As a conscious food shopper, you can support good, clean, and fair food with each purchase you make.
1 Opt for Organic and Sustainable
Select certified organic foods that are grown without harmful chemicals. Learn which conventionally grown fruits and vegetables are highest in pesticides (celery, peaches, strawberries, to name a few) and look for organic options. Whenever possible, go beyond organic labeling to buy local foods that you know are grown sustainably, with practices that are good for the land and fair to workers.
2 Read Labels
Understand what’s in processed food. Read the ingredients—fewer is usually better. Anna Lappé goes by the “thumb rule”: “If the ingredients list is longer than your thumb, put it down.” Avoid items that have ingredients that are difficult to pronounce or identify, such as partially hydrogenated oil and high-fructose corn syrup. “Don’t eat anything that your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food,” says Michael Pollan.
3 Be Kind to Animals
Eat less meat, and seek out humane animal products from local, sustainable farms. Learn what meat labels mean. Look for free-range chicken and eggs, grass-fed beef, and Marine Stewardship Council-certified fish. When purchasing meat, ask your farmer or butcher how the animals were raised. What do the animals eat? How much room do they have to move? Are they treated with hormones or antibiotics?
4 Support Fair Food
Learn which foods are sourced from other parts of the world, such as coffee, tea, chocolate, and bananas and choose Fair Trade Certified. The fair trade seal is awarded to producers who ensure safe labor conditions and a living wage for farmers and farm workers around the globe. When buying domestically and locally, ask about labor conditions and support producers who make worker rights and safety a priority.
5 Buy Fresh, Buy Local
Support regional farmers by shopping at a farmers market or farm stand for fresh, seasonal produce. Subscribe to a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program that provides regular produce deliveries direct from a farm. Whenever you shop, commit to buy at least one staple item, such as eggs or butter, from a local farm that you trust. Frequent small grocery stores and food co-ops that buy local.
6 Think Outside the Box
Reduce your packaging waste by avoiding items in boxes, bags, and wrappers. Buy unpackaged fresh produce and bread. Reuse glass jars and plastic bags, and bring your own shopping bags to the market. Buy items such as beans and grains from your grocery store’s bulk bins. You’ll save money and reduce waste.
- Organic Consumers Association: Resources and info on organics
- EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides: Wallet guide to pesticide-free fruits and vegetables
- Eat Wild: A guide to smart and safe meat and dairy sources
- Fair Trade USA: Learn more about fair trade products
- Local Harvest: Find CSAs and farmers markets in your area
- Food Co-Op Directory: Find a co-op in your area