7 rules for sustainable grocery shopping

Is it possible to do grocery shopping whilst reducing CO2 emissions? Yes, it is. Follow these 7 simple tips for a sustainable diet.

Food represents one fifth of an average family’s footprint, according to the US Union of Concerned Scientists. This means that when you’re doing your shopping you can choose to respect the environment. What are the right steps for a sustainable grocery shopping?


1- Organic saves and absorbs CO2

Besides consuming less energy and emitting less greenhouse gases, organic agriculture is a carbon “tank”: every cultivated hectare absorbs 1.5 tonne of CO2. The FAO, in its “Organic agriculture and food security” report, states that “the strongest feature of organic agriculture is its reliance on fossil-fuel independent and locally-available production assets; working with natural processes increases cost-effectiveness and resilience of agro-ecosystems to climatic stress”. Moreover, organic stock farming produces fewer emissions, thanks to the diet of livestock and a reduced amount of animals.


2- Seasonal foods cost less, also for the environment

An informed consumer knows that presuming to eat every kind of food all the year is anachronistic, expensive and not savoury. Vegetables out of season are grown in greenhouses, where a high amount of energy is required to artificially recreate the ideal cultivation conditions, bringing about unsustainable environmental costs. Moreover, sometimes the energy intensive greenhouses are not enough, we thus have to import food from other countries. Seasonal products are more savoury, rich in nutrients and impact less on the environment. They grow in natural atmospheric conditions; they are not subject to chemical treatments and they waste less energy.


3- The food is always greener on the other side of the fence

Food products coming from far away require complex supply chains and long-haul transportations, that means less sustainability. The short food supply chain is characterized by short distance between producers and consumers, it reduces transports, packaging and costs, all to the good of the environment. You’d better choose local and organic products if you want to contribute to decrease CO2 emissions, which are responsible for the greenhouse effect. Moreover, foods coming from far are only apparently fresh: effectively they are picked unripe, conserved in refrigerators with modified atmosphere, treated with pesticides, and they lose most of their vitamin content and flavour.


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4- Less meat helps the environment

A dish containing meat and other imported products generates 9 times more CO2 than a vegetarian dish containing local products, according to studies by the University of Stockholm. 1 kg of meat requires 10 kg of cereals and forage, whilst using an area ten times larger than the required one by an equivalent vegetal diet. The production of 1 kg of meat produces the emission of 20.4 kg of CO2 equivalent, while for the same amount of legumes the average emission is 26 times lower. The water consumption for 1 kg of meat is 15,500 litres, while 1 kg of vegetables requires only 100 litres. Moreover, cattle manure emits a large amount of natural gas and nitrogen oxide, harmful greenhouse gases.


5- Packaging? No, thanks

When possible, it’s better to buy packaging-free products. Wrappers and packaging material have a significant environmental impact and contain chemicals that can potentially migrate into foods. When packaging is necessary, it’s better if it is recycled, such as bio-plastic or FSC-certified paper, designed to save space and raw material.


6- Better fresh than preserved and processed

It’s always a good thing reading labels to buy unprocessed products, with a reduced amount of additives. The more a food product is processed, aromatized, coloured or irradiated, the more harmful additives it contains, and by consequence, it is poor in nutrients. Moreover, fresh foods require lower energy consumption.


7- Use your car in a smart way

Let’s admit it, we go grocery shopping by car, especially if we live far from supermarkets. But you could plan your shopping together with other activities requiring the car, in order to reduce pollution and time. Moreover, you can carpool with your neighbours or friends to go to your trusted grocery.

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