Tips for Earth Day: Ways to shop green at the grocery store

One way you may celebrate Earth Day is eating “green.” In theory, it should be an easy way to consume a healthy diet while protecting the planet. In reality, shopping for food that’s good for the environment involves deciphering marketing buzzwords and understanding seals and certifications.

Before you hit the supermarket, here are the Better Business Bureau’s tips to ensure the foods you buy are really good for the environment — and part of a healthy diet.

— Understand what “organic” means. Whether a product carries the US Department of Agriculture’s organic seal or simply uses the word “organic” on the product label, by United States federal law it is required to meet the USDA standards on how foods are processed, crops are farmed, farm animals are raised and which types of ingredients are used in the final product. You can learn more about what exactly “organic” means in an article from Consumer Reports.

— Get to know green marketing terms. Many green marketing terms, such as “pesticide-free,” “non-toxic,” “free of,” “biodegradable,” and “made with renewable energy,” are unregulated and, therefore, not very meaningful. The Federal Trade Commission makes this recommendation: “When you shop, look for specific information on packages and products that explains why the product is getting a green promotion.” If a product doesn’t include details about what exactly the term means, you likely will want to choose another one.

— Look for legitimate seals. Third-party organizations, like Forest Stewardship Council, TransFair USA and Rainforest Alliance, certify that specific types of products are grown or produced in an eco-friendly manner. For example, for meat and milk from cows who have been 100 percent free-range grass grazers their whole life, you should look for products with the American Grassfed seal. Real Simple covers top eco-friendly labels and what they certify at

— Minimize your intake of processed foods. The World Wildlife Fund reminds consumers that because of emissions created and nutritional quality lost in the process, “the more processed a food is, the greater its environmental impact.” So cut back on processed foods where you can and up your intake of fresher/minimally processed foods to reduce your impact on the environment.

— Look for environment-friendly packaging. How food is grown or produced isn’t the only concern of environmentally conscious shoppers. Product packaging also matters. Products labeled as biodegradable or compostable should provide specific information, such as how quickly packaging will biodegrade in a landfill. Alternatively, choosing products with recyclable packing can reduce the amount of waste that ends up in a landfill in the first place. However, keep in mind that certain kinds of recyclable packaging may not be recyclable in your area. You can find out about local recycling options from your city or county government. See the recycling seals and what they mean at

— Bring reusable grocery bags. Instead of loading your purchases into plastic grocery bags you’ll simply throw away when you get home, bring reusable grocery bags to reduce your impact on the environment. , some grocery stores offer consumers the option to bring used plastic bags back to the store after use for recycling.

— Avoid wasting food. To fight food waste, recommends planning your meals, storing your food properly, canning or preserving extra produce, and sending extra food to food pantries for those in need. Reducing waste is always good for the planet.

You can find more Better Business Bureau tips on going green on our GreenHQ at

— Speaking of celebrating Earth Day — Better Business Bureau’s Shred Days are here.

Your Better Business Bureau is partnering with River City Shredding, Coca-Cola, Resource 1 Tier 3 Data Security and the Hamilton County Coalition to bring you these free events.

The public is invited to bring up to three trash bags of documents to be shredded on the spot by River City Shredding, a local professional document destruction company. You can also bring hard drives for destruction, computers and monitors for recycling and unneeded prescription drugs for safe disposal.

— The shredding will be from 9-11:30 am Saturday at Coca-Cola, located at 2111 W. Shepherd Road (near the intersection of Shepherd Road and Highway 153) in Chattanooga. This is a new event location.

Please note: you’re encouraged to come during the earlier hours for document shredding, as that portion of the event could stop earlier than 11:30 am if the shredding trucks fill to capacity.

More details are available at

Michele Mason is vice president of the Better Business Bureau for Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia.


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