Your Guide to Shopping Sustainably

November 13, 2013

Recycling used to be trendy, now it's a mainstream must. Are you doing your part to be sustainable? Find out what you can to do help yourself and the environment

Sustainability is on the top of mind, but do we really know how to implement sustainability into our every day lives? And what does sustainability actually mean?

Sustainability on a very basic ecological level refers to the means in which a biological system can remain diverse and productive over time. With regard to our food, a sustainable food system is one that can provide for our needs today as well as the needs of future generations. Sustainable agriculture is a way of raising food that is healthy for consumers and animals, does not harm the environment, is humane for workers, respects animals, provides a fair wage to the farmer, and supports and enhances rural communities. So how do we translate sustainability into our weekly trips to the supermarket?

Trim your food budget. Think about what foods you had to throw out last time you shopped - and cut out what you don't need, or what usually goes to waste. The impact? Less fossil fuel, pesticides, fertilizer and water needed for production. SupermarketGuru has said this for years, plan your menu in advance, make a shopping list and stick to it! You will not only shop sustainably but will save money as well!

Be picky and stingy when shopping and planning meals with animal proteins. Meat and seafood are environmentally taxing foods to bring to the dinner table. Better options are grass-fed meats, free-range poultry and “best choices” on the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch list.

Select smaller individual portions, cook vegetarian more often (at least once a week), and don't make meat the centerpiece of your meals. Instead, serve a variety of seasonal vegetables, legumes and grains. If you eat this way you will not only feel satiated, but will save money and most likely improve your nutrition and overall health.

Avoid processed foods that contain more than 5 ingredients and especially those ingredients that you cannot pronounce! Many processed foods require ingredients shipped in from around the world, leading to a greater environmental impact. Focus on unprocessed whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables.

Shop seasonally! When you shop for in-season produce, it is often more flavorful, less expensive, more nutritious and grown closer to home. If you have a farm stand or farmers market in your area, consider shopping there, where you’re sure to find local, seasonal produce with a much lower eco-impact.

Use a reusable, beverage container and refill it with water or tea throughout the day. This will keep you hydrated, save you money, help keep plastic bottles out of the trash, and may even help you kick the soda habit.

Do your part and shop sustainably, make a shopping list, clip coupons and you’ll be good to go!