6 Ways to Save the World by Grocery Shopping
You don't have to run a farm (or spend a fortune) to eat sustainable food. Just buy groceries with an eye toward the environment.
Grocery shopping basket
Buy Less
A recent report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations found that globally, roughly one-third of all food produced for human consumption is wasted. Sometimes supersizing it isn't the cheapest option, and as Carla Power learned when she began analyzing her spending habits, deliberating how you spend can actually be thrilling.
If You Can't Grown Your Own Tomatoes...
Growing your own is actually pretty easy (here are four simple rules to help you start), but if it's not an option, follow the advice of Barry Estabrook, whose book Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit exposes the appalling working and growing conditions in Florida's tomato industry, which put other industries that are supported by migrant workers to shame. Estabrook says, "My policy is that the closer to your back door that a tomato was grown, the better it is going to be in all respects. If you can get locally grown tomatoes in season at your supermarket, more power to you." In the off-season, Estabrook eats Campari tomatoes, ping-pong-ball sized salad tomatoes that are juicy and flavorful, and are grown hydroponically in greenhouses without any pesticides.
Eat Fresh, Never Frozen, Wild-Caught Shrimp
Barton Seaver, a sustainable seafood expert and author of For Cod & Country, writes that much of the shrimp sold at fish counters is farm-raised, and most comes from largely unregulated farms in Southeast Asia and South America that have a significant negative impact on their environments. Shrimp fisheries in the U.S. are the best regulated in the world, and Seaver is a fan of shrimp from Maine and the Gulf (which, following the oil spill last year, is now safe to eat). Most seafood counters and fishmongers now display signs explaining where the food comes from.
Chocolate bar
Look for Non-GMO Candy and Chocolate Products
Many sweets are made with genetically modified organisms (soy lecithin is one that shows up often on ingredient labels). But if you keep an eye out for labels saying chocolate is certified organic, that means it can't be made with GMOs. Ghirardelli, Green & Black's, Lindt and Newman's Own all make chocolates that qualify. For more information about the problems that foods produced from genetically modified organisms pose and how you can keep them out of your diet, check out this interview with Dr. Oz and author Jeffrey Smith.
Cheese, milk and yogurt
Seek Out rBGH-Free Dairy Products
That means they are made with milk from cows who have not been given artificial bovine growth hormones. The website Sustainable Table lists which products are safe, and it includes everything from Ben & Jerry's ice cream to Stonyfield Farms yogurt.
Find Food Purveyors In Your Area Who Make Sustainable Foods
You may already be shopping at your local farmers' market, but there could also be a butcher just a few miles away selling sustainably-raised meat... if only you knew about it. Use Eat Well Guide to find bakers, butchers, caterers, grocers and other venues where you can buy sustainable foods near where you live. You can search by keywords ("CSA," "gluten-free"), zip code, city or state. Or you can enter the starting and ending points of a road trip, and the site will tell you where to eat and shop along the way.