Green at the Grocery: Sustainable Shopping

When you go to the grocery, what do you consider first? You might think about the price or taste of your favorite foods. If prices are the same and you don’t have a brand preference, you might pick at random. But what are the environmental implications of what you purchase?

   When I started shopping with my roommate, her dedication to sustainable shopping rubbed off on me. Since I had lived on campus my first two years and spent my fall semester in Taiwan, I had never really needed to do regular grocery shopping; dining halls had been the easiest option on campus, and restaurant food in Taiwan was fast and inexpensive. Moving into an apartment in the spring meant learning how to shop for groceries every week. But as I visited the grocery with my roommate, she pointed out a factor I had not taken into account: how did our choices at the grocery affect the environment?

   Where is the food coming from? The farther a food’s source is from where you live, the longer the supply chain. Produce from distant locations involves more complex importing processes, and all of those extra steps escalate the environmental impact. Check the labels to confirm the source of your food, and alter your choices to make sure your food is fresh and sustainable.

   What’s in season? Buying fruits and vegetables out of season not only means that they’ll be more expensive; they’re also likely to be imported from other countries, contributing to the previous issue. Consider which fruits and vegetables are in season and adjust your shopping list accordingly. Your bill will be cheaper, and your meal will be fresher!

   How is the food packaged? Don’t forget the environmental impact of what’s around the food! Extra packaging means more materials used to create the final product. Is there another option with minimal to no packaging? Or if the product has additional packaging, can you recycle it?

   Next time you visit the grocery, don’t just look at the price tag; take a moment to think about the environmental implications of your purchases. Even better, check out the local farmers’ market or the UT Farm Stand!