Monday, March 12, 2012

Decrease your Carbon Footprint by Buying in Bulk

Many packaged foods travel across the globe several times before they finally reach your pantry.

Bulk bins at a market.
Buying from bulk bins is better for the environment.

Watch the steam rise from your coffee. As you pour a packet of sugar into it, ask yourself, “Where did that sugar come from?”

If you happen to live in Hawaii, you can probably say it was grown around the corner and refined just down the street. But if you want white sugar from that same grower, it also has to be shipped to the California refinery, then to New York for packaging.

By the time it reaches your table in Hawaii, the sugar that was grown around the corner had to travel 10,000 miles to get to you.

Not every food is as extreme as this example, but neither is it uncommon for goods to travel across the country several times before they actually reach you. Every step along this packaging roadway adds more miles to the food we eat.

Among the jungle of boxes, bags and plastic foam in your local market, there often sits an array of bulk bins happily providing food without the excess packaging, which cuts down on emissions and packaging materials. Plus, unlike buying pre-packaged goods, you can get exactly the amount you want. And if the clerk is nice enough, you might even be able to sample what you want before you buy it.

Buying in bulk might be intimidating at first, but the variety of whole foods is often greater than the shelved items in the grocery store and, ultimately, it’s better for the environment.

— Matt Keen, dietetic intern, and Debra A. Boutin, MS, RD, chair and dietetic internship director, Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Bastyr University.

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