the best intentions but always forget your bags at home? Try string or mesh carryalls instead of store-brand canvas or reusable bags. They roll up small enough to fit in a coat pocket or the bottom of your purse, so you'll never be without a bag.

Green grocery shopping tip #2: Buy local and in season
How it helps: On average, the food we eat in North America has traveled about 2,400 kilometres before it gets to our plates. Buying strawberries from farmer Julie's roadside stand on the way home from work requires far less carbon than purchasing the imported-from-California equivalent (which they certainly aren't, since they're picked far before they ripen). Learn your local growing seasons, get out those jars and make room in the freezer to preserve local produce for the rest of the year. Watch signs and labels for country of origin and keep in mind that "Canadian-made" doesn't necessarily mean local: not only is Canada huge, but some Canadian companies import raw goods and process them into new products.

Green grocery shopping tip #3: Avoid packaging when possible
How it helps: If you think about what's filling your garbage can every week, you'll notice a recurring theme: packaging, packaging, packaging. Much like plastic bags, food packaging clogs our landfills, so seek out products with as little wrap as possible, like blocks of cheese instead of individually wrapped slices, large jugs of juice you can pour into your own containers instead of juice boxes, and yogurt tubs or pudding mixes you can separate into individual servings at home.

Page 1 of 3 – Discover more ways to make your grocery shopping greener on page 2.
Green grocery shopping tip #4: Try to buy organic foods
How it helps: Organic food is grown without chemicals, which can be harmful to water systems. Organic farmers also take care to foster biodiversity and maintain healthy nutrient cycles in soil, so certified organic food has been produced in an eco-friendly environment. This is particularly important if you are buying produce from developing countries. Canada has higher food production standards than other nations and the term "organic" can carry even greater importance when applied to produce like bananas – buying organic bananas can mean fewer workers exposed to harmful pesticides.

Green grocery shopping tip #5: Buy in bulk
How it helps: This is another way to reduce packaging. Jumbo boxes of items like cereal and snacks offer more food at a lower price and don't require individual packaging. Better yet, grab your own reusable containers and head to your local bulk food store. Ask the cashier to weigh your containers and then fill them up with exactly the amount you need. You can often get the exact same foods, spices and ingredients in bulk as you can in predetermined packages.

Green grocery shopping tip #6: Go veggie at least once a week
How it helps: Meat production can use up to 20 times as much energy and 10 times as much water as growing grain. Meat lovers can be a little greener by eating veggie meals once or twice a week – they don't have as great an impact on the earth and nobody is asking you to give up meat altogether. Try making our Tex Mex Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie – your family won’t even notice they’re not eating any animal products because it’s so delicious!

Page 2 of 3 – Check out two more tips on eco-friendly grocery shopping on page 3.
Green grocery shopping tip #7: Plan ahead
How it helps: If you have a favourite cashier for every day of the week or know the details of your deli counter attendant's personal life, you're visiting the grocery store too often. Every trip you make for one or two items is a waste of time and gas. Make a weekly plan and pick up everything you can at once – even better, stop on the way home from work. It might be necessary to pop out one other time for more milk or fresh veggies, but minimizing your trips to the store also minimizes the greenhouse gases you emit on all of those side trips to the store.

Green grocery shopping tip #8: Only buy what you need
How it helps: Once you have a plan in place, not only will you make fewer trips to the store, but you can buy only what you will need for the meals ahead. Don't snatch up asparagus just because it's on sale if you have no idea when you're going to eat it. An average family of four tosses $590 worth of food every year. Farmers already feel pressure to produce as much food in as little space as possible – perhaps we wouldn't see the same strain on our land if our eyes and stomachs (and wallets) were all the same size.

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Food and the environment: Make your grocery shopping greener