Since one of my fellow bloggers wrote some very informative blogs on clean eating, I wanted to elaborate on that a little and talk about how to improve your sustainability at the grocery store. If you live in a house with any kind of property, you can make a garden or raised bed. Even just growing a few items will decrease your impact. But a lot of the world's population lives in apartments and depends on going to the store to pick up all the food items one needs over the course of a week or two. With that in mind, I wanted to explore how to grocery shop in a way that is mindful of growing methods and energy usage.
When at all possible, buy local. There are farmers markets and coops in almost every major city (and some smaller ones)-you just have to look for them. These markets sell the produce of local farmers and many pride themselves on being organic. The use of synthetic pesticides is harmful to every ecosystem and is not a sustainable practice in and of itself so it is important to avoid pesticides for your own health and welfare as well as that of the planet. Minimizing the energy spent transporting food items is the first step in greener grocery shopping.
If you don't have the luxury of shopping at a farmer's market or coop, there are still things you can do. Buy in season produce-here's a map that will tell you what is in season in your area: http://www.epicurious.com/articlesguides/seasonalcooking/farmtotable/seasonalingredientmap
In addition to buying in-season produce, purchase only produce that is certified organic. In many other countries, harmful chemicals such as DDT are still legal and can be all over imported non-organic food items.
Buy only as much as you can eat in a week. Wasted food is wasted energy and most produce has a shelf life of only a few days, up to a week. The ideal situation would be to have one of the European style miniature fridges that use a fraction of the energy of the full sized models and to travel by bike or foot to the local market, but since that is unrealistic for many (specifically Americans), minimizing waste is essential. A refrigerator is better put to use cooling just a few items that will stay fresh until you can eat them than full of food, most of which you will waste.
When you're at the store, use bring re-usable grocery bags. In addition, there are reusable produce bags that you can purchase to cut down on overall plastic usage:http://www.reuseit.com/reusable-produce-bags/reusable-produce-bags.htm
If you have the ability, bring your own reusable container. For example, many standard grocers have a grinder in which the consumer can place nuts and use the machine to make their own peanut (or other nut) butter. Think of how much packaging we could save if everyone just used the same container over and over. You can typically buy cereals, grains, and other dry goods this way.
If you're buying coffee or tea, make sure it is fair trade. Labor inequality is not sustainable, any way you slice it. A list of fair trade producers can be found here: http://fairtradeusa.org/products-partners
What are your sustainable grocery shopping tips for a more sustainable world?