Six tips for more sustainable, eco friendly, ethical and green ways to shop for food rather than using supermarkets.
In an ideal world, we would be totally self sufficient within a community set up. The next best thing would be to buy everything we could not grow or rear ourselves locally, seasonally, organic and therefore, fair trade. This would be a more sustainable way of life, more ethical, eco friendly and the perfect green option!
Unfortunately, this utopian vision does not exist for most of us and many of us rely on supermarkets to bridge the gap.
There are small, positive steps we can all take to shift the balance from supermarket shopping to more sustainable and ethical choices.
We still use supermarkets. Let’s face it, self sufficient changes don’t happen over night and old habits die hard, but we have probably quartered the amount we used to buy from them. We’ve recently switched to home delivery which has made a huge difference to the way I shop (and spend money). In addition we run a food Co-Op, support local shops and use an organic farm shop. Our aim is to gradually increase the amount of vegetables we grow ourselves and more importantly, learn how to preserve them better.
In reducing supermarket shopping, I have found that I spend less money. The convenience side of finding everything under one roof has been easily overcome when I’ve recognised the benefits.
How many of us come out of a supermarket with far more than we intended? Clever marketing encourages us to buy more than we need or want. Three for Two offers tempt us and more often than not we do not use everything and it gets thrown away.
Many supermarkets make you walk past books, cds, clothes and electrical goods before you even get to the vegetable aisle!
Changing shopping habits can feel very daunting but there are an increasing number of eco friendly and more ethical alternatives.
i) Local, independent shops.
Shopping in local grocery shops, butchers and bakers helps to keep your money in the local economy. Small retailers know they rely on your for their livelihood so you will feel more valued as a customer. Independent stores are often surprisingly willing to try new lines if you ask them and will often support local growers with a seasonal range of products. In our local village store, around 80% of the fresh fruit and vegetables comes from nearby farms. At our butcher, all lines are traceable, he knows each farmer personally and packaging is kept to a minimum.
ii) Farm shops
Use www.bigbarn.co.uk to find your local farmshop. Simply type in your postcode and you’ll find a list of places near you. Farm shops sell a wide range of seasonal produce and some sell fresh bread, chutneys and fruit juices.
iii) Box schemes
Sign up for a local fruit and vegetable box scheme where you will benefit from fresh, quality, seasonal and local produce delivered to your door. One great side effect of this is that you get to try new things. There is a while world of foods that you’ve probably never experimented with. Using a box scheme pushes you to be creative and explore new tastes. There are more and more schemes arriving almost daily on the net. Try http://www.theecologist.org/ to find one near you
iv) Food Co-op
Set up or join a Collective buying co-op. You will be able to buy bulk quantities of whole foods at around 25% less than health food shop prices. Ethical policies are usually top priority with food co-ops, so you can be sure you are making sustainable choices.
Check out Suma http://www.suma.co.uk/, Essential www.essential-trading.co.uk/ and Infinity www.infinityfoods.co.uk/ This is a great way to make new local, like minded friends too.
v) Farmer’s market
Visit your local farmers market www.farmersmarkets.net These take place weekly or monthly and you’ll find a range of farmers, producers and growers selling direct to the public. You can find some great things are farmer’s markets such as local, seasonal vegetables and fruit, organic lines, bread and preserves.
vi) Grow your own!
The first step to self sufficiency! Even the most brown thumbed of us can manage a few crops. Herbs can be grown indoors in the kitchen windowsill, tomatoes can be planted in hanging baskets and sprouted seeds can be grown indoors. If you fancy having a go at growing your own but don’t have the space, look to rent an allotment through your local authority. This is a great way to meet people from your area and share tips.
As more and more people are interested in green living and embrace a sustainable lifestyle, our buying choices will influence the market. Prices for ethical, fair trade and organic produce will gradually decrease if we keep up the demand.