Choices. They’re something we make every single day of our lives. What to wear, what to buy, what to eat, and what to do…
Sometimes those decisions are tougher than others, for instance when you go grocery shopping and are trying to both be healthy (by purchasing organic foods) and reduce plastic packaging. In a perfect world I’d be able to do both without a problem, but this isn’t a perfect world and sometimes a choice has to be made between purchasing organic potatoes in a plastic bag vs. conventional (read: pesticide infused) potatoes loose.
I’ve encountered these conundrums so many times that I’ve had to take a hard look at my priorities when it comes to food as well as other purchases.
What do you put first, the health of your body, or the health of the planet? The organic potatoes aren’t covered in pesticides, thereby better tasting and much better for my health…but they came wrapped in a plastic bag which isn’t so good for the planet. On the other hand I had conventional potatoes, loose, without plastic, but not as great for my health. Then there’s always the problems the pesticides and herbicides have had on the planet through runoff and poisoning the ground. Organic ones are produced sustainably and so don’t have that effect. But sometimes the miles they’ve traveled to get to my local store are more than conventional potatoes….can you see my dilemma?
Which would you choose?
I went with the organic ones even though they were wrapped in plastic.
For me it all comes down to my priorities. When I go shopping I ask myself a few things..
- How was this item made/grown?
- Will consuming it benefit me or hurt my health in any way?
- How is it packaged? If it is packaged, is the packaging sustainable?
- If it’s not the best packaging (which would be no packaging at all) and I still want to buy it, is the packaging easily reusable/recyclable?
- Considering all of the above, do I feel comfortable spending money (which is essentially casting a vote telling the producer to make more of said item) on the item in question?
Now from this list you can see a few things.
Firstly, my health and the health of the planet are my top priorities, but when I have to choose between the two of them, MY health comes first. I’m not saying the health of the planet is a secondary consideration, or unimportant, but when I have to make tough decisions my personal health tends to come first in my own priorities.
So, when I bought the potatoes I was mainly looking at my own health, but I also thought about how them being grown organically, thereby having a much better impact on the planet as opposed to conventionally grown potatoes, was probably enough to offset the environmental cost of one plastic bag and twist tie.
Honestly, when I looked at the bags I figured I could at least reuse it for dipping cat litter, but alas all of the bags had holes in them. So, unfortunately said bag went straight from the store into my measly trash can after removing the potatoes.
Was this the right decision?
Some may say no, that I should’ve avoided the plastic at all costs, and others may say I could’ve found a way around it by buying from a farmers market, etc. (unfortunately 1. Potatoes are not in season at the market, and 2. Most of the vendors at said market spray pesticides on their produce as well)
Anyway, for me it was the right decision, because I have defined my priorities when it comes to consuming and purchasing goods. Take a peek at the top 5…
- My health ALWAYS comes first. Period. Simply because I’m a firm believer that we are what we eat, and I would rather avoid the doctor’s office it at all possible. A healthy body is less prone to sickness and disease.
- Next is the planet. Now this and number one usually align pretty well, and sometimes it isn’t as black and white as it seems between thinking about shipping miles and packaging and ethical sourcing, etc. But I try my best to put the health and well-being of our lovely planet next on the list. Ex: No packaging is best, but Glass and metal are better than plastic, which is slightly better than Styrofoam, etc.
- Budget. Quite honestly some would argue this should be first, but I put it third. Not to say I ever go outside of my budget, but more wiggle things around WITHIN it. For example, I might forgo getting a jar of juice one week in lieu of purchasing the organic apples over the conventional ones, etc. An easy way to stay within your budget is to evaluate every purchase and decide if you really need said item.
- Supporting local stores/farmers. It’s best to try and buy locally for many reasons, but sometimes they don’t meet the three above priorities and that’s why they are number four on the list.
- When in doubt, make your own. Grow your own food if possible, make beauty products, etc.
This is my list, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it is a bit different from your own. Each one of us has to make the decisions about what is most important to us. It’s not a bad thing if your list is different from my own, just different 🙂
So when I do go shopping, either online or in a market or brick and mortar store, this is the list I go by to make my purchases. I always feel extra lucky if I can at least fulfill the first 3 priorities at the same time, but sometimes sacrifices will be made.
But having defined my list makes shopping much easier, as I now have a definitive ranking system to weigh my options with. So the next time I’m wavering between buying different soaps or pieces of fruit, I will be at ease with my decisions.
I’d love to hear about your lists of priorities when it comes to shopping! Are they similar? Different? What’s your number one priority?