Did you know that in the USA, each person produces on average 221 kg of plastic waste per year?

A gif of a garbage site with lots of plastic waste.

That's more weight than the average Atlantic white-sided dolphin!

So what can you do to contribute to a more sustainable solution?

By changing the way you shop and cook, you can help save the planet for generations to come!

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Shop Sustainably at the Grocery Store

Living a sustainable lifestyle can happen in many places, but you can start at the grocery store.


Shop Locally

If you're able, try to shop locally from farmers markets, smaller stores, and vendors in your area. Food from outside your local area has to be shipped and transported to your nearest supermarket.

Curbing the transportation of your food will help limit the amount that transportation contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, which reached 29% of total emissions in the United States in 2021.

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Bring Reusable Shopping Bags

Every year, 5 trillion — 5,000,000,000,000! — plastic bags are made worldwide. In the United States alone, 100 billion — 100,000,000,000! — plastic bags are thrown away into the garbage every year.

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Recycling these plastic bags is no better. When plastic bags go through recycling machines, they tangle and break the machinery, and they're often not picked up because the sensors don't recognize the color of the bag.

It's important to limit this kind of single-use plastic, so if you don't have reusable bags, you can use produce boxes if your grocery store provides them!

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Shop Seasonally

Relying on the food from your area that's available in season limits the transportation of food from other countries.

Buying local, seasonal food also means that fewer preservatives will come with your food. So, buying seasonal groceries is not only more sustainable, but healthier!

Find seasonally available food in the USA here. 👈

Sustainability Includes Food Storage

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Keep Your Food from Spoiling

When covering the food you've partly eaten or just cooked, avoid using plastic wrap. Research has found that 80 million Americans over a 6-month period in 2019 had used at least one roll of plastic wrap, while another 5.3 million used 10 or more boxes.

Instead, you can use a variety of alternatives, like:

  • silicone bowl covers

  • beeswax wraps

  • other storage containers

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Buy Bulk

Buying bulk, or buying food in larger quantities, is a great way to live sustainably. If you decide to buy bulk, consider freezing the food you won't eat so you don't waste it. You can get creative with your food storage by:

  • canning

  • drying

  • pickling various meats, fruits, and vegetables

Two Portlandia characters saying,

This is a great way to prevent food from going to waste, but you can always just eat it if you have an opportunity to.

Check out more food preservation ideas that are seasonal! 👈

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Consider Composting

When food goes bad or you have food scraps, compost it if you can — especially if you have some flowerpots or a small vegetable or fruit garden. It's another great way to be more sustainable.

Composting allows food to return to the earth instead of a dump site where decomposition may take longer. You can use this compost for replenishing nutrients in the soil. This will make the food in your garden more nutritious, and your plants healthier, too.


Your friend, Jon, has some fruit that will be going bad soon. He asks you for help. What would you recommend? Select all that apply.

Cook Sustainably, Too!

Plan Your Meals

Scooby from Scooby-Doo carrying a very full plate with food.

Meal planning is a great way to save money (by not buying take-out), but it's also super sustainable because it eliminates the single-use paper and plastic products that delivery and take-out restaurants use.

By planning out your meals, you can use those ingredients that may be going bad before they go to waste.

Cook in Bulk

kid stirring a big pot.

If you like saving time and don't mind having the same meal multiple times, cooking in bulk helps you live sustainably. By cooking in large batches, you save energy, which means that you aren't producing as many harmful greenhouse gases.

With all that extra time, you can think up some pretty tasty and creative recipes, or even make recipes using chatGPT!

Cut Down on Meats and Dairy

Cookie monster pushing vegetables away.

If you're anything like me (and the Cookie Monster above), this may be a hard step. However, animals often produce more harmful greenhouse gases like methane and nitrous oxides, so by not eating these foods, your carbon footprint decreases.

You can consider meat alternatives. However, these are made in factories and produce a lot of waste, too, making them not a great choice for sustainably.

But, if you shop locally and buy seasonal fish or high-protein vegetables available in your area, you can choose more sustainable goods for cooking.

Take Action

You might feel a lot of fear, stress, and guilt when you try to live a sustainable lifestyle, and that's ok! Remember that you're only human and you're trying your best.

Bottles excited to be getting refilled with the caption 'refill, reuse'.

If you make one small step every day, it helps. Your future self and future generations will thank you for it.

Here are some other things you can do moving forward:


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