We’ve all heard about reducing your carbon footprint while traveling, but let’s talk about how to reduce your negative impact on the environment while grocery shopping. Yeah, that’s right! And the best part is, you can follow these tips at any grocery store (it doesn’t have to be your local co-op…although we love a good co-op).
While co-ops and CSAs are great ways to protect the environment and support your community, not everyone can afford, or has access to these options. If you do, then grab your reusable bag and head on over! For everyone else, here is how you can make a difference, at any grocery store:
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3 easy ways you can reduce your impact on climate while grocery shopping
Next time you're in the produce section, be on the lookout for local fruits and veggies, often times grocery stores will tag them as local. Buying local produce ensures that the produce you're purchasing doesn't travel on ships, airplanes, trains, or even sometimes tractor trailers (at least not for very long).
Local produce is often not packaged the same way as other produce. Local farms tend to avoid shrink wrap, plastic bags, and other non-biodegradable packaging. Shrink wrap is used to preserve produce during its long journey across the country, and sometimes even across the world – so it's not necessary for most local products.
Other benefits of enjoying local produce is that because of its shortened transportation time, it is often fresher, which means it is more nutrient dense. This can also enhance the flavor greatly. If you can buy organic, this helps to ensure that the environment where the produce was grown has not been contaminated by harsh chemicals.
“Half of the world’s habitable land is used for agriculture, with most of this used to raise livestock for dairy and meat. Livestock are fed from two sources – lands on which the animals graze and land on which feeding crops, such as soy and cereals, are grown.”
It takes 14 grams of plant protein to create 1 gram of animal protein. For instance, each cow needs to eat 14 times the amount of grain protein to create beef protein and milk protein. That is a lot of food that could quite literally go into feeding the hungry of the world. To produce 14 times the amount of grain protein, that means we need to:
- grow it (often not organically)
- clear land to sow it (often in the Amazon Rainforest where most agro-farming is done)
- water it
- use machines to mass harvest it
- transport it to cattle farms where animals eat it
- that cattle is then transported to the slaughter house where they are processed (to put it gently), and then again transported to a holding facility or grocery store where the consumer buys it.
As you can imagine, dairy production has an even longer process to the grocery store shelves.
Picture instead, using 14 percent less land, and eating the grain or other plant protein firsthand. Secondhand protein takes more land, water, labor, and carbon monoxide to process and transport.
“Worldwide, an estimated 2 billion people live primarily on a meat-based diet, while an estimated 4 billion live primarily on a plant-based diet. The US food production system uses about 50% of the total US land area, 80% of the fresh water, and 17% of the fossil energy used in the country. The heavy dependence on fossil energy suggests that the US food system, whether meat-based or plant-based, is not sustainable. The use of land and energy resources devoted to an average meat-based diet compared with a lactoovovegetarian (plant-based) diet is analyzed in this report. In both diets, the daily quantity of calories consumed are kept constant at about 3533 kcal per person. The meat-based food system requires more energy, land, and water resources than the lactoovovegetarian diet. In this limited sense, the lactoovovegetarian diet is more sustainable than the average American meat-based diet.”
Not ready to ditch animal products all together?
That’s fine! Reduce your impact by buying directly from local farms to cut transportation emissions. Grass-fed beef uses feed that is local, and not a feed source for humans. It’s a little more costly, but the quality is often much better. You can also cut down on your animal protein consumption without giving it up all together. Try purchasing 50 percent less animal products than you normally do at the grocery store. Section them off in your cart so you are aware of how many you buy. Simply by eating more plant-based foods you will be making a positive impact.
“The average fossil energy input for all the animal protein production systems studied is 25 kcal fossil energy input per 1 kcal of protein produced. This energy input is more than 11 times greater than that for grain protein production, which is about 2.2 kcal of fossil energy input per 1 kcal of plant protein produced.”
Worried about protein deficiency?
Don’t be! Vegans and meat eaters alike get plenty of protein, and too much can actually lead to non-communicable diseases.
We touched base on this a little while talking about the processing of animal products, but there are plant foods that are highly processed, too (like corn chips, instant meals, frozen dinners, sauces etc...). Not to mention, most processed foods are pretty bad for you anyway.
Between sourcing the ingredients, transporting them to the processing facility, packaging them (mainly with plastic), and then transporting them to the grocery store, it’s a lot of work and carbon emissions! The solution: Buy as many “whole foods” as you can. That means choosing carrots and cucumbers to dip into your hummus over chips. Blend your own beans to make bean dip. Try cooking a few meals from scratch every week.
A few examples of whole foods would be:
Instead of corn chips, buy corn
Instead of apple sauce, buy apples
Instead of pre-chopped and bagged veggies, buy whole veggies
Instead of pre-peeled garlic, buy whole garlic
Instead of guac buy avocados
Start slow, and eventually you may even find that you enjoy the process of doing it yourself! Fun fact: Fresh food tastes fresher!
Not big into cooking?
MamaSezz makes it easy to eat whole foods, without all the prep.
- We make ready-made plant-based foods, made with fresh ingredients from mostly local farms.
- We only work with farmers and suppliers who share our enthusiasm for adopting environmentally sound agricultural practices
- We use whole and minimally process ingredients. This means we do not use sugar, oil and other processed ingredients. We stick to whole foods.
- We bulk package in recyclable materials, and we send you along with a return label so we can reuse and recycle for you!
- Not to mention all of our foods are plant-based (no animal products whatsoever), and we aim for sustainable sourcing always.
Sustainable eating made easy: try our Eat for the Planet Bundle!
The Eat for the Planet bundle was designed by Nil Zacharias, previously the founder of One Green Planet and currently the host of the Eat for the Planet Podcast. This plant-based meal bundle includes all of MamaSezz’s most eco-friendly dishes, like our customer-favorite, the Tuna “Ish” Salad. Made with sustainably-sourced Atlantic sea kelp, each time you purchase the Tuna "Ish" Salad, you’re supporting the amazing company we source our kelp from: Atlantic Sea Farms. They are dedicated to saving the sea coast in Maine, by helping fishermen move to a more sustainable trade.
"By making even minimal dietary changes, anyone can have a positive, lasting impact on our planet. If you love the planet, the only way to save it is by switching out meat for plant-based meals, one bite at a time."
The MamaSezz Commitment to Sustainability
If you’re interested in learning more about MamaSezz’s dedication to the environment, check out this blog about MamaSezz Sustainability.
- Don't forget your reusable bag!
- Bring glass jars for bulk items.
- Load your groceries back into your cart after checkout without plastic bags. Bring your cart to the car, and load it into reusable crates or baskets that you can then use to bring into the house.
- Buy local ingredients.
- Buy produce and non-animal based products, mostly.
- Buy minimally processed foods.
By Caroline DiNicola Fawley
Caroline is a plant-based chef, recipe designer, and whole food plant-based nutrition educator, with a Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.