How To Be A Better Consumer

How To Be A Better Consumer

Where you choose to shop is importantIt doesn’t take a genius to work out that your independent local grocer will care more about your business that the two dominant supermarket chains. By supporting the small guys with your shopping dollar, you’re disrupting the big supermarket stranglehold over farmers and growers. Even better in eliminating the steps between consumer and grower is to frequent accredited farmers markets, community co-operatives or farm gates but sooner or later you’re going to need toilet paper. Thankfully there is Who Gives A Crap, which is a great example of a socially responsible business fulfilling a basic human need. Smaller grocers will care more about you as their customer and often support local community groups in the process. Ask questions, demand action and vote with your dollar for the kind of system you want to be part Monday (or Tuesday, or Wednesday . . .)Meat production puts a range of stresses on our environment (greenhouse gas emissions, high water use, land degradation) so think about taking the pressure off a few nights a week. Increasing your consumption of legumes and other vegetable-based proteins will benefit your body as well as the environment.www.meatfreemondays.comEat foods as unprocessed as possibleWhen Michael Pollan said, ‘don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognise as food,’ he knew what he was talking about. Have you noticed that if you walk around the edges of the big supermarkets the food products are the least processed? This is a good starting point. Eating foods that have gone through as few processes as possible is better for your body as well as the environment. Less transformations means less energy used, less chance for wastage and generally is also cheaper.Embrace the buzz words – local, seasonal, ethical, organicLocal – Prioritising the locally grown means you recognise the energy spent bringing a product to the consumer is part of a greater cost than simply the dollar value. Even if you don’t consider the food miles, do it for your taste buds. Fresher product that has travelled less is always going to taste better. It’s just common sense that ordering seafood hundreds of kilometers from the coast isn’t a great idea.Seasonal – Celebrating the seasons will not only add variety to your diet but will lessen the drain on your finances as well. Tomatoes grow more easily in summer (and have higher nutritional value) but during winter require more resources to produce resulting in a higher cost and an inferior taste.Ethical – Stopping to think about where things come from is the first step, and thankfully it’s getting easier to decipher the route products make on their way to us. Respect for all involved, fair pay and a transparent process are key parts of an ethical approach to consumption.Organic – Organic farming systems respect the animal and the soil, ensuring a more sustainable farming your food wasteAvoiding buying food that you don’t need will save you money but also think about using all of the items you buy. Use vegetable trimmings for stock, get creative with leftovers for another meal a few days later and understand that best before dates are suggestions only.Compost your food waste. Whether you choose a worm farm, compost bin in your backyard or contribute to a community level compost system, your waste can be transformed into more soil, rich in nutrients. Which leads me to my next point –Yes, in your own backyardYou’d be surprised what you can grow in your own backyard. For the lowest food miles, get busy gardening. It’s easy to grow in a range of greens even if you only have room for pots. Harvest just what you need, getting the most nutrients possible as the time from picking to plate is mere minutes. Also, it will give you a real appreciation of the effort involved in growing things.Plastic exists forever. Yes, forever Go beyond bringing your own shopping bags. Choose products with the least amount of packaging. Bulk produce stores are your best bet for buying grains, nuts, dried fruit, seeds and legumes. Bring your own containers to bulk produce stores as well as butchers and delicatessens. It may take a few words of education on your behalf but any shopkeeper worth their salt will support your choice. You may not feel comfortable unpacking produce at the big supermarket and leaving it behind as some protestors do but you can choose not to use the plastic produce bags provided. Bringing your own take away coffee cup, water bottle and reusable containers is gladly becoming a more common, reuse, recycleI’m going to add another one – Refuse, as in refuse extra packaging, refuse to participate in a system of mindless consumption, refuse to buy more than you really need.Reduce the number of products to those that you really need. It can be tricky in this capitalist society to ignore the constant advertising we are bombarded with, but you can simply ask yourself if you need an item before buying it.Reusing items means sometimes repairing or repurposing something from its current state. An item may no longer have use for you but maybe someone you know could use it. Some communities have lending libraries you may be able to donate to, or you could advertise the item on social media in a buy, swap, sell group.Recycling is an important step but one of last resort. Check out your local councils recycling facilities.

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