9 Ways to Reduce Your Foodprint

One industry that has struggled to become more sustainable is the supermarket.

Between the pursuit of meeting customer demands year-round and with as many products as possible, supermarkets remain one of the highest greenhouse polluters of any commercial enterprise. 

According to the EPA, each supermarket accounts for around 1900 tons of carbon emissions annually. For comparison, that equals the amount of carbon produced by 360 passenger cars each year. 

So does this mean we have to ditch the grocery store to meet our goal of shopping sustainably? No. 

Instead, by altering our shopping habits, we can encourage more sustainable grocery shopping and allow grocery stores to react to that demand. 

Of course, some supermarket emissions will be required to cool and store food. However, we can all make a big difference by following some of the steps we list below. 

To learn more about this relationship, let’s look at how food impacts your carbon footprint, otherwise known as your foodprint. 

What Is Your “Foodprint?”

1. Calculating Your Foodprint

Like your carbon footprint, your foodprint tracks your total carbon emissions from the foods you eat. 

Many things contribute to your carbon foodprint, including where you source your food, what type of food you eat, and how much of it you waste.  Food packaging and seasonality can also impact your footprint. 

To calculate your carbon foodprint, we recommend using this calculator from Harvard, which tells you how much water, nitrogen, and carbon is required to sustain your diet monthly. The answer might just surprise you.

Your Diet's Annual Environmental Impact







74kg of Carbon is below the US national per capita average of 1750kg carbon emissions every year and also below the 680kg maximum upper limit of a sustainable diet necessary to prevent climate catastrophe.

For your reference, emitting 74kgs of Carbon is equivalent to burning 9 gallons of gasoline or melting 1 cubic feet of polar ice every year. 357g of Nitrogen waste is equivalent to emitting an additional 106kgs of carbon or polluting an additional 8 pounds of fertilizer every year. 67,368L of water consumption is equivalent to using 1 bathtubs of water every day!

Looking for ways to improve your diet’s sustainability? Meat and dairy production account for three-fourths of all carbon emissions from an average American diet and are also the two highest sources of water usage in food production. For a seven day meal plan with recipes and tons of other good stuff, check out these recommendations from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health on consuming a healthy and Earth-friendly diet.

2. Limit Your Perishables

Another reason to plan meals is to avoid buying perishables with low shelf lives. 

While you may be tempted to line your grocery cart with fresh foods and perishables, we recommend limiting the number of perishables you buy to avoid wasting food you might not use. 

Read our blog on reducing your food waste for more tips related to perishables. 

3. Purchase Seasonal Foods

One way to limit the number of foods you buy is to buy seasonal produce. 

Unfortunately, off-season produce typically requires greenhouses for growing or is shipped from overseas, driving up the amount of carbon required to produce them. 

So to help you eat healthier and reduce your carbon foodprint, we recommend buying locally grown and seasonal foods. 

4. Look Where Foods Are Sourced

This leads us to another important tip, which is to look at where your foods are sourced. While food transportation accounts for a small piece of the carbon puzzle, it can nonetheless help you reduce your carbon footprint by purchasing locally. 

Besides, local foods like honey and produce have been proven to be healthier, more nutrient-dense, and better for your immune system. Plus, they are traditionally cheaper. 

5. Look for Ugly Foods

However, if cost is a major obstacle, you can save serious money on produce by purchasing ugly foods. Ugly foods are simply perishable items that supermarkets throw out because they have some flaws in them.

Ugly foods are 100% healthy and nutritious and can be purchased at a discount. If your supermarket doesn’t offer ugly foods, you can look online for ugly food delivery services, such as Misfits Market, which offers monthly baskets with fresh, locally-sourced produce.

6. Purchase Foods in Bulk

Another way to save money and cut your carbon footprint is to buy foods in bulk. 

Bulk buying reduces grocery store visits, reduces the need for packaging, and helps you stock your pantry full of staples.

7. Bring Reusable Grocery Bags

Speaking of packaging, plastic grocery bags can be a massive source of pollution. That’s why we recommend purchasing your reusable grocery bags and purchasing loose foods when possible to reduce the amount of plastic you consume. 

In fact, many chains, from Aldis to Trader Joe’s, already require reusable grocery bags and have cut out plastic altogether. As of 2021, eight states had banned the use of plastic bags in grocery and convenience stores.

8. Opt for Plant-Based Meals

Another way to promote sustainable grocery shopping is to choose plant-based meals. 

According to one study, meat and dairy accounted for 60% of all carbon emissions from food production. 

Reducing meat and dairy intake is integral to promoting a low-carbon diet and helping reduce your carbon footprint. 

9. Find a Sustainable Grocery Store

Finally, consider shopping at a greener grocery store. 

Green grocery stores are a hot new trend led by supermarkets such as Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.

In addition, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and purchasing from local farmers are great ways to support local agriculture, buy seasonally, and promote sustainable grocery shopping. 

If you’re interested in finding more ways to support sustainable grocery stores, research what stores are the most eco-friendly near you and ways to source your food locally, including growing your own food. 

If one industry has been slow to react to the green movement, it’s been grocery stores. However, by promoting sustainable grocery shopping habits, we can influence grocery stores to go greener and also reduce our carbon footprint. 

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