Let’s Make Smart, Sustainable Shopping Our Future

In a society where we’ve become overwhelmed with choice and information, we could all do with a little helping hand to becoming more eco-friendly in how we shop, writes Jack Wynn

Image credit: Pixabay. Shoppers in the UK are purchasing less meat and sustainable alternatives for a more eco-friendly environment

Considering eco-friendly alternatives and shopping more sustainably has taken over retail conversation in the UK. Supermarkets and other retailers are setting goals to adapt and it seems shoppers are becoming more concerned about their carbon footprint. Statista agrees; their survey from June 2019 on food shopping habits reveals 30% of more than 1,000 respondents were buying less meat in an effort to becoming more sustainable; 44% purchasing seasonal produce; and 53% buying ‘wonky’, misshapen fruit and veg. 

Yet, with the likes of Sainsbury’s admitting to getting through more than 120,000 tonnes of plastic packaging every year, there’s still lots more work to be done to achieve a more eco-friendly shopping experience. Jack Wynn spoke with food waste campaigners and business owners to find out how consumers can take action and lead the way to an improved future. 

Jo Hand, founder of Giki, an app which holds sustainability information on over 280,000 supermarket products. Giki also helps consumers make smart choices on their environmental impact via a range of data sources including government guidelines and scientific research. “As we become more aware of the urgency to act on climate change and biodiversity loss, addressing what we eat is a key area where we can reduce our own environmental impact; eating more plants and less meat is a good step to take,” says Jo, as she goes on to explain the financial benefits to food sustainability. “The food and drink we consume makes up around a quarter of our total environmental impact and choosing sustainable food is a really good way to reduce our impact. In addition, a sustainable diet can cost less than a regular one, due to the reduction in meat and cheese which tend to be an expensive component of the weekly shop.”

Natasha Tyler, founder of The Kind Store, believes vegan is the best solution. She says,”Generally, when people become vegan, their diet is the first thing they change and then start to look at health and beauty products. It’s important to look further than nutrition when you think of veganism and plant-based living. Animal suffering and pollution are two causes that are close to my heart.” Natasha also says that it’s easy to make progressive changes, “I believe everybody can make a difference and we all have the power to instigate change. By making small achievable changes to our daily life, we will have a big impact on the environment, animals and ourselves. Where we spend our money will shape the world we live in.” 

Image credit: The Kind Store. Natasha Tyler, the company’s founder, believes a switch to becoming vegan is the best solution to improve sustainability

Rebecca Dallimore, co-founder of Conscious House London, says the natural route is the best way for her business and others to make a significant impact. “Our industry is plagued with plastic packaging and toxic ingredients, as well as very expensive naturals so we sought to create affordable, plant-based alternatives that also came in responsible packaging.” Businesses must also be proactive in reaching out to their customers with key eco-friendly information, as Rebecca explains. “Brands that are more than just a retailer; we hope to use the brand as a platform to arm people with the knowledge needed to make more sustainable choices. Often, it’s hard to make product choices without a guide so through our blogs, newsletters and social media as well as some future workshops and events we hope to share our experience and insights with our customers so they feel confident making more conscious choices.”

Bill Newbrough, founder of the JungleVine® Foundation, an initiative that originates from Laos and claims to create the most eco-friendly bags on earth, says, “Changing our habits is hard, and change starts with taking a hard look at an item we are all familiar with: our grocery bag”, says Bill as he discusses the easy transition from plastic to sustainable bags, “Among the plastics commonly found in marine animals are straws and plastic bags. Both items we can collectively stop using, considering there are more sustainable options out there. There is no doubt – from both an ecological and economical point of view – that textiles made from hemp are a vast improvement over cotton. However, JungleVine® fibre far exceeds even hemp as an environmentally-friendly alternative.” 

Zoe Morrison, author of Eco Thrifty Living, runs her own website and is currently writing another book on how to reduce food waste. “Look outside the supermarkets for bulk, local, seasonal and less packaged food,” says Zoe as she suggests how consumers can find some hidden gems online. “You can also look on websites that sell food either that’s near or past its best, e.g. Approved Foods, Love Health Hate Waste and apps like Karma and Too Good To Go. Olio is another app where you help divert food waste, this time for free as people list food to give away on here.”