How to: Shop sustainably

Make your next shopping trip more eco-friendly.

There are many ways to do your part for the environment when you’re out shopping. Try out these quick tips.

Shop local.

Support local businesses, as “they are more likely to reinvest in the community,” says Barbara Buffaloe, Columbia’s sustainability manager.

A scarf from Mustard Seed Fair Trade may not seem sustainable in itself, but the purchase cycles money through the community and sustains local jobs.

Grocery shopping can also be sustainable. Although we can buy bananas shipped from Central America all year ‘round, we may not realize that our food has traveled such great lengths to get to our shopping cart. Katherine Hambrick, vice president of outreach at Sustain Mizzou, recommends shopping at Lucky’s Market. Lucky’s is one of the growing number of grocery stores that label the origin of their produce, which increases transparency and helps customers understand where their food was grown. CoMo boasts multiple devoted health food stores that vend local products, including Clovers Natural Market, Natural Grocers and Root Cellar.

Try the farmers market.

The Columbia Farmers Market is a key place to visit if you’re into sustainability, fresh produce or homemade sweets. Fruits and vegetables sold here are locally grown, sustainable and often organic, so don’t be afraid to chat with the farmer. Here’s a neat tip: Try haggling with farmers if you’re watching your wallet. Many are more than willing to accommodate your financial needs.

Use the bulk section.

Besides being an easy and inexpensive way to cut down on food waste, buying in bulk also minimizes unnecessary packaging. If you’re into cooking or baking, it’s also a useful way to purchase as much as you need. Buying in “bulk” doesn’t mean “in huge quantities.” An ounce of spices usually won’t run more than a dollar.

Ditch the palm oil.

“This one’s hard to avoid,” Hambrick says. Palm oil farming contributes aggressively to deforestation, releasing large amounts of carbon into our atmosphere and destroying rainforest habitats. Unfortunately, this inexpensive filler ingredient is found in everything from mascara to milk chocolate. It may be unreasonable to completely cut out palm oil, but we can surely substitute some of our choices or search for products that are made with certified sustainable palm oil.

Eat your veggies.

“Fatty foods are really what fills up your gut,” Hambrick says. Bacon and Oreos may be American favorites, but the empty calories in these foods do little for your body.

At the grocery store, Hambrick recommends heading to the produce section first. This sustainable (and undoubtedly healthy) tactic ensures that our nutritional needs are met with the least packaging possible. Filling up your cart with local and organic vegetables also maintains nutrient-dense soil and cuts down on carbon emissions from transportation.

Cut down on meat.

Skipping meat seems like a cultural assault for a lot of people. However, cutting it out of your diet for a few days a week is one of the most noble things you can do for the environment, and your body. Farm animals create a vast carbon footprint due to the methane they produce and the care they require. Animal-based foods are also heavily processed; according to the Water Footprint Network, it takes around 880 gallons of water to produce one gallon of cow’s milk. As a comparison, a 10-minute shower uses around 20 gallons of water. Transportation may contribute heavily to global warming, but animal agriculture has many more far-reaching and devastating environmental effects. To shop more sustainably for the environment and your body, make an attempt to purchase and consume more plant-based foods.

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