5 Surprising Ways to Shop Green for Groceries, Beyond the Reusable Bag


By: Lauren Pezzullo

Think back to your last grocery store trip. Did you choose seasonal produce? Did you fill your trashcan with packaging from all your groceries? Did you buy more food than you actually ate? Did you check to see where your shrimp were sourced?

Arming yourself with a reusable grocery bag is a great start, but there are plenty more ways to keep the planet top of mind while you’re cruising down the grocery aisles—and they’re incredibly simple. Here are five easy ways to shrink your environmental footprint next time you shop.

Find Out Where Your Seafood Is Sourced

Our oceans are hurting. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), one-third of all global fisheries are pushed beyond their biological limits—a result of overfishing and unsustainable

practices. The collapse of fish stocks poses a devastating threat to marine life and ocean ecosystems.

But there are ways you can make sure the tilapia or shrimp on your plate were sustainably sourced—and help reduce the footprint of the world’s fisheries. For instance, The Seafood Watch App —created by The Monterey Bay Aquarium—helps you find ethically sourced seafood at your local grocery store. Also, Greenpeace holds major US grocery chains environmentally accountable by ranking them on their sustainability each year. You can check out their annual Carting Away the Oceans report here.

Eat Vegetarian

The bad news: livestock farming is responsible for between 20% and 50% of all man-made

greenhouse gas emissions. According to Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Eating Animals and We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast, “We cannot keep the kinds of

meals we have known and also keep the planet we have known.”

The good news: Even though the carbon footprint of a vegetarian diet is about half that of a meat-lover’s diet, carnivores can still drastically shrink their carbon footprint, with just a few

small dietary tweaks. Limiting animal products to one meal a day can save a whopping 1.3 metric tons of CO2e emissions per person per year. Beyond or Impossible Burgers never tasted so good!

Buy in Bulk

One-time-use food packing is incredibly wasteful—and yet it dominates the places where we dine and grocery shop. The EPA estimates that food and its packaging accounts for roughly 45% of all the materials in US landfills. There’s no better example of this than at the grocery store, where you’ll find shrink-wrapped produce, single-serving coffees and yogurts, individually-wrapped cheese slices, and more. In addition to piling up in our overflowing landfills, this unnecessary packaging accumulates in our oceans, destroying marine ecosystems and polluting our waters.

Next time you’re doing your food shopping, skip the packaging and buy your fruits, veggies, and herbs loose. Then head to the bulk aisle for things like snacks, granolas, grains, and spices, and store them in reusable glass containers.

Choose Products with Recycled Packaging

It’s no secret that plastic is harmful to the environment. On average, it takes 450 years for a plastic bottle to completely biodegrade. Worse still, an astounding 91% of plastic isn’t recycled

at all. Luckily, cutting back on grocery-related packaging waste is as easy as reading a label. Before you toss something into your cart, check to make sure it comes in recyclable packaging.

Well-known brands such as Annie’s, Colgate, and AlterEco sell food and personal care products in 100% recycled packaging. You can find a list of more brands who are committed to

eco-friendly packaging practices here.

Shop Local and In Season

It takes an average of 1,500 miles for most food in the US to get from a farm to your table. Foods such as tomatoes and berries aren’t in season in the Northern Hemisphere during the winter, so they’re flown or trucked in from distant places—which creates damaging emissions of carbon fuels

in the process.

One of the best ways to help the environment is to choose produce that’s in season and local—which is especially easy when you visit your favorite farmer’s market. In addition to curbing wasteful emissions, you’ll be helping to support your local economy and ensuring that you aren’t losing vital nutrients in your food from a long shipping process!

Doing our part to help make the environment a healthier place is critical—not just for ourselves, but for future generations. Luckily, it’s as easy as making simple but informed choices and sticking to them day in and day out.

Eco-Warriors Around the World