Energy Diet

Definitely the most enriching experience of the week was the visit to the supermarket. How amazing it is when you do something that is part of the routine, but you see it with a new perspective. What you can find is truly incredible! 

Almost every supermarket in Costa Rica, no matter how big or little it is, packs purchased products in plastic bags, which are free. In fact, if any of the products is very heavy, it is usual to double-bag them “just in case.” Usage of fabric bags isn’t offered, and if you want it in this manner you need to ask for availability and price.

In general, there’s no incentive to use cloth bags or disincentive to use plastic bags, but this shouldn’t be the reason why people choose this option. A little push may help, as we have seen in other countries where there is a charge for plastic bags, or people bring their own bags to the supermarket. Also for packing vegetables and fresh fruits, stores offer more plastic bags, so you can use one for each product. In that case you can have a bag for lettuce, another for tomatoes, another for carrots… can you imagine the amount of bags involved?!

Well, we decided to start doing differently with a small change. We bought fabric bags, which turned out not as expensive as we imagined (c935.00, or around $2.00 each) and also they have quite a bit of space for a lot of things. For fruits and vegetables, we filled each bag to the top (with different products in it, who cares?!). Also we noticed that these specific bags are biodegradable, a detail that had been overlooked in the past. We also brought to our returnable bottles to the store with us. There’s no need to recycle cans if you don’t have them!!!  

On the other hand, we were more careful in the things we were buying; we compared, searched for more environmentally friendly products, gave priority to organic products and replaced things that generate garbage with others that are re-usable. For example, when we split up foods like fish or chicken into smaller portions for the freezer, we used to keep them in plastic bags that we later threw away. We realized that doing this meant about 4 plastic bags per week (over 200 units per year). What we did was to replace these bags for plastic containers (Tupperware kind) which can be re-used. They even have covers of different colors that allow us to identify what is inside, and our freezer looks much neater.

Regarding the organic products, we did some research and found that Costa Rica has made ​​great efforts to promote organic farming. Ours was one of the first Latin American countries to get the certification of organic producer by the European Union and has legislation on this matter. In fact, the production is quite high for products such as coffee, bananas and juice. A large portion is used primarily for export to Europe. We struggled to find these products where we usually do our shopping, but our compromise is to do an exhaustive search to find them locally. