In Cornwall, England, if you visit any of their small local beaches, chances are you will see a little wooden sign and a pile of small buckets on the sandy paths leading to the shore.
Oftentimes, the sign promises that if you fill up one of the buckets with waste collected from the beach, a nearby shop will pile a mountain of ice cream on a cone for you for free in return for helping keep the beach clean. Or perhaps it’s a free coffee or baked good, or simply a warm-hearted thank you.
While it is an excellent idea—luring for both children and adults alike and helping the planet in the process—what could we do before it even had the chance to end up here?
If we made an effort to become more mindful consumers, we could lessen the amount of waste we produce in the first place. After careful scrutiny of our own buying habits, the team at Makeena made a list of some ways we can become greener grocery shoppers in an effort to reduce our overall waste.
- Shop Close to Home
We can become more environmentally-conscious consumers before we even start purchasing anything by choosing to shop close to home. This reduces the carbon emissions from our car—even better if we can walk or ride our bikes to the store.
- Ditch the Plastic Grocery Bags
Investing in reusable bags is probably the most common way to be a more environmentally mindful shopper, but it doesn’t just stop with the bags that get your goodies home. Avoid using the plastic produce bags too, as well as the plastic bags used in the bulk section. Instead, considering investing in reusable mesh bags for these items or learn how to sew simple bags here.
- Buy in Bulk to Reduce Packaging
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), food and packaging together account for almost 45% of American landfills. Purchasing dry goods in bulk not only cuts back on the packaging, but it tends to be less expensive as well—a win-win. Keep cardstock in your wallet that has the bulk items’ PLU numbers for items you purchase most often or simply store the numbers in your phone for future use. When returning home, store your goods in airtight glass containers.
- Choose Eco-Friendly Products
Through Makeena’s app, we make it easy to discover and locate eco-friendly and sustainable products. Look for labels like B Corp, the Cruelty-Free Leaping Bunny, and USDA Organic products – these labels require accountability for how these products are produced, ensuring that you are purchasing from a trusted source.
- Replant What You Can
There are a number of fruits and vegetables that you can grow yourself from leftover scraps that you might normally throw out, like lettuce, bean sprouts, avocados, onions, and potatoes to name just a few. Follow these guidelines and you can be on your way to a hyper-local flourishing garden in no time.
- Buy Organic
When buying certified organic products, this means that no pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, synthetic fertilizers, or sewage sludge were used in the process. Organic farming practices help the environment by reducing pollution, conserving water, reducing soil erosion, and increasing soil fertility. Farming without pesticides is also better for nearby wildlife and people who work and live on farms.
- Return Reusable Bottles
Many grocery stores and local farms offer a small rebate for returning milk bottles or even egg cartons. Check with your stores to see if this an option offered. If not, see if a similar plan could be put in place in your community to encourage recycling.
- Rethink What You Buy
Americans waste an unfathomable amount of food—roughly 50% of all produce in the United States is thrown away—some 60 million tons worth of food annually. When life gets busy, it may sometimes be tempting to run to the store on the fly to grab a few things without a plan in mind but planning a grocery list can keep you on track for purchasing only what you need and can use.
- Refuse Receipts
Some grocery stores, like Whole Foods, already do a great job at offering a paper receipt only when a customer asks for it. If this isn’t the case where you shop, politely decline the receipt before the cashier is finished ringing up or opt for an emailed receipt if possible instead.
- Think Seasonally
When you purchase produce that is currently in season, it reduces the amount of transportation, or “food miles,” and storage before reaching your table. Plus, you get fresher produce this way.
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These are all small changes—but small changes can add up to big differences when it comes to our environmental impact. And if you’re lucky, maybe somebody will buy you ice cream for your efforts, too.