Reduce Your Carbon Footprint at the Supermarket

Just a few changes can make a significant difference.

By FamilyTime


Aiming for a “greener” lifestyle is good for everyone. It won’t solve the problem of global warming, but it won’t hurt it either. And if everyone pitched in just a little, we could make significant differences.

Those who are doing their best at home to help the environment can take their crusade out of the house and into the supermarket. This is where you probably spend a good amount of time shopping for food and household supplies. When you do, be conscious of how you shop and what you buy.

Beyond Price
Price may the primary concern when you shop. The good news is that the less food is processed, the less expensive it tends to be -- and the more environmentally friendly it is. This means buying carrots, lettuce, and onions, for example, that are not pre-cut and wrapped in plastic or stuffed into sealed bags. It means buying them fresh and not frozen or canned. (Although there is no denying there are times when frozen and canned are preferred.)

When you have the choice between two similar products that cost about the same, choose the one with minimal packaging. Look for products packed in recycled cardboard. Who needs double-wrapped cellophane or a Styrofoam case?

Before you put one pepper or two lemons in a “free plastic bag” supplied by the market, stop and decide if it’s necessary. Do you reuse that bag once you get home? Will the lemon really bruise more easily if you simply put it loose in the cart?

The fewer plastic bags the supermarket chain has to buy, the less money it will need for them. It’s possible that if shoppers reduced their use by half, the supermarket would be able to pass on the savings to the consumer. Equally beneficial, fewer petroleum products would be needed to make the bags and transport them.

Paper or Plastic?

While it’s impossible to give a definitive answer to the paper or plastic dilemma, you can avoid the entire issue by bringing your own, reusable cloth totes to the market with you. Not only are they copious for packing, they are easier to lug into the house than either paper or plastic bags. They won't rip and their handles don't dig into your fingers.

Keep a bunch of these tote bags next to the back door, in the car, or hanging in the garage. You soon will get into the habit of taking them to the market with you. In fact, when you forget, you will kick yourself!

If you have no choice, select wisely between plastic and paper at the checkout. The argument for plastic is that it is lightweight and costs less to transport than paper; the argument for paper is that it is a renewable resource.

If you use the paper bags for recycling newspapers or other chores, choose them. If you plan to recycle the plastic bags at the store (most have return bins for them), choose them. Make your decision based on sound environmental reasoning.

We can all help reduce our carbon footprint. Small ways make differences but, let's face reality: Only if large numbers of people subscribe to them will they do much good. Doing so at the market is a painless place to start.