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Living the Green Life

Be a Friend of the Environment: August 2022

Be a Green Grocer

Two people shopping with reusable shopping bags in the refrigerator section.
Keep the environment in mind with product selections.

When it comes to groceries, we are all looking to save time and money. But don't forget about our environment. There are simple steps you can take to shop green when selecting products:

  • Follow your grocery list to help avoid impulsive purchases.
  • Pick less than perfect produce - it tastes the same and can avoid unnecessary food waste at the grocery store.
  • Try methods for making coffee and tea that reduce waste:
    • loose teas,
    • French presses, and
    • reusable coffee filters/pods.
  • Limit buying aerosol sprays.
  • Keep your kitchen and refrigerator clean with natural cleaners.
  • Check the expiration, sell, and use by dates and know the true-life cycle of food, as many of those dates are just "suggested" guides.
  • If you consume a lot of a particular item, buy it in bulk. Don't buy more than you need unless you can use the ingredients before they go bad or can freeze them for later. Some stores offer a bulk refill section for pantry staples like grains and coffee. Choosing refillable options, when possible, helps to cut down on packaging waste.
    • Look for minimally packaged items.
    • Choose snacks with little or no packaging. Oranges, nuts, apples, etc.
  • Minimize the amount of meat that you eat - especially beef. You will help to limit methane, a powerful greenhouse gas which occurs in the cattle industry.
  • Bring your own reusable bags. This helps avoid potential paper bag fees at the checkout and it also helps reduce waste. Keep your reusable bags in a handy spot at home or car so you don't forget them.
    • Bring your own reusable produce bags too.

DEC provides additional information on how to reduce, reuse, recycle, and compost.

Did you know that?

  • Paper receipts cannot be recycled and need to be disposed of in the trash. If there is the option, opt for digital receipts when shopping.
  • Prior to 2020, in New York State, over 23 billion plastic bags were typically used each year. This bag waste reduction law has helped address issues caused from plastic bags. You're less likely to see plastic bags stuck in trees, as litter in our neighborhoods, or floating in our waterways. Plastic bags also pose harm to wildlife.
  • This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Returnable Container Act (RCA) - also known as the "Bottle Bill." Under this act, roadside container litter has been reduced by 70%. In 2020, the act helped to recycle 5.5 billion plastic, glass, and aluminum beverage containers totaling 241,505 tons at no cost to local governments.

Be a friend of the environment

On the menu - get creative with your menu options. If you have chicken and biscuits for dinner, the next day use the leftovers. Biscuits can be the basis of breakfast sandwiches and leftover chicken can be used in a lunch-time salad. Also, keep a dry erase board on the fridge to highlight items to be "eaten soon."

Organization is key - when you get home from grocery shopping, organize your refrigerator and freezer with "eat first" items towards the front where they are visible. Leave a spot regularly for leftovers (use reusable containers) so you know where to look for them to make sure they are used and not forgotten. Organize your pantry and cupboards like the refrigerator with "eat first" items in prominent locations so they are not forgotten as well. Other organizing tips:

  • Consider using carousels in your refrigerator or pantry to make items easily accessible. If you see items, you are more apt to use them and produce less waste.
  • Label areas of your fridge for staple items. That way you and your family know where they belong, and it is easy to see if you are running low on a product - or if you need to use a product up soon before it goes bad.
  • Use reusable food storage bags and containers whenever possible for storing food or leftovers. Avoid disposable storage and freezer bags. A little investment in reusables upfront can result in more long-term savings.

Recycle - cardboard cereal boxes, aluminum cans, and jars. To learn about how to recycle other types of containers and packaging in your community, visit Recycle Right New York (leaves DEC's website).

Green thumb goodness - grow what produce you can in a garden. No room for a garden plot? Try container gardening. Share any produce that you will not be able to use with family, friends, and neighbors. Other ideas include considering a garden co-op. Get your circle of gardeners together and grow different crops to exchange and share within the group. And - compost at home. If you can't compost at home, some communities may offer food scrap drop-off programs. Also, consider a local compost pick-up service if available in your area. Vermicomposting is another option for those with space limitations. Read more with the EPA's (United States Environmental Protection Agency) "Food: Too Good to Waste Implementation Guide and Toolkit." (leaves DEC's website)

Go digital -- click, don't clip coupons - get them on your phone as opposed to paper versions. Make a digital grocery list or use scrap paper to plan out meals and ingredients needed. Keep leftovers in mind when planning your week's menu. Let's all get in the habit to save the food (leave's DEC's website).

Traveling to the store -- shop with a friend - you can save gas by carpooling and split buy one/get one free deals - and it's more fun! Other ways to shop:

  • Local and close to home. Also combine trips and errands to save both time and fuel. Be a locavore - someone who shops local food items!
  • Local farmers markets for produce, honey, maple syrup, and more in-state staples.
  • On your way home from work - if that avoids making another trip and if a store is in route.

Serving up savings -- save money and reduce waste by using reusable tableware and containers instead of repeat purchasing of disposable products. Try cooking one-skillet meals and casseroles to save on dishes - and subsequently water. Get your family involved in shopping, meal selection, cooking, and clean-up. Fussy eaters are more prone to eating items they helped select and prepare.

Like our packaging reduction tip? Then visit this page next month was we explore more about eliminating plastic use and making the switch to reusable and refillable products. Remember to share your greengrocer tips with us using #LiveGreenNY.