Supermarket shopping can be a disheartening experience for the eco warriors among us. You’re faced with rows and rows of plastic and disposable items that you didn’t use to notice and it can make you feel somewhat helpless. But there are ways around these feelings! Here’s how to shop more consciously at the supermarket:
1. Avoid plastic-packaged produce in the supermarket. If fruit and veg is wrapped in plastic, leave it on the shelf. Instead, buy fruit and veg loose. Bring a few small cloth bags to put the fruit and veg in (buy or make from old material: t-shirts or pillowcases for example) or just throw it all in your basket with -shock horror- no bag!You know which one to choose!
2. Try to buy local, seasonal, products to limit the carbon footprint of your food. I don’t follow this to the letter, but I try to only buy produce not made in France on a very irregular basis. For example, sweet potatoes and avocados. I love both of these foods, but when I think about the journey they’ve made to get to the shelf (often from Peru, Mexico, or the USA) when we have so much other fresh and delicious produce in this country, I can’t justify buying them more than once in a blue moon.
3. Buy other products in glass or cardboard wherever possible. This isn’t just for the sake of diverting items from landfill/incinerators, but also the health dangers associated with toxic chemicals and hormone disruptors leaking into food from plastic packaging. If I have the choice to not put those kinds of chemicals into my digestive system, I’ll take it. Then, when you’re finished with the product you either recycle or reuse it: there’s something about drinking water out of a Bonne Maman jam jar that makes me feel like I’m in a hipster café in California, a feeling I really don’t hate! Other uses for glass jars include: pots for flowers, pens, make-up brushes, safety pins, spare change, keys, charging cables, batteries to recycle, cutlery, kitchen utensils, toothbrush/toothpaste, storing snacks in your bag, using as a spill-proof hot-drink container, storing food in the fridge, transporting packed lunches. The options are quite literally endless.Any semblance of a pantry cupboard is minimal at the moment on account of not having a kitchen, but here’s some stored food!Sneak peek into the D.I.Y workshop: where the magic of home renovations happens. Oh, and a jar of sweetcorn for a pen pot.
4. Stop buying the totally unnecessary and non-recyclable clingfilm! There are so many alternatives: cover food with a plate or bowl, invest in some reusable beeswax food wrap, leave things like fruit and veg uncovered, put cheese and meat in glass Tupperwares, or use tinfoil and pop it in the recycling (when you have collected a decent-sized ball of it).
5. Check packets for the totally unsustainable palm oil (found in everything delicious from Nutella to crisps to biscuits)- there’s always an alternative product without it. Less palm oil = more orangutans. There are countless negative side effects to mass deforestation, the likes of which is necessary for palm oil production. The loss of biodiversity is a huge one, so is the removal of our natural CO2 sponges, but another is the danger of forcing animals out of their habitat. Scorpions in Brazil have now adapted to city life after losing their homes, and deaths by scorpion bites have more than doubled in the past four years (if you needed a reason to put down the Nutella jar)!So delicious it’s all gone!
I follow these rules as far as possible (still haven’t figured out a convenient solution for buying meat or dairy products) and it truly requires minimal effort. OK, sometimes I can’t buy certain products that I would have before- Milka chocolate for example- but there are plenty of alternatives out there, it’s just a case of being willing to change habits. My new favourite chocolate is Côte d’Or, it’s bloody delicious and not a drop of palm oil in sight. I’ve replaced Nutella with a palm oil-free version, and swapped shop-bought peanut butter for the home-made version: you just have to blend 500g of peanuts with a few drops of sesame oil (although outside of France you might have more options for PB).
3 bars in the cupboard at any one time is really the bare minimum one person needs
I hope you can try and build one or two of those changes into your shopping routine, and let me know in the comments if there’s anything else you do that allows you to shop more sustainably at the supermarket.