It is widely encouraged by environmentalists to shop for food locally supporting local farmers and traders, but sometimes this just isn’t possible or realistic for many people. Whilst I personally now try to shop exclusively at the local Farmers’ Market here in New Zealand (for a number of really important reasons that I’ll touch on in another post), some food items I can only get from supermarkets. And in the past back in the UK I shopped entirely at supermarkets trying to do so in an increasingly eco-friendly way.
I never used to think about what I was putting in my trolley when I went food shopping. I would buy foods based on price and what I wanted rather than what was ethical, eco-friendly or how it was packaged. I only started to become more aware of what was in my trolley after watching documentaries such as Blue Planet 2 with David Attenborough and Drowning in Plastic by the BBC. Since then I became more and more aware of how much unnecessary plastic I was buying at the supermarket. Everywhere you look in the supermarket food is packaged in plastic and it can be quite overwhelming to try and shop without this plastic. However, there are ways you can avoid buying plastic and shopping in an eco-friendly way.
Below I’ve outlined some tips on how to reduce your footprint on the environment by the way that you shop at supermarkets and what food items you choose to purchase:
- Buy loose fruit and vegetables. Use cardboard boxes or a string bag to hold these together. It turns out you don’t need those thin plastic bags to weigh food items. They can be held together in a box or string bag and then weighed at the till by the cashier; you don’t actually need to weigh and label the items yourself.
- Where you can, choose foods that are grown locally or at least in the UK which have a much smaller carbon footprint than those shipped from abroad.
- Choose Fairtrade and sustainably sourced foods where there is the option (Fairtrade chocolate and bananas, for example).
- Choose food packaged in jars with metal lids and aluminium tins. Both of these are 100% recyclable.
- Get in the habit of looking at the ingredients of food items and researching some of the ingredients you don’t recognise.
- Cook food from scratch rather than pre-made sauces and meals. They will often be cheaper, healthier and don’t contain questionable ingredients such as unsustainable palm oil.
- Try to buy less meat and fish substituting these with plant-based protein sources such as tinned black beans or lentils. If you do buy meat choose organic, free-range options and sustainably sourced fish (look for the Marine Stewardship Council [MSC] logo).
- If you do buy meat and fish, try and bring your own container to a deli counter. If you ask, the vendor will usually weigh your container for you and subtract its price from the total.
- Get in the habit of keeping a bag-for-life in your car or handbag for spontaneous shops.
- On the topic of bags-for-life, choose a cloth or bag made of natural fibres over bags made of plastic (albeit stronger than single-use plastic bags).
- If the supermarket has bulk-buy dispensers, either reuse the plastic bags provided or even better choose to use personal cloth or paper bags.
Now I’m not saying do all these things straight away that’s not a realistic way of changing your everyday habits (although it would be ideal). Take one or two of these tips and then add more and more as time goes on. By doing so you will also inspire other people to either do the same or at least look at how and what they shop for. My cardboard box for fruit and veg in the supermarket always sparked conversations at the till from both other shoppers and the cashiers. You don’t need to go around preaching and telling people how to live their lives, but just doing the above actions can inspire others by simply seeing what you’re doing.
Have you got any tips to shop in at supermarkets in a more eco-friendly, sustainable and ethical way? Comment below with any new ideas. I’d love to hear from you!