Navigating Greenly Through a Conventional Grocery Store

Jessie Houlihan
Environmental Consultant for CVDT Counsulting

As an environmental professional and concerned global citizen, many of my goals center on reducing my impact and living lightly on the earth. I try to reduce the amount of waste I produce, and I recycle as much as I can. I make my own natural cleaners and keep my thermostat at moderate temperatures. I devour all the information I can get on mindful living, and each week when I shop for groceries, I try to buy local, organic produce at a cooperative. I usually manage to accomplish most of my goals, even when it’s hard, but alas, life has presented obstacles that prevent me from frequenting the natural foods stores lately. First, there are no cooperative grocery stores near my new apartment in Minnetonka. With a full-time job and constant to-do list, I rarely have time for a thorough trip to compare items and due to my impending wedding I’m on a strict budget. So, I developed a few easy rules to help me shop within my budget at convenient grocery stores and still allow my purchasing to reflect my environmental values.

Buy local Midwestern produce when it’s available.

Most conventional grocery stores have produce that was grown in the Midwestern region. When perusing the fruits and vegetables look for labels depicting where the produce was grown. When available, choose the locally grown options.

Choose organically grown produce.

Conventional produce is grown with the aid of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Buying organic food supports growing produce naturally, without the chemicals that can harm the environment and our bodies. Often organic vegetables and boxed foods go on sale and the price is comparable to conventional options. When possible, choose organic foods over conventional.

Buy food with less packaging.

Choose products with minimal packaging to help prevent accumulation of waste. If you need to buy packaging, try to buy food where the packaging can be recycled. For example, purchase one large bag of chips and divide up the portions into reusable containers instead of buying individual packages. Also, try to buy as much of your food from bulk bins to avoid excessive packaging.

Choose products in recyclable packaging and/or packaging that contains recycled content.

In addition to choosing products with minimal packaging, look for food packaging that is recyclable and/or contains recycled content. By doing this, you minimize the amount of garbage going to landfills.

Buy food that has been minimally processed.

Because each step in food processing requires energy, minimally processed foods use less energy in production then heavily processed foods. For example, a can of vegetable soup with minimal additives will require less energy to produce than a can of beef chili with added chemicals and preservatives.

Bring your own grocery bag.

By simply carrying in your own grocery bags, you can make a huge impact. Most conventional paper and plastic grocery bags are made with virgin materials. Every time you use your reusable bag, you’re reducing the amount of waste you generate. My favorite reusable bag was a gift from my fiancé’s parents and it’s perfect for the on-the-go shopper. It folds up neatly to the size of a deck of cards, so I always have room for it in my purse. Visit a local eco-shop to compare the reusable bags they offer and invest in a few large totes. Store them in your purse if they’re small enough or in your car if they’re larger. Next time you stop for a few items you’ll be prepared.

With realistic goals and a few tools, you can navigate greenly through a conventional grocery store, reduce the amount of waste you generate and choose foods that are healthy for you and the environment.

Navigating Greenly

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