10 food and grocery shopping habits to help save the planet
Not so long ago, the term “green living” was somewhat considered a fad amongst hippies and the like. However, with the fast development throughout most industries over recent years, the impact we are seeing on the environment is very real. “Green Living” has become a necessity and everyone’s responsibility. Why? Because climate change has quickly become a harsh reality and everyone needs to do their part to make life sustainable and energy renewable, ultimately to save our planet.
We often don’t realize our singular impact on the environment, but multiply everything you do every day by the 7.2 billion inhabitants on earth and that’s a scary thought.
We need to realize that every little thing we do ultimately affects our planet. We can no longer ignore these issues and need to start taking steps to reverse, or at least minimize, the damage we are doing. So why does food matter so much?
Food has become a multi-trillion dollar industry worldwide. Thus, the way we produce and consume food today has become one of the largest contributors to a multitude of factors that eventually impact and cause climate change.
We need to learn how to cook our food without ultimately cooking our planet! So are you wondering how you can help and be a positive part of the equation?
Going green doesn’t have to be time-consuming and expensive. It all starts with your choices at the grocery store and becoming a responsible consumer. Here are 10 food and grocery shopping habits to help you do your part in saving the planet.
1. Be a patriot: Buy local
While globalization has its benefits, it has started showing its limits, especially when it comes to food and the way we produce it and bring it to your plate (intensive agriculture, slaughterhouses, industrial and processed food, pesticides, mono culture, energy consumption of transportation). While the exotic imported ingredients on the supermarket shelves may look gorgeous, the truth is that they are far from being fresh or nutritious.
Here is what actually happens when you don’t buy locally: -When you buy fruits and vegetables from a country located 10,000 miles away from yours, you are responsible for the gas emissions and global warming caused by the transportation of those goods. -Furthermore, the transportation requires the fruits and vegetables to be sprayed with chemical and preservatives to kill germs and to be refrigerated to allow for a long transportation. Consequences: the products are not clean anymore, have less flavors and lost most of their nutritive benefits. -Finally you are supporting the big manufacturers and hurting the local farmers. Eating locally grown is therefore the best way to lower your carbon footprint and consume healthy products when it comes to what you eat. Your food will be fresher, tastes better and retains more nutrients than food shipped across the globe. What applies for food also apply to drinks. Beer for instance. There are more and more local micro breweries near you. Beer made locally does not have a big carbon footprint. Chances are, the ingredients in local beer are local, too. So why not supporting your local economy? There is no shame in being patriotic if it helps saving the planet and helps you live a healthier life.
2. Go organic
Let’s start with the definition of organic food from Wikipedia: <<Organic food is food produced by methods that comply with the standards of organic farming. Standards vary worldwide, but organic farming features practices that strive to cycle resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Organizations regulating organic products may restrict the use of certain pesticides and fertilizers in farming. In general, organic foods are also usually not processed using irradiation, industrial solvents or synthetic food additives.>>
Organic food used to be the regular food when pesticides were not so widely used. Now organic food has become the exception in a very unhealthy food industry. Most of the "fresh" foods available in the markets are packed with chemicals and pesticides, which over the years may end up causing various harmful effects to our body, such as cancer, to name one, but not only.
Here is what happens when you consume non-organic foods: - You are supporting chemicals manufacturers - you are helping the same manufacturers to become more powerful and have more influence on the policy decisions made at higher public levels (example: Roundup, Atrazine, Glyphosate) - you are contributing to the destruction of all farming soils. Many researches have proven that intensive farming and the use of chemicals are destroying the natural fertility of the soil, which will lead to complete dead soil in the future. No food can be grown on a dead soil…. - you are contributing to the destruction of the bio-diversity in the fields and forests (bees, insects, birds and more). Humans cannot survive without bees. - Cultures and farmers become dependent on these pesticides. - You and your children are eating food that have been sprayed with dangerous chemicals.
So yes, It is time to pay attention to what you buy and make a change for yourself and your family. Organic foods can be pricier than non-organic food but their benefits to the environment and your health have long term benefits. With their very powerful lobbies, big chemical manufacturers can influence political decisions that are meant to impact your health. While politicians are failing you, you still have the power to make the right choice when you shop. The more you buy organic the more you’ll force producers and farmers to turn to a more sustainable approach.
3. Say no to plastic
In just 45 years, our consumption rate of plastic bags has grown substantially. According to The Wall Street Journal, The United States alone uses about 100 billion new plastic bags each year, and this massive production costs 12 million barrels of oil. It also takes about 72 billion gallons of water a year to make plastic bottles.
The European Union has taken some initiatives to implement changes in the design, production, and recycling of plastics. One of the targets is to only have recyclable plastic packaging on the market, while use of disposable plastics and microplastics will be greatly reduced by 2030.
Here is what happens when you use plastic: -Plastic bags don’t biodegrade, but light exposure can degrade them enough to release toxic polymer particles, most of which end up in the ocean -You are causing hundreds of thousands of birds, sea turtle and other marine animal deaths every year because these creatures mistake plastic trash for food. (In case you’re wondering, paper bags aren’t much better. Each year, 14 million trees are cut down to make paper shopping bags via a process that requires even more energy than the making of plastic bags.) -the fish who managed to survive have micro particles of plastic in their body, human then eat the fish… -Millions of dollars/euros coming from your taxes are used to clean up each year. -Non renewable resources are used (petroleum and natural gas) to manufacturing plastic bags. The manufacturing process itself uses toxic chemicals, pollutes the atmosphere and consumes energy.
