Thursday, June 21, 2012

Buy Food in Bulk

This is part of my series20 Ways to Go Green that Make a DifferenceThis series discusses practical ways we can go green in our lives, that will have a measurable effect on the environment.  This is an alternative to the many lists that offer 100+ suggestions, many of which are not easily applied to our lives or the impact is minimal. 

The modern food industry is a topic that fascinates me and is often the subject of posts here.  There are many ways we can make this industry greener and it is very important to consider changes, as this is one of the industries that affects every single person in the world.  We all need to eat, and if we can make green improvements in this industry, the scale will make a big impact.

One of the biggest problems is packaging.  It is very wasteful and in most cases unnecesary.  Preservation of food is one thing, but the excess packaging favored by marketing types to "differentiate" processed foods is completely excess and unnecesary. 

We do not need food wrapped tightly in plastic, then stuffed into a cardboard box. Many of us simply see this as more garbage, and promptly deposit it into the trash barrel.  This could be recycled, which would be better, but what would be best is simply avoiding it at all.  I have mentioned my "deposit theory" and I believe if there were a deposit on cardboard boxes and plastic bags, it would incentivize people to reduce consumption or increase recycling, any excess money would go to recycling programs to sort the actual garbage to find deposits which were not redeemed. This would create more jobs and would improve the environment, a win/win if there ever was one.

One way individuals can go green is by buying their food in bulk.  Not just granola is available, although feel free to buy that in bulk as well.  Beans, rice, nuts, candy, flour, sugar, spices, vegetables, coffee, meat, syrup, honey and many other commodity goods can be purchased with simple bags (that you will re-use) and priced by the pound.  You may want to consider bringing reuseable containers right to the store, to avoid wasting bags.  Another way to buy in bulk is by purchasing a large side of beef direct from a farmer or a fish from a fisherman and wrapping it minimally before putting it directly into your fridge or freezer.  Bring back old egg cartons and fruit boxes to the farmers market and re-fill them.  There are many ways to go green in the food packaging world, so be creative.

A related topic is the packaging of commercial foods.  Although 100 calorie snack packs allow you to keep your portions of crappy processed food in check, they are mainly vehicles that allow food companies and their marketing teams to make a few more percentage points of profit from you.  Avoid pre-sliced food that is then packaged and sold in smaller containers (for a higher price).  When buying deli meats, have them weight your meat and cheese separately, then put into one deli bag.

These changes may seem small, and on an individual scale, they might not make a difference.  However over the course of a year they certainly will.  Every human on the planet needs food and if they bought in bulk, it would cause a huge shift in the food industry and cut down on waste and pollution.  I also bet everyone would have a few more bucks left in their pockets!  Green and cheap, a solid combination.  Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma is a great read if you want to re-think the food industry.

1 comment:

  1. Great tips. We also reusing meat plastic boxes, washing them, filling with leftovers and giving them to friends leaving our party. As a cardmaker I'm using cereal boxes in my projects.