I 💚 these easy tips to make your food shop more ethical
Overhauling your shopping habits in order to be more sustainable might seem like a daunting task but I’m here to help simplify things 😊
First of all, what do we mean by food sustainability and ethical food? Well, sustainability is about making sure that the way food is produced, transported and consumed has a minimal impact on the environment and maintains a healthy ecosystem. Ethical food can refer to how well food producers or farmers are treated or how well animals are looked after.
Some of the key issues include deforestation for agricultural land which contributes to global warming, how far food has travelled (its carbon footprint), the living conditions of people making the food, wasting natural resources and more. Below are tips that tackle some of these issues.
🌎 Get ready to cut out/cut down
Certain products have a much higher environmental impact than others, and while you might not want to cut them out completely, reducing the amount you consume can make a drastic difference. This is the one that probably has the biggest impact.
Meat. It’s widely documented that the consumption of meat can have a negative impact on the environment, so why not try going meat-free a couple of nights during the week if you haven’t already (or go completely plant-based if you fancy)? Check out Jamie Oliver’s Easy Vegan Recipes, 40 Mouthwatering Vegan Recipes and BBC’s Good Housekeeping for inspiration. I also like The Meat-Llover's Guide to Eating Less Meat from the NY Times.
Palm Oil. Another product to avoid entirely if you can, is palm oil – palm oil is a major driver of deforestation and worker exploitation. Peanut butter is a staple product that often contains palm oil but it can also be found in ice cream, chocolate, margarine, crisps, cookies, bread and even soap and shampoo.
If you can, try to find alternatives to products containing palm oil. A shout out to Iceland – all its own brand products are palm oil free. Kudos to M&S also, all the palm oil used is certified sustainable. Ethical Consumer also has a handy list of palm oil free products. Alternatively check out this WWF scorecard which rates brands on their commitment to using sustainably sourced palm oil.
🌎 Find local food to reduce your carbon footprint
Shopping locally and in independent stores can drastically reduce the miles your food travels and it puts money back into the local community. Here are some ways to shop locally and independently:
- Find a local farmer’s market. Farming UK has a list of Farmer’s Markets as well as Farm Shops in your local area. These help farmers stay profitable as well as reducing the miles the food travels. You can also find a nearby National Trust Farm Shop.
- Get a fruit & veg delivery box. One of the easiest ways I’ve found to shop locally is through box delivery schemes - hundreds of farmers across the UK offer box delivery schemes which can include fruit, vegetables, meat, herbs, honey etc. Soil Association provide a helpful round up of box delivery schemes in your local area, making it much easier for you to get your hands on organic local produce, often at a cheaper price than you might pay at a supermarket.
- Find out what’s in season. Eating what’s in season locally is an important way to reduce your carbon footprint. Check out Good To Know’s Seasonal Calendar for a lowdown of what’s in season every month.
- Start an allotment! It doesn’t get much more local than your back garden. If you’re feeling green-fingered or are willing to give it a go start by growing herbs and easy veg. Have a look at Gardener’s World’s guide to starting a veggie patch . If you don’t have the space, consider applying for an allotment.
🌎 Find a zero packaging shop near you
These stores are rapidly on the rise and can be found across the UK. They allow you to bulk buy household essentials like pasta, rice, and sugar with zero packaging waste as you bring your own containers, so make sure to stock up on reusable food containers before you go!
I’ve found a handy list of zero waste stores in the UK so check it out to see if there’s one near you.
🌎 Plan ahead to reduce food waste
The UK produces the highest amount of food waste in Europe according to Biffa which amounts to 14 million tonnes of wasted food. A massive 13% of edible food and drink purchased goes to waste.
When you go food shopping, write a list and stick to it. Don’t be tempted to pick up extra bits as you go – you’ll end up spending more and probably wasting more.
Planning out meals for the week, batch cooking and freezing fresh produce if needed are also a few great ways to reduce personal food waste (and save money).
Try a meal planning app like Big Oven, Mealime or Yummly. Simple pen and paper might work too – if so you could try these meal planning notes from Amazon. Whatever works for you and helps you stick to it! It’s also worth organising your fridge well. If you can clearly see what you have, you’re less likely to overbuy and will make fewer trips to the shops.
Make sure you know your best before dates too. The date that you really need to watch for is the use by date. This is the date that you must use it by - after that it's only good for the bin.
However, best before dates are more flexible. These aren’t about safety but when a manufacturer thinks food will be at their optimum. Quite often you can eat these products after the best before date. Just make sure you smell or even taste a small amount first to get an idea of whether it’s safe.
🌎 Quickly work out how much of your weekly shop is sustainable
If shopping in a big grocery store chain is unavoidable for you, here’s a handy trick to avoid products that are bad for the environment. Giki scans grocery store products and rates them according to their environmental impact. Just use your phone camera to scan the barcode of what you're buying and this app will tell you how many 'badges' this product has been awarded for sustainability and why. You can currently scan over 250,000 products with the app so it’s definitely one to try 🙌
🌎 The labels to look out for
Checking the labels on products you buy is an easy way to see if they are a sustainable or ethical purchase. For example, if you’re eating animal products it’s always best to look for organic and free-range symbols – as animal welfare is a key aspect of organic farming. When buying cocoa products it’s important to look for the Fairtrade logo to ensure workers are not being exploited.
Look out for:
- The Vegan Society logo – certifies where a product is vegan.
- The MSC Fish logo – food certified by the non-profit organisation Marine Stewardship Council as sustainable.
- The Ethical Consumer Best Buy label – Ethical Consumer is a publisher which focuses on ethical products. Its label certifies products that have passed its environmental tests.
- The Fairtrade logo – Fairtrade looks at better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability and fair terms for farmers and workers in the developing world.
- ‘Organic’ or ‘free-range’ symbols – these standards mean animals are given plenty of space and fresh air and are raised in conditions that suit their natural behaviour. It also considers food quality, transport and slaughter conditions.
🌎 Switch to a sustainable grocery delivery firm
If you don’t have the time to search for local independent shops, or simply prefer to order your food online, this one is for you.
Food delivery sites like Good Club , Planet Organic, Mighty Small, The Meatless Farm Shop or TheVeganKind send ethically sourced products straight to your door. This includes kitchen staples, cleaning products and toiletries.
The Good Club also uses a carbon neutral delivery service so you don’t need to worry about the food miles on your grocery shop. You do have to pay a membership fee but it guarantees that if you don’t save at least the membership fee vs RRP, then it’ll give you the difference back 😊
You can sign up for a free 30-day trial plus, if you subscribe to their newsletter, you’ll get 10% off.
🌎 Reduce plastic but don’t use cotton tote bags
It goes without saying, always take reusable bags when you go shopping. However, bear in mind that studies have found cotton tote bags can actually be worse for the environment due to the amount of water used in their production, so it’s best to just invest in some reusable plastic bags.
I hope these thoughts are helpful – happy shopping! 😊