Here is how you can immediately contribute to a world with less plastic:
- Buy a Floor Standing Water Dispenser: Millions of tons of plastic are used to produce billions of plastic water bottles each year.
- Filter the water from the tap: You will save money and the environment.
- Carry reusable shopping bags: Most businesses sell inexpensive reusable shopping bags. By collecting a few of these and bringing them along when shopping, you can reduce the amount of plastic that often end up in landfills and oceans. If a shop wants to give you a plastic bag, just refuse and suggest them to offer fabric bags to their customers. - Buy foods with less packaging: look for products with minimal packaging (like unwrapped products or meat straight from the deli counter or butcher). Buy in bulk. Buy only wholefoods. Excess packaging is often made out of unsustainable materials and contributes to waste.
Plastic bags should be banned. Plastic is non-bio-degradable and thus causes pollution. Let’s all aim at reducing the use of plastic bags and ultimately protecting the environment and marine ecosystems. Each high quality reusable bag you use has the potential to eliminate an average of 1,000 plastic bags over its lifetime. You want to do something, act now, no slow transition is needed.
4. Eat in season
Eating seasonally is not a trendy food movement. It is important, and carries benefits to your health, the planet, and your wallet.
Here are some of the benefits: -Seasonal food is much cheaper to produce for the farmers who would rather sell their products for a lower price, than not at all. -Seasonal food is more likely to be locally produced as well, which reduces the transportation time and cost. You can get to know where your food is coming from, who is growing it and how they do it, at the end you feel more connected to the whole process. How nice it is to know that you support the businesses in your community.
-Eating what’s in season make your diet more rich and healthy as you eat a broader variety of foods. The natural cycle of produce is perfectly designed to support our health. Apples grow in the fall and they are the perfect transition food helping the body get rid of excess heat and cool down before winter. In the spring the abundance of leafy greens help us detox and loose some extra kilos after a long winter of heavier foods. In the summer we need to cool down and stay hydrated by eating more fruits, cucumber, watermelon etc. Building a lifestyle around seasonal food facilitates the body’s natural healing process. Food grown outside of their season or natural environment need a lot more human assistance in forms of pesticides, waxes, chemicals and preservatives to grow and look appealing to consumers. By choosing local and seasonal food, you are also more likely to get a cleaner product.
5. Cut down on meat
Did you know? Animal agriculture is estimated to produce more greenhouse gases than the whole of the transportation industry combined, as it requires a lot of resources, including land area and water.
When you eat meat, especially beef, you contribute to: -Deforestation (the Amazon is being destroyed to grow feed crops for cattle and make space for grazing.),
-overuse of freshwater,
-inefficient use of energy,
-use of valuable resources to feed cows while it could be used to feed the third-world countries and people in need.
You probably get annoyed that everyone around you is turning vegetarian, but there may be some good in it. Choosing vegetables, legumes and other healthy, meatless options can greatly reduce your carbon footprint. Is it too hard to stop? Try reducing meat to once or twice a week. Prefer fish and lean white meat like poultry. It will have a great impact on your health.
6. Cook your own food
It’s well known that cooking your own meals helps you lose weight, what you might not know is that it also helps the environment. Why? Because you use much less packaged and processed food than when you eat out, take away or order for delivery. Cooking at home also allows you to control what you buy, you can therefore shop in a more eco-friendly manner (buy local food, less plastic, etc…). Click here if you're looking for easy recipes.
7. Grow your own greens
This is actually the best way to eating healthy and saving the environment. And it is extremely easy. All you need is a little space in your home, like a window, a balcony, or a small garden, and you can grow your own fruits and veggies. If these options are not suitable for you, join a community garden. Growing your own greens cause you to cook more often and make your dishes taste better.
8. Reduce waste
Food waste is the 3rd largest contributor to greenhouse gases. We throw away $1 trillion in food each year, and that is expected to grow to $1.5 trillion by 2030. You can imagine the impact on environment… How can you reduce waste? -Eat less processed and industrial foods (that often come with heavy packaging) -Eat more whole foods, not packed. Don’t buy pre-cut fresh foods as it’s usually packed and have lost their nutrients. -Do not take away food as it creates waste. -Use cloth napkins and real plates, bowls, and utensils. -Do not do your grocery shopping for one month as you will end up with rotten non consumed foods in your fridge. Write what you’re planning to eat and shop for one week max. -If you have time and space, try composting. 9. Recycle
Have 4 trash bins at home, one for plastic, one for carton/paper, one for metal/alluminium and another one for other wastes.
You can help reduce pollution just by putting that soda can in a different bin.
Again, best is to pick products with the least packaging...
10. Leave your car at home
If you have the chance to leave in a big city, use public transportation options to go to the supermarket. If you leave near by the store, walk or ride your bike to it. You can reduce greenhouse gases while burning some calories and improving your health.
Do not just read this article and go back to your usual life. Let's start acting now. Together we can save our planet. The way we produce is very harmful for the climate. What can influence production? Us, consumers. Production always follows consumers choices.
If you have any other suggestions to live a more sustainable life, please do not hesitate to share them with us and with all the people you know.