A whopping 30-40% of all food in the United States is wasted each year, a considerable portion of which is connected with grocery retail. According to the EPA, food containers and packaging account for 23% of landfill waste, and grocery stores have been found responsible for 10% of all U.S. food waste. Grocery shopping also represents a considerable source of spending: the average American multi-person household spends an average of $118 a week on groceries.
Waste associated with grocery shopping happens on multiple levels: packaging and bagging groceries, choosing between the many options available, and actually using all the food once it’s made it home, to name a few.
Luckily, there are many ways to reduce waste and shop greener; from ditching single-use grocery bags, to decoding plastic packaging labels, to choosing produce more deliberately, our choices in the aisles make a significant impact.
1. Bring Your Own Grocery and Produce Bags
Roughly 100 billion single-use plastic bags are used by Americans each year, which are difficult to recycle and often make their way into waterways after being discarded, where they are consumed by wildlife and send further microplastics up the food chain.
Forgoing this source of waste is as simple as collecting a few reusable bags (no need for anything fancy) and keeping them easily accessible for grocery trips. Leave a few in the car in case you forget them, and check out packable bags to keep in your purse, backpack, or pocket for impromptu grocery runs.
Instead of putting produce in plastic bags, invest in an inexpensive set of reusable produce bags as well, which you can use to hold loose fruits, vegetables, and herbs, opting for the package-less option in the fresh foods section.
2. Buy in Bulk
Plastic packaging is a major source of waste, especially regarding food; packaging and containers alone account for more than 23% of all waste in landfills, according to the EPA.
To avoid contributing to this deluge of plastic, take advantage of the bulk sections found in many grocery stores, where customers can fill containers with loose, unpackaged goods, and pay by weight. Better yet, you can use your own reusable produce bags, and skip the plastic entirely.
Buying in bulk is a convenient alternative to items traditionally wrapped in plastic – especially dry goods like coffee, beans, nuts, and grains – and can reduce food waste in your home by supplying exactly the amount needed, as opposed to the pre-determined quantities of packaged foods, which might be more than you can use.
You can also research all-bulk grocery stores or filleries – stores specifically designed to sell foods in bulk without packaging – in your area to buy even more unpackaged items like spices, butter, crackers, oils, baking ingredients, pasta, eggs, and cleaning solutions.
3. Ask Your Grocery Store About Taring
Some grocery stores are also set up to support taring: weighing reusable containers brought by customers to fill with bulk goods, sometimes including liquids and other items that can’t be put in a reusable bag.