1. Choose a local, independent store
Supporting local businesses has many karmic benefits including stimulating your neighborhood's economy and providing employment opportunities for your community. Additionally, independent stores often carry products from family-run companies close by. We benefit from enjoying food that traveled down the street from a local farm to shelf. By frequenting these businesses, we're directly supporting farmers, growers, bakers, and makers. Our business tells our local grocers that we appreciate their livelihood and their mission which enables them to continue making ethical business decisions.
|Shopping List Organizer Yellow by allisajacobs|
2. Walk, Bus, Carpool
Walking to the grocery store has the lowest impact on the environment. Pushing a handcart the few blocks to our local grocer adds green benefits as well as health benefits. The empty cart serves as a warm up on the way to and exercise on the way home! Secondly, taking the bus or train eliminates the need for fuel (more eco-harm as well as money) and forces us to only purchase what we can carry. Carpooling has the added bonus of allowing us to stock up on more items and share commuting costs.
If driving is the only option, plan ahead, make a list, and buy as much in bulk as necessary to eliminate future trips. I follow the "Buy Two" rule of thumb: When I buy toiletries or cleaning products, I always buy two shampoos, toothpastes, cases of toilet paper, etc. to cancel out every second trip to the store. It also prevents you from making an emergency dash to Target to grab a single bottle of conditioner when you're left with an empty in the shower!
|Coupon Organizer by Grandmaslittlelilly|
3. Buy items without packaging
There is seldom a bigger waste than the plastic bags used to weigh produce. Every type of produce gets its own bag and they're rarely sturdy enough to reuse (save for walking your pup). Mesh bags allow the transparency of their plastic counterparts and hold up to frequent use. I often stash a large mesh bag in the seat of my cart for all my loose produce, handing individuals to the cashier to weigh by type.
Filling up those plastic bags can also cause you to buy more than necessary to hit the quota "1/2 lb for $1.99." In reality, I don't need a half pound of mushrooms or an entire bag of potatoes. Using my own bag allows me to buy just what I will use.
Additionally, I will never buy a product that is packaged into servings inside of a larger package. Large containers of oatmeal yield less paper than boxes of individual servings as well as a case of toilet paper that's not internally separated into packages of four.
|4 Large Reusable Produce Bags in Eggplant by Ecofriendly4u|
When comparing two products, I always take the packaging into consideration. Of course, an unpackaged item is a top priority, but recyclable containers are a close second. If an item is wrapped in plastic, but has a cardboard competitor, cardboard it is. Eggs are the most obvious culprit. Outlawing styrofoam in our house not only helped us transition to paper/cardboard egg containers, but to cage-free, no hormone eggs (as they're almost always the ones in recycled containers). Likewise, glass is easier to reuse and recycle than plastic condiment bottles.
5. Buy in bulk
Buying in bulk is a great way to reduce packaging and the need for multiple trips to the grocery store. Rice, grains, spices, cereals, dry foods, and paper products do not perish quickly and allow you to cash in on bulk savings given you have the room to keep a back stock (like a pantry).
6. Use Cloth Bags
Using cloth bags is a no-brainer. Keep a stash at the house and in the car. Stores have become extremely accommodating to cloth baggers and if there is any worry, use the self-checkout lanes. Plastic bags require oil to produce, cost retailers $4 billion annually, and account for 8 billion pounds of waste in our landfills per year (source). Cloth bags are stronger, more durable, and can be used for years. They can be constructed from reclaimed materials in furthering our commitment to reusing.
For a few months, I made myself buy new cloth bags at the grocery store every time I forgot to bring them or left them in the car. The result is that I rarely forgot them at home and we have a stash large enough to bag even our most fruitful shopping extravaganzas.
|Grassroots UPCYCLED Farmers Market tote by greenie bean recycle|
7. Buy items with the fewest ingredients
It's no secret our food travels hundreds of miles to get to our plates in the United States. What's more, each ingredient initially traveled to be processed into the food we eat before it arrived at the grocery store. With the majority of our food comprised of water, we're paying to ship liquid cross country. When you're perusing the aisles of your local grocer, look for items in their purest state. Buy honey that only contains honey. Buy granola made from oats, nuts, and raisins. It is unlikely that we need any ingredient we can't pronounce and by eliminating them, we're lowering the fuel cost of our food.
Additionally, fresh local food is a smart buy, especially if it is organic, as its not pumped with preservatives to account for days of travel.
8. Buy everything in one place
Our local grocery store is three blocks away, independently run, and carries an amazing variety of fresh, organic, and local products at competitive prices. Unfortunately their Stoneyfield yogurt is $2 more than the Trader Joe's across town and my favorite Organix Tea Tree mint shampoo runs $1+ than the closest Target. While I grimace at such a blatant "loss of money," it's quickly realized that the same $3 would be spent in gas to drive 2 miles west to Target and then 8 miles back east to Trader Joe's. I also want to support our grocery store and show the importance of carrying organic products for conscious consumers.
9. Only buy what you eat
To buy what we'll eat takes getting to know our families, eating habits, and schedules. There have been many times that I'll load up on fresh fruits and veggies to remember we have dinner dates scheduled and plan to be out of town for the weekend. We waste food by not planning ahead. Plan out your meals, consult your family, and write out a shopping list. Smart shopping equals less food for the compost and more money in our wallets.
10. Pay with cash
It's said that 80-90% of money spent in the community stays in the community especially when that money is cash. Credit card fees crush small businesses. Our grocery money is used to buy products from local farmers and employ our neighbors who turn around and spend their paychecks at our auto garage, florist, or dog-walking service. It strengthens our economies and real estate markets. It keeps jobs in our communities and provides a future for our neighborhoods and children.
|Cash Money Print Gold on White by OrangeBeautiful|