7 Tips to revolutionize your grocery shopping to be more sustainable

A couple days ago, a friend texted me asking for tips on how to be more socially and environmentally responsible while grocery shopping. I get questions similar to this a lot, so instead of texting it back to everyone every time, I have compiled a list of the seven easiest ways to change your grocery shopping habits to be more sustainable, fair, and environmentally friendly.

Some people have asked what the most important cause is. Fair trade? Free range or vegetarian? Is being eco-friendly the most important? What about supporting local farmers? The fact is that all of these things are hugely important, but most of us can’t afford to buy everything fair, natural, eco, local, etc, all the time, for all items. So for some things I buy fair trade – like gift ware, jewelry, chocolate, coffee, and tea. I buy natural or eco-friendly cleaners, and free-range or free-run meat (I tried to be a full-time vegetarian but unfortunately meat is one of the only things my body doesn’t freak out over). There is no absolute answer about which cause is more important, so you’ll just have to do some reading and decide what you think. Personally I care the most about fair-trade, so I put a little more effort into supporting shops and artisans carrying fair trade items.

So if you’re looking to support positive change while picking up the necessities, here are seven easy tips to help you switch up your grocery shopping to be more environmentally and socially responsible.

1. Skip the really big stores. It has been my experience that smaller/more niche chains such as London Drugs, Safeway, and Save-On-Foods carry more locally sourced products, as well as more eco-friendly and socially responsible goods. Local means less resources used to transport the goods, and likely better distribution of the profits, as well as boosting the local economy, instead of siphoning profits off to random rich people who don’t really need it. Yes, the prices might be a bit higher (not much), but if you can afford it, I believe it’s the right thing to do.

2. BRING A RE-USABLE BAG.suck at this, but it’s honestly the most simple thing. Buy a roll-up-able reusable bag and keep it in your purse or glove-box.

3. Ditch the plastic with fruits and veggies. There is no reason to put yet another plastic bag around your fruits and veggies, when you’re already going to put them in your relatively clean re-usable bag. Because you’re a responsible adult who’s going to wash all the produce when you get home anyway, right?

stockvault-herbs-and-spices1309774. Search out dispensaries and farmers’ markets, and anywhere that offers refillable goods.
Below are a few places to get you started if you live in the Fraser Valley or Vancouver areas. Feel free to comment or tell me about other shops or markets from other cities, and I’ll add them to the list.
Chilliwack: Hofstede’s and the the corn barns
Abbotsford: Nature’s Pickin’s
Surrey/Langley: Langley Community Farmers Market, Choices Market
Vancouver: The Soap Dispensary, Vancouver Farmers Markets, Choices Market

5. Buy more environmentally friendly or natural cleaners. There are a lot of brands out there that claim to be natural, but unfortunately a lot of this is just fancy marketing. Often you need to venture out of the Walmarts and Superstores to find truly natural cleaners. Within the next month I hope to do a review of some good products. Before I do, you can try Attitude, Method, 7th Generation, or Ecover. Most of these can be found at London Drugs, or even Your Independent Grocers. BTW, sometimes these cleaners end up in the health food or gluten-free aisle. Don’t ask me why. They just do.

6. Buy fair-trade, free-range or organic when possible. Some fair trade goods are crazy expensive, because they’re just breaking into the market. Some organics aren’t really necessary. Sometimes you just can’t find free-range meat within a reasonable distance. In these cases, focus on what you can find. Stores like The Body Shop and LUSH support fair trade and recycling with at least most of their products. London Drugs and Save-On foods are good places to look for fair trade chocolate and coffee.  If always buying organic produce is too expensive, focus on those foods that are most often covered in pesticides.  As with the natural cleaners, the fair trade goods sometimes get stuck in the health food or gluten-free aisle.

7. Don’t feel like you need to change all your habits, all at once. I’ve given myself about two years to figure this all out. It is not like, “what are the 3 things I need to do differently that can all happen tomorrow and not take up too much of my time”? Give yourself time. Make it an ongoing thing. You will likely just tire yourself out if you walk into the store and go, “ok! Today I walk out of here with fair trade coffee, all new cleaners, organic everything and all free-range meat.” No. You will spend $1847.95 more than normal, you will go home and want to die. Make it gradual, and you can do it!


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