Sustainable Consumer Tips

shopping for milk at the grocery store

Select fresh, simple foods from each food group

Sustainable Consumer Tips

Consumers can participate in sustainable food practices by understanding the types of food they buy, how it is packaged, how to best store the products at home, how much to serve and how to manage waste. The following tips are relatively simple yet significant steps to help the environment:

  • Select fresh, simple foods with minimal ingredients from the food groups: Dairy; Vegetables; Fruits; Grains; and Protein are always good choices. These are nutrient-rich foods that offer a high ratio of key nutrients to calories. However, fresh is not always best if it will be wasted. It's better to use frozen and canned foods if this reduces food waste.
  • Eat just the amount of food you need to sustain your appetite and health; this will help to sustain the environment. Selecting food portions consistent with MyPlate is a way to achieve this goal. By not overeating you can reduce cost, waste and your waist line.
  • Whenever possible, buy foods in season, from local sources, with minimal packaging and fewer ingredients.
  • Minimize food waste by planning meals in advance and using a shopping list. Buy only as much food as you can eat before the expiration date. For tips on buying, storing and handling milk, click here.
  • Compost and recycle food waste.
  • Cook food in ways that maximize food safety but minimize energy used. Use a small amount of water when boiling vegetables; use a toaster oven or microwave to reheat leftovers rather than heating up the big oven.
  • Store food in ways that minimize energy use. Make sure the refrigerator and freezer are set at the right temperature. Clean refrigerator coils based on the manufacturer's recommendations to reduce energy used.
  • Whenever possible, use reusable food storage containers rather than plastic storage bags.
  • Keep reusable grocery bags in your car to use when grocery shopping.
  • Maintain a well-stocked pantry to reduce trips to the store.
  • Develop creative ways to use leftovers or foods that may soon be spoiled: good options include soups, casseroles, applesauce and banana bread.

For additional tips and ideas on sustainability at home, read Going Green: How to Make Your Plate Sustainable.