Greener Groceries: Environmental Benefits of Farmers Market Shopping 

July 13th, 2023
Reading time: 5 minutes

The Brightmark editorial team focuses on providing insightful and valuable information to impact the planet positively and create a world without waste. Learn more about our methodology here.

While groceries are not inherently unethical, certain practices within the grocery industry can raise ethical concerns. 

One of these concerns includes the industry’s substantial environmental footprint. The products we see lining the shelves of every local supermarket significantly contribute to detrimental ecological conflicts, such as excessive carbon emissions and plastic waste.

When it comes to excessive carbon emissions within the grocery industry, they mostly arise from the industry’s multiple stages of production, processing, transportation, and food storage. Every year, the average grocery store emits 1,900 tons of carbon dioxide from the electricity and natural gas needed for operations, which equates to emissions from 360 cars. With more than 63,000 supermarkets in operation in the United States alone, you can begin to understand why this is starting to raise concerns. 

Alongside energy-intensive practices, the pervasive use of low-value plastics found in consumer products in grocery stores amounts to 82 million tons of waste each year, earning single-use plastic packaging its rank as the largest contributor to plastic waste. This cumulative waste ends up in oceans and landfills, taking up to 500 years to break down due to its slow decomposition. 

These statistics have led critics to believe that there is no such thing as ethical grocery shopping. These judgments are mirrored in a recent study conducted by Retail Insight, where a group of 1,000 U.S. shoppers was surveyed for their opinions on the sustainability of their supermarkets. Most respondents expressed that grocery stores need to improve their sustainability credentials. At the same time, only 6 percent believe supermarket sustainability claims come from a genuine desire to save the planet. 

Despite these sentiments, sustainability is still not a mainstream concept for many corporations in the grocery industry. While there have been efforts made by some, such as initiatives in sustainable sourcing and reducing packaging waste, it is clear grocery stores have a long way to grow in their green practices.

So, if you’re someone looking to shop for groceries in a green(er) manner, what can you do?  


How Farmers Markets Play into Sustainability

By adopting sustainable habits,  individuals can make a difference by practicing more environmentally friendly ways to shop. When exploring how to deploy sustainable practices, shopping at local farmers markets offers several environmental benefits compared to conventional grocery shopping. 


Reduced Carbon Emissions

One of the largest contributors to excessive carbon emissions from grocery stores comes from long-haul transportation. Locally produced food eliminates or reduces the need to haul groceries long distances, significantly reducing carbon emissions associated with food transportation. By supporting local farmers, you contribute to lowering greenhouse gas emissions and reducing the environmental impact of long-distance food miles.


Fresher Produce and Reduced Waste

Buying produce from farmers markets allows you to purchase fresh, seasonal produce directly from the farmers—helping support small businesses and the environment. The freshness of these goods leads to a longer shelf life, reducing the likelihood of food waste. Additionally, the lack of excessive plastic in the packaging helps minimize plastic waste. By eliminating the need to incorporate single-use plastic packaging, shopping at farmers’ markets further reduces your ecological footprint and promotes an environmentally friendly shopping experience.


Support for Sustainable Practices

Many vendors at farmers markets use certified organic practices. For example, sustainable farming methods promote soil health, biodiversity, and water conservation, leading to a healthier environment. Not only does the reduction of synthetic pesticides and chemicals reduce soil and water pollution, but it is also found that produce sold at farmers markets is generally better for your health. By advocating for sustainable practices, farmers help play a role in preserving land and preventing urban sprawl.


Connect With Your Community

Among all other benefits, shopping at farmers markets lets you connect directly with the farmers who grow your food. Through this transparency, you can work to make informed choices that align with your environmental values, further practicing ethical consumerism.


Farmers Markets Near You

California: Original Farmers Market 

Location: 6333 W. 3rd Street, Los Angeles, California


Colorado: Boulder Farmers’ Market

Location: 13th Street between Arapahoe and Canyon, Boulder, Colorado


Florida: Jacksonville Farmers Market

Location: 1810 W. Beaver Street, Jacksonville, Florida


Georgia: Grant Park Farmers Market

Location: 1039 Grant St. SE Atlanta, Georgia


Illinois: Green City Market

Location: Lincoln Park, 1817 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614


Indiana: Kokomo Downtown Farmers Market

Location: Intersection of Mulberry and Washington Streets, Kokomo, Indiana


Michigan: Frankenmuth Farmers Market

Location: 534 N. Main Street, Frankenmuth, Michigan


New York: Union Square Greenmarket

Location: E. 17th Street and Union Square, West New York, New York


North Carolina: State Farmers Market

Location: 1201 Agriculture Street, Raleigh, North Carolina


Texas: Texas Farmers Markets

Location: 11200 Lakeline Mall Dr, Cedar Park, TX 78613


Virginia: Old Town Farmers’ Market

Location: 301 King Street, Alexandria, Virginia


Washington: Pike Place

Location: Seattle Marketfront, Seattle, Washington



*Some farmers markets might not be open year-round, so check hours before your visit.

Elisa Park Headshot
Elisa Park
Marketing Intern

With a background in interactive designs in media, Elisa is a student at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she explores her passions in digital communications, media, and culture. Using these passions and her love for writing, Elisa enjoys creating and researching content that aids Brightmark in exploring the depths of relevant environmental conflicts and solutions. When she’s not spending time on her studies, you can also see Elisa on the sidelines as a member of the Georgia Tech cheerleading team. 

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