Wondering what it takes to eat sustainably? You’re not alone! This question is so relevant now, we added a class to our annual Return to Learn schedule dedicated to helping our associates learn about the topic. While participants may have been surprised how complicated building a sustainable meal can be, our sustainability coordinator helped them navigate the complexities so they could make informed decisions while shopping and cooking. Check out these tips so you can, too!
When you’re building a sustainable meal, start by asking yourself: Which part of the food system do I care the most about, and how much energy can I reasonably spend to understand this issue? Knowing what you value will help guide you through the marketplace.
There are essentially seven key parts of the food system. Which ones speak to you?
Growing: If you care that the growers picking produce often make 1 cent of every dollar, learn what organic means and why the added expense also offers added value.
Processing: If you care how much the food is handled before it reaches your plate, learn about companies that have vertical integration with a product being grown and processed in the same area.
Packaging: If you care about the amount of plastic that is wrapped around your food, seek out companies that have crafted the packaging of their item with recyclability in mind.
Distribution/Transportation: If you care about the number of miles that food travels or about getting produce at its peak freshness, learn about eating seasonally.
Retail: If you care about giving your money to companies that take care of their communities, learn more about the retailers you buy groceries from—do they provide full benefits for their associates, take care of the communities where they’re located or work closely with the farmers growing your food? (Fun fact: Sonoma Market and Nugget Markets do all of the above!)
Consumption: If you care about the fact that 40% of all food grown in the US is thrown away, learn why so much winds up in the waste bin and what you can change in your buying habits to lessen what gets thrown away at home.
Waste: If you care about climate change and decreasing overall greenhouse gas levels, learn why getting food waste out of the landfills is so important.
This may seem like a lot of information to work with and balance, mainly because it is. That’s the thing about sustainability—there aren’t any “right” answers because it’s all about trade-offs. The best anyone can do is weigh the options and do their best maximize the positives and minimize the negatives.
In short, the best way to go about building a sustainable meal is twofold: know your values and start small. Take stock of the staple items in your refrigerator and pantry and choose one to investigate and learn more about beyond just the price tag—who made or grew it, where it came from, what the producer supports, how it’s packaged and so on. Learning about these things won’t just help you make informed choices you can feel good about, but also make a real difference with your purchasing power.
Want to learn more? Talk to the Green Guru at Sonoma Market or email our sustainability coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.