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Why do we all end up doing unsustainable grocery shopping?

Nowadays we live in an era where everything that seems or sounds sustainable is considered good for our health and the environment. Still, we struggle to change our routines and adapt them to new healthier actions. Every time we wander around a grocery store, we tend to stick to our food routines and always opt for the same products, rarely evaluating the sustainable component and their environmental impact. We may change our grocery list only once the price component is impacted. 

What if tomorrow your favourite cereals were at a doubled price?

And the reason behind this increase in price would be due to the change to a more sustainable packaging? Would you still buy your favourite cereals? As mentioned in our mission statement, ONSU works on the root problems that cause unsustainable actions.  We don’t blame the consumers, the grocery stores or the factories involved in the process. The main problem resides in the overall communication and distribution of sustainable actions. Too little action is taken individually, resulting in a negative impact on the overall value food chain and in a negative influence on the steps for which each stakeholder is responsible.

To give you an example of individual actions, if the grocery store places products with short expiration days out on the shelves too late, they might not reach enough consumers in time – resulting in food waste. 

To expose another problem related to a more steps-consequential impact on the food chain, if consumers don’t recycle properly the different packaging, the recycling landfill will need more time and workforce to separate all items properly.

Oftentimes, among all stakeholders, the intentions and willingness in making a positive impact on the environment are far-reaching. However, none of such stakeholders actually ends up making a conscious sustainable decision. As shown below, in all European countries the gap between consumers’ intentions and actual actions is consistent (Kearney Analysis). 

Let’s focus on the consumer journey first. How can you as a consumer hijack your unsustainable grocery habits without paying more for a sustainable product?

Start to look into your garbage!

This means that you should be aware of what you eat and in which quantities. If you notice that you consume large quantities of yoghurt or almonds, instead of keeping buying sized portions you could buy in bulk.

Why would you buy 6 jars of yoghurt when you can buy directly one big 1kg jar? With this in mind, you could still buy your favourite cereals…

The idea here is not to be obsessed with your shopping list but to adopt minimum changes that could reduce the waste of both food and packaging materials, without changing your food habits.

Too good to go or grocery boxes!

Finally, a trend that works! Too good to go (https://toogoodtogo.com/) has been one of the most impactful sustainable companies of last years, with their objective of making food eaten, instead of wasted.  In Europe,  each citizen wastes averagly around 92kg of food every year (Condamine, 2020).

In this sense, also supermarkets have started taking action, like Lidl (https://www.lidl.com), with its  “too good to waste” box, which contains all imperfect, nearing-expiration or fresh products at a cheaper price.

“ If in doubt, throw it out “

Many supermarkets are now starting to use new labels to better express food quality and its expiration date, such as: 

  • “use-by” 
  • “sell-by”
  • “best before”

By being more precise about the expiration date, less food is wasted. So when in doubt, don’t immediately throw it out! Additionally, always check the expiration date when you’re doing your groceries, so you don’t buy in-large-quantities products that will be expired soon.

To conclude, it is now more important than ever to be acknowledged about daily habits, as a consumer, and food chain structure, as a company, to start building your sustainable path in the nearest future.

How would you rate your current grocery lifestyle? 

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