Grocery shopping is really a luxury for college students. Having access to making your own food is not a privilege we all have, but if you do, here are a few tips on how to shop sustainably and on a budget! Conveniently, a lot of the ways in which you can be more sustainable will also save you some bucks at the grocery store.
BYOB: Bring your own bags! One of the most obvious and well-known tips, but remember to keep bags in your car or somewhere that will remind you to bring them. This goes for produce bags and mason jars as well!
Make your own trail mix or granola. Bring a produce bag and get nuts, dried fruit, and chocolate from bulk containers. This is a great way to save some money as well! This also applies to dips like guac, hummus, and pesto.
Buy non-wrapped produce. Most grocery stores have package-free produce sections – just remember to bring your own produce bags!
Buy in bulk to decrease the amount of packaging and save you money in the long run. Again, bring your produce bags and mason jars to avoid using plastic bags.
Buy local! Buying locally is a great way to be sustainable while also supporting the local economy. In my experience, it’s also the easiest way to shop zero waste because virtually all of the produce doesn’t have any packaging. While farmers markets can be pricier than grocery stores, if you take the time to find the good deals you can actually save yourself some money! Why does local matter? Transporting goods across the country/from other countries produces a lot of carbon emissions from driving and contributes to poor air quality.
Opt for more plant based foods. Reducing your intake of animal products, especially meat and dairy, is the single largest way to reduce our individual carbon footprint – the livestock industry produces 14.5% of global GHG emissions per year and 44% of methane emissions. You don’t have to cut out any foods fully – choosing to cut it out for one day of the week or reducing it in other incremental ways has a significant impact as well. If you are interested in learning more about the environmental footprint of the agriculture industry, check out this article!
Buy organic if you can. Although organic produce and fruit can be a bit pricier, your body and the environment will thank you! Buying in bulk will reduce the price as well as by finding good deals at farmers markets. If your college or community has a CSA program, look into that! It’s a great way to get access to lots of fresh fruits and veggies at a subsidized price. (One caveat – because getting certified as USDA organic is an incredibly expensive and bureaucratic process, many smaller, local farms may not be certified organic but are not using pesticides. Make sure to ask about the practices of local farms!)
The bottom line: Global food production is one of the largest drivers of environmental degradation. We all eat a lot of food! Do your part to do it consciously!