April is Earth Month, a time to focus on going green and making more sustainable choices that are better for us and the planet. With the effects of global warming becoming clearer each day, it’s important for each of us to implement ecofriendly habits. Even small changes can make a big impact over time.
Supporting food cooperatives is a great place to start, and our mission at the Nashville Food Co-op is to one day provide local, seasonal, and consciously sourced food and products to the community. Food co-ops have a much smaller environmental impact than traditional grocery stores. From partnering with local farmers and producing less carbon emissions to better recycling practices and food waste initiatives, food co-ops have always kept a focus on sustainability.
See also: Why Nashville Needs a Food Co-op
We’re still in the early stages of growing the membership needed to open Nashville’s first food co-op, but there are still plenty of ways to go green in the meantime:
1. Decrease Food Waste
Nearly 40% of all food grown in the United States is thrown away, and most of that occurs on the consumer end, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. That means regular households are throwing away more food than growers, grocery stores, and even restaurants. When you break down the numbers, that’s about a pound of food per person thrown away each day. Yikes!
Without proper planning, food waste can easily happen at home. Use these tips to reduce the amount of food you toss:
- Be realistic with meal planning.
- Only buy enough food for what you’ll have time to prepare throughout the week.
- Shop your fridge and pantry first and build a weekly menu around what’s already on hand.
- Learn how to properly store food to extend its shelf life.
- Find creative ways to transform leftovers and unused ingredients into other meals.
On a grocery store level, only 36% of conventional stores have a composting program in place, while 74% of food co-operatives regularly compost their food waste. Composting keeps food scraps out of landfills, where it would otherwise rot and release methane gas. You’d be surprised at what items can be composted other than food — soiled napkins, pet hair, and dryer lint to name a few.
Don’t have room or the means to build your own compost station at home? Check out Compost Nashville for pick-up service. We’re thrilled with recent efforts to make Nashville a greener city, and can’t wait to do our part when we finally open.
3. Eat More Plant-based Foods
Fruits and vegetables need fewer natural resources to grow, and they also emit less greenhouse gas emissions compared to animals and animal products.
Most Americans aren’t eating enough produce, so there’s never been a better time to add more plant-forward meals into the weekly rotation.
There’s no need to go completely vegan or vegetarian if you love meat. According to the Environmental Working Group, when a family of four eats plant-based meals for just one day a week, it’s equivalent to removing a car off the road for five weeks.
4. Shop the Bulk Aisle
Most food co-ops have an extensive bulk section. Shoppers can buy cooking oils, coffee, tea, beer, beans, grains, nuts, rice, spices, dried fruits…and the list just keeps going. Buying only the amount needed from the bulk section not only reduces food waste, but it reduces packaging waste as well.
Nearly half of all plastic manufactured is used for food packaging — grocery sacks, bottles, jars, and wraps. Bringing your own reusable bag or container and shopping the bulk aisles can significantly decrease your plastic waste. Bonus points if you avoid fruit and veggies wrapped in plastic. Oh, and you’ll also be eating healthier in no time!
5. Choose Local
We’re looking forward to partnering with local farmers when it comes to stocking our shelves. This means more opportunities for growers to make an income AND seasonal, local and fresh produce for the community year-round. It also means reduced carbon emissions from otherwise long transports.
Food co-ops are committed to supporting the local economy, and becoming a member of the Nashville Food Co-op is a way to invest in YOUR community that will give back for generations to come.