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Apr 28, 2021

How to reduce waste as a consumer

Crisp’s mission, and a goal of many of our customers, is to reduce food waste. As a Product Manager at Crisp, this is something I think about regularly in the context of food retailers and CPG brands. But over the past year, I’ve also worked to address another source of food waste: my own behavior as a consumer.

My journey in reducing waste began with a challenge. In early 2020, after reading about the staggering number of coffee cups in landfills, I pledged to use only reusable mugs, bringing them with me wherever I went. COVID threw a wrench into that plan, as coffee shops and restaurants were forced to stop taking personal cups for safety reasons. So I resolved to find other ways to reduce my footprint -- and in honor of Stop Food Waste Day, I'd like to share what I’ve learned.

I’m particularly interested in the idea of waste reduction as an accessible, everyday option. If you look up the zero waste movement on Instagram, you’ll find a focus more on aesthetics than on actionable tips for every household. I don’t believe you should have to spend $200 on new tupperware to make a difference. On the contrary, reducing waste in bite sized increments every day adds up to a huge impact over time. While some cities have zero waste stores, for most people in the U.S., our grocery and household items are purchased through a major retailer. But it’s still possible to shop sustainably and reduce waste.

Here are some best practices I implemented this year:

Ditch disposable bags (really)

I cannot be the only person with 25 canvas tote bags in their closet. While I had the best intentions of using each one, I would often forget to grab them or go to the store on my way from doing other things and not have them in the car. I set out to make a foolproof plan to prevent any more bag waste. Now, I keep a laundry basket in the trunk of my car. I do not bag anything at the store, put everything back into the cart at checkout, and then load up the laundry basket with all my groceries. This not only works every time, but has also saved me a ton of time in the checkout process.

Skip packaging where you can

Wherever possible, I try to buy foods that require minimal packaging. Buy produce from the fresh section and check out the bulk foods section for pantry staples. Bring your own cloth or reused produce bags with you. At the store, you can also buy refill sizes for items like dish soap and detergent instead of a new smaller bottle. A number of brands have introduced innovative recyclable and plastic-free packaging, too, so look out for these products where you can.

Head to the farmers market

Farmers markets are a great option for fresh produce, especially with summer coming up. They also avoid food-related carbon sources (like a refrigerated section) which can account for up to 30% of carbon emissions for products like juice or alcohol. And because farmers markets eliminate certain costs and retail markups, the products are often cheaper. The USDA has a handy website to help you find your nearest market.

Shop based on the season

Seasonal produce offers the same ecological benefits as regional goods. They require less transportation and fewer preservatives. Plus, products that haven’t traveled from other climates will have a longer shelf life and are less likely to go bad in your refrigerator. Here are some seasonal favorites:

  • Spring: Celery, cabbage, carrots, limes, lemons, avocados, broccoli
  • Summer: Apples, berries, plums, okra, garlic, cucumbers, watermelons
  • Fall: Ginger, grapes, spinach, mangos, carrots, cauliflower, sweet potatoes
  • Winter: Turnips, kale, beets, oranges, grapefruit, pumpkins, pears

Look past the peel

Grocery stores end up throwing away food that does not sell well, is close to expiration, or is aesthetically damaged. I find myself picking out uglier produce as an attempt to prevent it being spoiled. Discount Supermarkets like Grocery Outlet often sell these products for cheaper and can be an affordable way to shop for groceries that may have otherwise been wasted. 

Retailers pay attention to where our dollars are spent, so I try to spend like it matters. To learn more about how you can take part in reducing food waste, visit https://www.stopfoodwasteday.com/ 

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