If you’re like us, then you’re astonished by the amount of waste created by shopping for groceries. Of course, we all try to cut down on waste by tossing out as little food as possible. But do you ever think about reducing waste before you buy?
Know the rules of recycling
Always remember: “When in doubt, throw it out.” Anything that has food or human waste—like a pizza box or tissues—along with objects that can get tangled in machines, like clothes hangers or plastic bags, should be thrown away. You can use the City of Baton Rouge’s handy chart to figure out what items can be properly recycled.
Clean up before you shop
Keep an inventory of what you already have on hand, so you don’t, for example, buy another container of salad greens if the one you have in the fridge is still fresh.
Locate your reusable bags
Lifehacker suggests having bags that are small enough to keep in every place you might need them, like in the side door of your car, in your purse or even your pocket. You can also use creative hooks to keep them in strategic places, or try writing or typing the word “bags” at the start of every grocery list to get yourself in the habit. Even if you forget your bags and have to use plastic, Sarah Temple from the LSU Office of Campus Sustainability recommends later taking them to stores that will take the old bags for recycling, such as Walmart or Rouses.
Head to the farmers market first
Temple also suggests buying locally whenever it’s possible. “Not only can local food be fresher,” she says, “but the food coming from a farther distance is less sustainable due to the travel and fuel-burning required to transport the food.” The Red Stick Farmers Market is open downtown on Fifth and Main streets every Saturday, 8 a.m. to noon, and at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center Thursdays, 8 a.m. to noon. There is also Southside Produce Company on Perkins Road and Fresh Pickin’s Market on Coursey Boulevard, which are both open seven days a week. If you can’t buy local, buying seasonally is a great alternative. Seasonal foods don’t just taste better, they are also more likely to be grown in natural conditions and not subject to hefty chemical treatments that can waste energy.
Avoid unnecessary packaging
You don’t have to make a big change to make an impact—sometimes it can be as easy as not bagging your veggies individually or using a reusable produce bag instead. Try to avoid produce wrapped in plastic, since most fruits and veggies need to be washed before using them anyway. And if you do go for plastic, read the labels to see what type of plastic the packaging is made from. According to EarthEasy, plastics No. 1 (PETE) and No. 2 (HDPE) are more likely to be recycled in the United States. In Baton Rouge, plastics Nos. 1-6 are allowed in recycling bins.