Think Green

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How to go green at the grocery store

While adopting an eco-friendly lifestyle might seem like a major commitment, many people find such an endeavor is far easier than they initially expected, as some relatively minor modifications here or there can make a substantial impact on the environment.

One of the easiest ways to go green is to make more eco-friendly choices at the grocery store. Shopping for and preparing meals can be done in an eco-friendly way, and men and women will be happy to know they're not only making changes that benefit the planet but their personal health as well. Here are some ideas for going green at the grocery store that do not require a big commitment.

* Begin in the produce aisle. When shopping for produce, stock up on plenty of organic fruits and vegetables, which are now readily available at many grocery stores. Stick to organic for the "dirty dozen" foods, those which are the most likely to have high levels of residual pesticides and herbicides. Even produce that is not labeled "organic" may be organic. To determine if it is, look at the sticker codes on the fruits and vegetables. A four-digit code means it was conventionally grown, while five-digit codes starting with an eight indicate genetically modified food. A five-digit code starting with nine indicates the item is organic. While shopping, ask the produce manager if the store sells locally grown produce, and purchase only those products when they are available.

* Buy only what you need. Shoppers are often tempted to go from aisle to aisle, buying items they both need and don't need. Caving in to such temptation can be wasteful unless items purchased have long shelf lives. Before visiting the store, make a shopping list and stick with it. Not only will you save money, but you will avoid throwing out spoiled foods as well.

* Purchase store-made items. If you're looking for deli meats or bread for dinner, visit the stores' bakeries, kitchens and delis, where employees cook foods right inside of the supermarket, a practice that cuts down on shipping of pre-made frozen foods produced elsewhere. Many stores carry their own homemade breads, cakes, doughnuts, dinner entrees, and sandwiches.

* Ask questions in the meat department. Don't be shy about asking store butchers where the beef and chicken for sale comes from. If the meat and poultry is not locally raised and all-natural, look for alternatives in the store or shop elsewhere.

* Shop only the perimeter of the store. Many stores stock dietary staples along the outer edges of the store. The interior bulk of the store contains packaged, processed foods that are not as eco-friendly.

* Buy in bulk whenever possible. Stock up on staples like toilet paper and other items. Bulk items are packaged together, which reduces the amount of packaging needed. Separate meat and poultry into smaller portion sizes at home before freezing.

* Bring reusable tote bags. Even though many plastic shopping bags are made from recycled materials, many of these bags end up in the trash after use. Reusable cloth bags are more eco-friendly. Just be sure to wash them frequently so you clean them of any bacteria that may accumulate over time.