Everyday sustainability: Food

I am always seeking ways to minimize my environmental impact and create a healthier home and planet.  Buying things used to be easy, but the more I learn about where and how things are made, the more each purchasing decision becomes a full-fledged research project!  

Navigating food shopping with sustainability in mind is no exception.  I’ve found that it all comes down to intentional and informed consumption.  Asking questions is a great starting point- Where was this grown?  How was it grown?  Has is been processed?  Is it even real food?  How is it packaged/with what materials?  When I finish this product, what will happen to its packaging?

I’ve spent lots of time and energy on these questions, and would like to share some tips I’ve learned along the way…

Beyond organic: Think local, seasonal, and responsible

 Image from Potrero Nuevo Farm, where I am a happy member of the U-Pick Club

Image from Potrero Nuevo Farm, where I am a happy member of the U-Pick Club

I think we all know that organic is best, but I've also learned that local and seasonal produce requires fewer resources, while meat and dairy tend to require more.  With this in mind, support people growing seasonal produce in your community through farmer’s markets and CSAs (community supported agriculture).  I’ve been lucky to find a nearby farm with a U-Pick Club…on Mondays I drive to the farm and spend an hour harvesting fresh produce and herbs for my family.  There is something so gratifying about seeing where our food grows, meeting the people who grow it, and being connected to the rhythms of the growing seasons.  

Find a farmer’s market, U-Pick club, or CSA near you, and check here for a sustainable seafood source. 

You can keep these values in mind when going out too, as many restaurants proudly source their produce, meat, cheese, and fish locally.  

 

Pay attention to packaging

In case you hadn’t heard, plastic packaging (and plastic in general) can be really bad for your health… and the health of our planet.  Look for food that is minimally packaged in glass or paper.  This has been a hard one for me and my family, as SO much is still packaged in plastic.  We’ve made an effort to significantly reduce our plastic consumption this year, and it has meant buying less “convenience” food- sushi, prepared salads, single serve yogurt- therefore more preparing things at home.  It has also led me to the next tip…

 

Befriend the bulk bins

 The Zero Waste Shop in Devon, UK, where all packaging is banned and customers bring their own reusable containers

The Zero Waste Shop in Devon, UK, where all packaging is banned and customers bring their own reusable containers

 

I’ve always loved the bulk bins because I have a weakness for trail mix, but the bulk aisle is wonderful for other reasons- less plastic packaging for one.  Forego the plastic bags and instead, bring your own mason jars or reusable organic cotton bags (these washable and biodegradable bags can be used for produce too).  Shopping bulk is also great because you can minimize food waste by buying the amount you need, whether that is a large bag of steel cut oats, or just a pinch of a dried herb or spice.

Speaking of food waste, I recently discovered Vejibags... organic cotton bags that claim to keep greens and other veggies fresher, longer.  No more sad, wilted celery!  I have yet to try these as they are a bit pricey, but might just bite the bullet soon.

 

I hope you find these tips helpful in your food shopping.  Have you found other ways to make your food consumption more sustainable?  If so, please share them below in comments!