Coronavirus: Here’s how to have a safe, eco-friendly grocery shopping during COVID-19 outbreak

Coronavirus: Here’s how to have a safe, eco-friendly grocery shopping during COVID-19 outbreak

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, many of us are observing safe practices to avoid the risk of spreading the disease. People are advised to stay at home, practice physical distancing and wash their hands frequently. A lot of people have started working from home, taking online classes, and homeschooling the kids.

While our daily routines have drastically shifted in the past few weeks, one thing hasn’t changed: the need to eat. Fortunately, grocery stores and supermarkets have remained open, providing Canadians with daily essentials.

However, with experts saying people should avoid crowded places because of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, how should you handle grocery shopping? Is it safe to go out? Can I still shop while trying to be environmentally-friendly?

With containment measures well underway, grocery stores in the country have implemented unparalleled measures to prevent the spread of the virus. Cleaning and sanitation measures have been increased, dine-in and bulk sections were closed, and physical distancing rules such as marking spaces at check-out lines with floor stickers are being imposed.

My husband and I always make an effort to shop plastic-free, local, organic, and mostly vegetables. We also eat most of our meals at home. However, things have become a bit more challenging in the past few weeks. Like most people, we also went out to stock up on some groceries and other essential items.

Farmers markets and bulk stores have closed but the good news is that you can still shop sustainably even during a pandemic. It doesn’t have to be perfect (your safety is the priority!), but small things can add up.

How to reduce your waste while stocking up
Plan ahead. Plan your menu for two weeks. Doing so helps avoid food waste. Also, a shopping list helps you do your job faster and more efficient. The shorter the trip in the store, the better.

Bring your clean reusable bags and wash them after each use. Bringing your own bag helps the environment, but you also need to wash your reusable bags more often, even in better times. Coronavirus and other pathogens are easily destroyed with soap and water, or rubbing alcohol. So washing a cloth bag with detergent is a must, especially during a virus outbreak.

Go heavy on fruits and vegetables. One of the best ways to boost your immune system and reduce your impact on the environment is to eat a plant-based diet. Reduce your meat intake and eat more veggies.

Buy in bulk. Never buy items in single-use containers. Buy food items that don’t spoil easily in bulk, such as rice, grains, flour, etc,

Choose glass and aluminum. Should you need to buy items that aren’t loose, pick items in glass or aluminum containers. Glass and aluminum can be recycled infinitely and has lower impact on nature and animals compared to plastic and cardboard.

Read the labels. Choose products that are good for the environment. Opt for products that are fair-trade, organic, non-GMO, and more importantly – locally-made! Our local and ethical businesses need us now more than ever!
Now, if you’ve been to the grocery store in the last week or so, you know it can be an extremely chaotic experience. I get a little anxious when I am at the grocery store, especially when I see people coughing and not practicing physical distancing.

How to shop safely (and make sure your food is safe to eat)
If you’re getting your groceries delivered: Ask the delivery person to deliver your goods right to your doorstep or a place nearby. Also, avoid handing cash tip to your delivery person, if possible. Choose delivery apps and online ordering systems that allow electronic tipping to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

If you’re picking up prepacked groceries: The steps are basically the same as for delivery. In addition, open your car door yourself rather than having the store clerk bringing the items to your car touch the handle.

If you’re buying groceries in a store: When outdoors, protect yourself by staying six (6) feet away from other people. Maintaining your distance prevents you from inhaling droplets through the air from a cough or sneeze. Also, remember to sanitize your shopping cart before and after you shop. You can also activate the tap feature on your credit or debit card so you don’t have to hand over bills or use the debit machine.

The bottomline
Whether you buy your groceries online or in stores, be sure to:
Wash produce and nonporous containers. A lot of people have touched the lemons and tomatoes that you just bought, so imagine how much germs are on top of your produce. Rub and scrub all your fruit and vegetables under running water to remove pesticides and germs. It also doesn’t hurt to wipe down non-porous containers like glass or cans with disinfectant wipes, as well as the counter and other surfaces you have touched.

Follow safety precautions. Physical distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face, trying to avoid sick people if you can, and if you are sick, staying home so you don’t contaminate others are still the safest ways to keep yourself and your family safe.
Jomay Amora-Dueck is the founder of The Ecoist Collective and author of Becoming Ecoist: A Beginner’s Guide to Minimalist and Sustainable Living. Download a copy for free at