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Low waste shopping at farmers markets

Farmers markets are now in full swing, and the variety of fresh produce will quickly expand each week as summer progresses. In addition to being the best place to get fresh, in-season, local produce at an affordable price, shopping at your community farmers market is a great grocery choice for a low-waste lifestyle.

Avoid packaging waste

The produce at farmers markets already cut down on packaging waste by being free of those pesky plastic ID stickers and plastic packaging. You will, however, need to bring your own bags (and probably quite a few of them), if you want to avoid coming home with a pile of plastic bags. You can also bring back your egg cartons and leave the fruit cartons for the vendors to reuse.

Buy “ugly” fruit

Another way that farmers markets prevent waste is by selling produce that is less than perfect, aka ugly produce. And this addresses a big problem—the National Resources Defense Council reports that up to 24 percent of fruits and vegetables are discarded before even reaching the store, often due to imperfections in shape, size and color. Misshapen fruits and vegetables have no less nutritional value than their perfectly formed peers, but our cultural norms have driven them from our typical grocery shopping experience.

Some farmers market vendors will sell less-than-perfect produce at a discount, so ask vendors if they have any “seconds” for sale. This is a good option if you plan to preserve your produce and appearance isn’t as important.        

Support your markets’ low-waste efforts

Finally, in addition to offering sometimes less-than-perfect, package-free produce, many markets have become low-waste events. Mill City, Kingsfield and Bloomington are just a few of the many markets that offer recycling and composting for visitor waste, making your community farmers market a great place to have breakfast or lunch while shopping low waste. Many of these markets are boasting waste diversion rates of over 95 percent.

The Minneapolis Farmers Market also has a food rescue program that diverts surplus produce from vendors to food shelves and meal programs in the Twin Cities metro area with the help of the Food Group. This program runs June through October and diverts over 1,000 pounds of food a week.

Get started reducing waste and supporting local farmers by finding a farmers market near you.

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