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Making Eco-friendly Choices at the Grocery Store

By Larraine Roulston :

Many years ago I offered eco-friendly supermarket tours as an event during Canada’s Waste Reduction Week. With approximately a dozen concerned citizens each time, I noted the items that were either a wise or a poor environmental choice. As the activity also provided a good opportunity for personal shopping, many people came with their own reusable tote bags.grocery-choices

Purchase local and organic produce because it has not endured a lengthy period of transport. Purchasing local food not only supports your region but also remains fresher longer. Fresh produce means no packaging and enables you to compost peelings and cores. Besides shopping with your own bags, you can avoid using even more plastic film by bringing along several mini lightweight reusable bags to hold small loose items such as mushrooms. By choosing fresh fruit over bottled juice, you will eliminate containers and consume less sugar.

In the dairy section, the pulp paper egg cartons, which can be either recycled or composted, are a better choice than Styrofoam or plastic ones. Choose yogurt in the largest size container available rather than small individual containers. For a school or a work lunch, scoop some into a reusable container.

bulk-foodOpt for items with the least amount of packaging made from recycled content that can be recycled again. Manufacturers who place cookies or crackers inside formed plastic trays surrounded by nonrecyclable packaging did not have the environment in mind. If your supermarket has a bulk area, you can reuse bags to hold nuts, dried beans, etc. Most specialized bulk stores allow you to bring in glass jars that can be weighed before you fill them — some even give the customer a discount.

avoid-buying-plastic-bottlesAvoid bottled water when a kitchen tap filter will provide your family with safe drinking water. The World Wide Fund for Nature estimates that over 1.5 million tons of plastic are used every year to provide bottled water; many of those bottles end up as litter, in parks and in the oceans. As well, the K-cup single-use coffee pods have a negative environmental impact.

Eliminate straws, Styrofoam plates, plastic cutlery and other wasteful one-time use products that are found in the notions aisle.

With personal care products, you can avoid shampoo bottles by checking out the “no shampoo’’ method. Plastic bottles with unique oversized caps result in manufacturers simply passing on their extra cost to you. Choose bar soap over liquid. Look for bio-degradable soaps for laundry and dishes. Buy toilet paper made from recycled content.

The shelves featuring all those chemical cleaners can be avoided when you use baking soda and vinegar.

ethical-meatOn the ethical side, when you are selecting meat and eggs, look for meaningful animal welfare certification. An excellent source of information is the American Society for the Protection to the Cruelty of Animals’ “Shop with Your Heart’’ label guide. For coffee or chocolate, look for the Fair Trade certification.

If you must drive a vehicle to buy groceries, choose to make it a rather large shopping trip, and take a list so you won’t have to return later.

Should you wish to begin a grassroots environmental group that conducts supermarket tours, you first must be guaranteed an audience. For this, it is best to approach an organization or school that will provide you a group of people. To obtain press coverage, it is also wise to invite the mayor or a high profile community leader. Becoming a zero waste, eco-friendly grocery shopper will help heal our planet.

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Larraine authors children’s adventure books on composting at www.castlecompost.com 

About Larraine Roulston

A mother of 4 with 6 wonderful grandchildren, Larraine has been active in the environmental movement since the early l970s. When the first blue boxes for recycling were launched in her region, she began writing a local weekly newspaper column to promote the 3Rs. Since that time, she has been a freelance writer for several publications, including BioCycle magazine. As a composting advocate, Larraine authors children's adventure stories that combine composting facts with literature. Currently she is working on the 6th book of her Pee Wee at Castle Compost series, which can be viewed at www.castlecompost.com. As well, Larraine and her husband Pete have built a straw bale home and live in Ontario.

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