First up let's get one thing straight: the supermarket is a f*cking amazing place.
I mean right?! Ten thousand different and widely varied products under one roof? Imagine telling someone from 5000 - no wait, 1000 - no wait, 100! - years ago about your local. Yeah just nipping up the road for some avocados, laundry powder, biscuits, fresh meat and a bunch of medical supplies. Nah nah won't be long, it's all from one place. Ahh, perspective. However great supermarkets may be, they contain innumerable trappings for a nutritionally and environmentally destructive lifestyle, so using them sustainably requires a pretty serious level engagement.
And look, I know that no one wants to spend a second longer in the supermarket than they really have to. It's a domain of wailing children, public arguments, and immense amounts of backtracking against a backdrop of mass-produced food in single use packaging. Be it personal health or planetary health, not many other shops set such a dramatic scene for potential disaster. But, love it or hate it, the supermarket is an invariably essential fixture of modern life in the city, so correct navigation is critical if you care about either/or(/hopefully both) of those things.
To green your future visits, here's three things to keep in mind:
1. Do more reading. Personally I have a weird tick where I can't buy something without reading every word of every label of whatever it is I want. It just doesn't make sense to me not to do that, and not just for ethical or idealistic reasons; prior to use it's the only way to figure out whether it's actually worth the money I'm about to spend! Alarm bells sound if there's stuff I can't read for either chemical or lingual reasons: if it's highly processed or foreign there's almost definitely a more ecologically sensitive alternative.
2. Be prepared to pay more. Yeah yeah that sucks, money sucks, bla bla bla but in terms of food, what's more important to be spending your money on than the things you're going to put inside your body? Logic and budgeting can help mitigate the sting of expensively responsible shopping - for example how often do you buy new clothes? How much do you spend on booze? Did you spend $300 on 1g of nondescript white powder in a micro ziplock bag last weekend? Yep, you might not need more money to shop sustainably, you might just need to redistribute some income.
3. Liberate your old plastic bags. Whilst I'm sure you personally are already on top of it and #bannedthebag for yourself a long time ago, it's always worth taking notice of just how many are being used every second at the other registers, and how many supermarkets are in this country. Its a dependably potent reminder of usage intensity and the sadly enduring ignorance of a lot of people. I suggest offering people a used (but clean) plastic bag you brought from home. Am I a psycho for this one? Maybe (almost definitely), but hear this out - yes, people will definitely be taken aback, but hey, you never have to see them again, and if it means one less in circulation it's worth doing. Yeah? Nah?
Hmm, the convenience and utility of a supermarket is impossible to deny, so I don't hate them or resent their existence. However, being a key instrument of a capitalist world means supermarkets quickly lend themselves to things that are cheap, unhealthy and overpackaged. Statistics don't lie: the reality is that Australia is an obese and environmentally thoughtless nation, but it doesn't come as a huge surprise when you consider how many imported products in single-use plastic line the shelves in Coles and Woolies.
But there's ways to avoid the crap! Slap into green gear next time you shop for groceries.
[Oh and by the way, you know how epic supermarket airconditioning is? It's worth noting they do that to increase impulsivity and make you buy more, as we're biologically programmed to feel more hunger in the cold. The more ya know! Just do your best not to think about the energy required to regulate the air temp of a room the size of a football field.]