Nearly every week we find ourselves strolling through the aisles of our local grocery store, stocking up on things like boxes of cereal, bags of chips, and bottles of orange juice. While shopping for your weekly meal prep routine, practicing sustainability might not be top of mind. Case in point: We're all guilty of stashing produce in those little plastic bags the store provides, or occasionally forgetting to pack our reusable grocery bags.
But climatarians—people who stick to a diet that's focused on reducing their carbon footprint—shop a bit differently. And as it turns out, transforming your trip to the store into a more productive and eco-friendly activity is much easier than you might think. Here are a few simple ways to ditch wasteful habits and start shopping like a true climatarian.
Bring Your Own Reusable Shopping Bags and Produce Bags
One of the most obvious (and simple) ways to reduce plastic waste includes bringing your own reusable shopping and produce bags. According to Waste Management, Americans use 14 billion plastic bags a year, which require 12 million barrels of oil to manufacture. Of the billions of bags used annually, approximately only 1 percent are returned for recycling.
Perhaps the most challenging part of using reusable bags is making sure you don't forget them at home. To ensure you always have one on hand, keep a few in your trunk at all times, or use a foldable reusable bag that you can easily store in your purse or pocket.
Look for Brands That Offer Refillable or Reusable Packaging
Brands such as Method and Pots & Co offer sustainable packaging options like refillable or reusable containers that help reduce waste. According to Method, refill pouches offer 78 to 82 percent water, energy, and plastic savings compared to a bottle. Meanwhile, Pots & Co packages its selection of desserts, which range from flourless chocolate brownies to lemon cheesecake, in ceramic pots. Once customers finish their sweet treats, they can reuse the pots to bake other desserts or even grow herbs.
Take your eco-friendly efforts one step further with services like Loop, which offers waste-free packaging by delivering your favorite essentials (think Häagen-Dazs ice cream and Tropicana orange juice) in professionally cleaned and reused containers. Once you've finished your product, simply ship back the empty containers instead of discarding them after one use.
Make an Effort to Purchase Local and Seasonal Products
Help reduce the distance your food travels (which can cause harmful gas emissions) by sticking to products produced locally and in season. Many packaged items you find at the store travel over 1,500 miles to reach your plate, resulting in substantial and often unnecessary carbon dioxide emissions that quickly increase your carbon footprint.
By supporting local producers or shopping at farmers markets, you can help reduce emissions and contribute to your local economy. Additionally, seasonal items not only taste better and are healthier for you, but they also require fewer resources, like refrigeration over a long period, when compared to out-of-season products.
Buy Less Meat and Look For Sustainably Sourced Seafood
If transitioning to an entirely plant-based diet isn't ideal for you, buying less meat and opting for sustainably sourced seafood can positively impact the environment. According to the World Resources Institute, globally, the average person consumes one-third higher than the average daily adult protein requirement. Additionally, beef production requires 20 times more land and emits 20 times more greenhouse gas emissions per unit of edible protein than common plant-based protein sources such as beans, peas, and lentils.
Also, shopping for sustainably sourced seafood helps protect vital ecosystems and populations from endangerment. The Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program can help you identify healthy and sustainable options for the next time you're craving fish but don't know what to buy at the supermarket.
Read the Labels and Know What They Mean
While shopping, do your best to seek out eco-friendly options that are recyclable, reusable, biodegradable, and sustainable. You can do so by reading the labels to help identify certifications that signify that the product complies with greener practices. Look for labels that include: USDA Organic, Green Seal, LEED, Certified Humane Raised & Handled, and NON-GMO Project Verified, just to name a few. And, if you must buy plastics, check the number inside of the triangle to ensure it's made of recyclable materials—unfortunately, not every type of plastic is actually recyclable.