Since grocery shopping with my mom this past week, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about how wasteful such an essential shopping experience can be. I was driving her crazy with all my strategies for making daily activities more sustainable for the economy and the environment. There is much more to sustainable shopping than bringing your own bags and buying local produce. Here are 4 greener, alternative options to things you probably don’t even realize you do (or don’t do) when grocery shopping, and how harmful they can be:
Bagging Loose Produce
Why? I actually ask myself this every time I see someone detach another one of those thin, plastic bags for bagging their apples, onions or lettuce. That plastic bag is guaranteed not protecting your fruits and vegetables from bacteria or any type of health threat that may be rolling around in your shopping cart, or on the conveyer belt at the check-out counter. If that’s not the reason you bag your fruits and vegetables, why do you? Bananas are going to bruise no matter what you do.
I’m lucky enough to have a central point of accommodation in Toronto every time I come home from travelling (thanks to my parents), that happens to be completely surrounded by family-owned and independent grocers and vegetable markets. One of my favourites: Fiesta Farms, north on Christie at Bloor. The store is stocked with organic and alternative smaller brands that have ingredient labels with items that actually make sense to me. Bloor Street is lined with dozens of adorable vegetable and fruit markets that I love to spend hours in. Everything smells so fresh and the fruit is always the most vibrant of colours. Supporting these shops feed our economy instead of big corporate buttheads like Wal Mart.
Read the Label
Ever thought of that one? What we put in our bodies is so essential to our being. Contributing to companies who fill their products with chemicals and ingredients we can’t pronounce, is extremely harmful to the future of food. Why it is harmful? The cheaper the product, the more likely it’s filled with harmful ingredients. When we contribute to companies making these types of products, that are cheaper and more likely to sell, that in turn begins to depict the future of how food will be created, packaged and sold to our communities. If we aren’t buying products that are made from real food, those good companies will eventually go belly up and all we’ll be left with is SPAM and Kraft Dinner.
Some of the most commonly over-packaged grocery items include spices, crackers, ready-made foods, snacking items and granola bars. The pricing of these items usually incorporate the dollar amount it takes to actually make the packaging as well. So, what are the alternatives? For spices, buy a fancy little grinder or a bunch of dispensers and purchase your spices at a bulk food store. You can also purchase snacking items, like almonds, and granola bars from bulk food stores. Or, what about baking your own granola bars? For ready-made foods, bring your own containers. I always have handy a water bottle, travel mug and container for when I need water, any type of beverage or am getting some food on the go.
I know I’m not pointing out anything new or making you feel a “ AHA!” moment, but these are options that are known but never thought of. Convenience has taken over our lives and is slowly killing us, our economy and our environment. 'Convenience' is becoming the new word that sits opposite of 'sustainability'. No one has ever said being environmentally conscious and living a sustainable lifestyle was easy or cheap, but think of our future. Think of our children’s future. We need to change, there is no other option anymore, and these are all simple ways of making a positive impact through such a common activity.
Be the green! (I think that’s going to be my new motto. I like pink more but that wouldn’t make any sense).