20 February 2020, 09:33 AM
  • Sue Nelson, founder of The Foodtalk Show, offers some steps to become more sustainable
“Sustainable shopping? It’s in the bag”

Never before has the future of our planet been such a hot topic (sorry about the pun). It used to be the preserve of eco-warriors and well-meaning environmentalists, but now the message has firmly stuck that this is everyone’s responsibility. We can make our own impact on reducing plastic and carbon emissions through our behaviour at home, work, and of course choosing what to buy and where to shop. This is a huge advantage to independent retailers, with consumers actively looking to make a commitment to the environment. Below are some steps to consider in order to embrace the clear desire from shoppers to become more sustainable:

Eliminate plastic packaging wherever possible and have an area or aisle that is plastic-free. It is still almost impossible to have a store which is entirely free of plastic packaging, but if there is a marked area that does not contain plastic it will really help consumers who are determined to avoid this indestructible material.

Sell discounted produce that is not quite at its best. Imperfect, nearing-expiration or otherwise flawed fresh produce can be put into a “too good to waste” box at a decent price reduction. Introduce a scheme to donate food that would otherwise be thrown out to charities or producers that specialise in ‘food rescue’ (turning waste into other food products).

For items that are simply past redemption or other food waste produced in-store, introduce composting. Whole Foods Market use what they call a ‘Full Circle Composting’ programme, in which they take the compost from their stores and give it to local farmers.

Make recycling easier and help to cut down on food waste by allowing customers to pick their own quantities and sizes of fruit, vegetables and other products as much as possible. Consider introducing ‘refill points’ where they can bring their own containers or bottles to be refilled. You can get help in introducing these systems using companies such as Unpackaged.

Use local suppliers wherever possible to keep emissions down. Communicate your commitment to supporting local producers and farmers so customers know your policy on minimising transportation, so they can make purchase decisions on that basis. If your store includes local deliveries, ensure your vehicles are electric powered or at least hybrid.

Finally, if you have a food service section or café, make sure your cups and utensils are reusable or are free from plastic and compostable. Consumers want to make sustainable choices and the major supermarkets will take years to deliver better environmental credentials. Tesco, Morrisons and Asda have stated that all their packaging will be fully recyclable by 2025. Independent retailers will be able to beat them to it by a clear couple of years.

Sue Nelson presents the FoodTalk Show with Holly Shackleton foodtalk.co.uk

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