5 Tips for Climate Friendly Grocery Shopping

We all need to eat. But heading into the grocery store with a sea of choices can feel overwhelming, especially if you’re also trying to purchase products that are good for the environment.  To help, we’ve put together a few basic principles to keep in mind next time you head to the store. 

Buy Local & In-Season

Whenever possible look for products produced in your hometown or region.  Many stores like to highlight local products so look for signage and see if it tells you where the product is made. Not only are you supporting your neighbors when you buy local, you’re also purchasing products that traveled fewer miles to get to the shelf and used less fossil fuels to do so.  


Credit: Active Rain


Chances are, buying local food products also means that you are buying in-season for your area. It’s a luxury to be able to buy fresh tomatoes in the middle of winter, but those tomatoes had to grow somewhere! Out of season produce is trucked and flown in from all over the world, giving off tons of greenhouse emissions in the process.  

Head into the store with the intention to buy as many local products as you can.  You’ll likely come away with delicious items like local honey, locally roasted coffee beans, and fresh local produce. 

Buy Organic

Items that are certified organic have to adhere to strict guidelines that mean better outcomes for the environment.  Certified organic products cannot be produced using harmful pesticides and have to adhere to strict land use practices that protect and improve soil over time.  The criteria for organic certification changes depending on the type of product, but the overall goal of the label is to protect the environment from damage.

Looking for the organic label is a great rule of thumb, but if you’re buying from a local farmer, ask them about their growing practices.  Many farms follow organic principles but for one reason or another haven’t become officially certified.  Many of the most environmentally-conscious farmers aren’t officially certified organic.

Buy Less Meat, and Focus on High-Quality

If you’ve decided to eat meat, buy the best quality you can.  Raising meat in a way that’s beneficial to the environment costs a little more, but it’s well worth supporting.  


Credit: Yes Magazine

Although you may be able to find pasture-raised, local meat in your grocery store, it might be more easily sourced directly from a local farm.  Look up farms in your area that offer meat products and give them a call to learn more about their growing practices.  Farmers are often very proud of what they grow and are happy to talk with customers about their food.

Reduce or Eliminate Single-Use Plastic

Plastic is everywhere these days! Especially in the grocery store. To reduce the amount of plastic you’re buying, invest in some durable reusable bags to bring with you to the store.  They work wonderfully for the produce section, bulk items like nuts and grains, and for consolidating your items at the end of the shopping trip.

When you do have to buy pre-packaged items, look for packaging that’s labeled as recyclable, post-consumer recycled, or compostable.  Keep in mind that there are different levels of compostable.  Look for packaging that is “backyard compostable” if you want to put it in your compost pile at home.  Other packaging labeled as compostable made need to be handled in a special recycling facility. 

If it’s right for you, make a “no plastic” commitment! You’ll be surprised by how much plastic you can eliminate from your life when you make the effort, and looking for alternative solutions can be a fun endeavor. 

Look for Climate Friendly Certifications

There are several climate friendly certifications that products can now be labeled with to alert you of their impact on the environment.  All they are all different, look for labeling like “carbon neutral” to tell you if the emissions produced during the manufacturing of that product have been offset by other efforts of the company.  Other phrases to look for are “cradle to cradle” and “fair trade”.


Credit: Climate Neutral

Look for certifications that have specific and measurable standards and do your own research on companies and their individual practices.  Be wary of vague, green-washey phrases like “natural” or “eco-friendly”.  

Want to learn more about shopping for the environment? Check out our post Going Beyond Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

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