Supermarkets have never been known as the most environmentally friendly of businesses. In fact they’ve been criticised for their overly packaged goods, building stores on green field land. Their 24-hour convenience shopping ethos can also put a real strain on small, locally run stores.
However, with lower prices, long opening hours and a variety of goods under one roof, realistically, most of us will shop at a supermarket. By putting a bit more thought into our shopping trips to the supermarket, it is possible to go in with green intentions, come out with green products and minimise our effect on the environment.
Green Travel to the Supermarket
Many large supermarkets are sited in an out of town centre that necessitates the need for driving there in a car. However before you jump in your vehicle, check if there are any door-to-door bus services offered by your local bus company, or if there’s a more convenient store in the centre of an area that you can walk or use public transport to get to. If you do need to use the car, ensure that you pick up all the items you need in one shop, rather than forgetting some essentials and having to do more than one journey. Draw up a shopping list before you leave the house and stick to it!
Drop off your Recycling
You’ll find that most supermarket sites offer a range of recycling services – from bottles to plastic to lightbulbs. For the items that your local council doesn’t pick up from your doorstep, take them along with you to the supermarket to drop off before your weekly shop. This will also minimise the number of car journeys you do every week – saving on emissions and petrol costs.
Shop for Locally Produced Items
Supermarkets have gained the reputation of trampling on local business and agriculture by importing many goods from around the globe, which is also bad for the environment because of the carbon emissions created from the so-called ‘food miles’ used to transfer them.
However due to a revived interest in locally produced goods and pressure from consumers, many supermarkets offer a range of local products. You should check the packaging on an item, which will usually tell you where it originates. Always go for the locally grown goods to support small businesses and agriculture in your area.
Shop Organic and Fair Trade Products
The organic food market is a massive one – and growing year on year. Organic goods are naturally produced and grown with a minimal impact on the environment. No pesticides or chemicals are used, which is good news for rivers and local ecosystems. And the more popular it’s becoming, the cheaper organic is becoming too.
Fair Trade is also growing in popularity. For items that are imported from overseas – for example coffee or bananas – always go for the fair trade option. This ensures that the farmer or producer of the item, particularly in developing countries, gets a fair price for their goods and are not being exploited.
Bring your Own Bags
Eight billion plastic carrier bags are handed out in the UK each year – or over 134 for every one of us. It’s at the supermarket that we pick up the most. Before you set off on your shopping, make sure you take a few bags to use rather than hording bags in a cupboard and forgetting to take them along. You should also invest in a ‘bag for life’ – stronger and more durable than plastic bags, and replaceable for free if they break.
Supermarkets are also getting better at providing customers with incentives for bringing their own bags, or reusing a ‘bag for life’. Some offer extra reward points for every bag that you bring along yourself, rather than using new bags.