Shop smart, have fun and save money when you shop in a thoughtful way
We’re all used to taking re-usable carrier bags to the shops now. But a little more care and planning can ensure that you shop in a truly sustainable way. You’ll be reducing your carbon footprint, plastic waste and traffic emissions, as well as having an impact on animal cruelty. On average, we create 8.2kg of carbon every day in buying food, and this needs to fall by half to meet climate goals by half by 2050. So every small step makes a difference.
Shop local, shop seasonal
- Shop at stores and stalls which have lower food miles. Your local market, zero waste shops and refill centre should be a regular visit.
- Plan your shopping around seasonal ingredients and get cooking! Find out where your Community fridge is, and stop by on your regular trips.
- Don’t forget the Sussex Green Living refill service at our Sussex Green Hub on the last Saturday of each month at the United Reformed Church 10a.m. – 4p.m.
- Support shops which are making an effort to reduce packaging, and read the recycling labels when you pick up a product. They’ll tell you if all or part of a product is usually recycled. But of course, different councils take different materials. RecycleNow has a handy locator which means you can check what your council can put in your bin or take to your local recycling centre.
- If you have a TerraCycle bin near you, choose products such as crisps which are part of the TerraCycle scheme. At Sussex Green Living, we volunteers in Horsham and lots of villages in Horsham District who help collect and sort single use plastics and then recycle them through TerraCycle. Learn more here.
- Look for cardboard, paper or natural packaging with the FSC logo on it. This means that the packaging is made from forests which have been sustainably managed.
- Join your nearest Cash and Carry. If you have to buy plastic, It is less wasteful to buy large boxes and bottles, or buy concentrate and dilute it yourself. But stick to the recommended usage, or you could waste your ingredients.
Choose a sustainable diet
- Take steps to go vegan, or at least start as vegetarian and try out non-dairy. There are loads of brilliant recipes and many supermarkets now have a comprehensive range of vegan products. At the very least, clue up on the treatment and carbon footprint of intensively farmed animals, from beef and milk cows to salmon.
- Opt out of cow’s milk and make the most sustainable choice about your ‘milk-a-like’ substitute. You can check out our Milk dilemma comparison here. (opens in new tab)
- Even as a vegan, it’s difficult to make ethical and sustainable food choices. Many ingredients, such as palm oil, soya, chocolate, coffee, almonds and avocados use a huge amount of water. Choose chickpeas, lentils and peanuts instead.
- Intensive farming in quantity reduces biodiversity and causes deforestation and climate change, as well as displacing small farmers. So look for accreditation labels such as that for palm oil or responsible soy which will tell you if the source is managed sustainably. But best of all, use fresh in-season local food ingredients. And even if you buy local, look for the LEAF symbol or an ‘Organic’ sign to show that the famer is not using intensive farming practices.
- Sometimes it’s best to opt for food miles, because plants grow best in their natural environment. Tomatoes grown in the UK have a higher carbon footprint than those imported from Spain. But avoid out-of season luxuries- it’s worth waiting until it grows in the UK later in the year.
- UK households produce about 7 million tons of food waste each year, of which 5 million tons is still edible. Over 20% of what you put into recycling is food, and Brits are the worst offenders in Europe at 77kg per person. Up to 30% of British grown veg isn’t harvested or sold because it doesn’t meet exacting supermarket standards, and that is down to us as consumers. So buy wonky!
- Supermarkets show cautious ‘best before’ and ‘sell by’ dates. Many people think that things should be discarded after the ‘best before’ date, when it is the ‘Sell by’ or ‘Use by’ date that is important. Learn to trust your sense of smell and taste. Bagged salads are the worst offenders, with bread, milk, potatoes, apples and cheese also high-waste products.
- Love your freezer. It’s a pause button on things decaying. If an item is reaching its ‘Use by’ date, then pop it in the freezer and take it out when needed. And learn how to store things properly. Apples, stored in a cool dry place, can last a year.
- You can reduce this, and save money, by looking for outlets which re-distribute surplus food which would otherwise go to waste. The Olio App allows you to give away or pick up surplus food, while Too Good to Go allows you to order meals from restaurants which have a surplus at the end of the day.
Buy less, but buy eco-friendly
- Of course, its not just food that makes an impact. Choose organic cotton, British wool, organic linen or hemp for clothing and make it last.
- Swap out plastic utensils as they come to the end of their life for ones made of wood or bamboo. Examples include scrubbing and nail brushes, toothbrushes, pan scrubbers and many more. They cost a little more but last longer.