Trying to shop greener? Experts explain how you can be a little kinder to the Earth on your next shopping trip.
Produce in bag
Photograph by Jennifer Causey
| Credit: Photograph by Jennifer Causey

Bulk Up

"The average American produces 4 1/2 pounds of waste per day," says Lauren Singer, a zero-waste advocate and the founder of the Package Free Shop, a Brooklyn-based store and website that sells reusable and other eco-friendly products. "The most important thing you can do is reduce the amount of garbage you create." One easy way: Shop the bulk bins. Bring drawstring cloth bags and Mason jars for produce, grains, and nuts. Write the weight of heavier containers, like glass jars, on each lid in permanent marker so it gets subtracted at the cash register. Buying meat, fish, or cheese? Bring your own containers and ask your fishmonger, butcher, or cheesemonger to pack up your purchase. Check with the store manager to make sure they will accommodate you; if they won't, consider shopping elsewhere!

Put Less Meat in Your Cart

shopping cart
Credit: Illustration by Joel Holland

One of the most effective ways you can help the planet? Eating less meat. According to research published in the journal Science, meat production is responsible for 60 percent of agriculture's greenhouse gas emissions. Oof. But you don't have to go 100 percent vegan. Instead of picking up the family-size pack of ground beef, buy a smaller amount and bulk up your burgers with finely chopped mushrooms. 

Do an Inventory Check

Before you leave for the store, check the fridge and pantry against your shopping list to see what you already have so you don't overbuy. When you get home, remember just four letters: FIFO. This acronym—used by grocery store owners, chefs, and the folks in our test kitchen—stands for First In, First Out, which means putting the older items toward the front of the fridge so you use that stuff first. Bonus: It's fun to say.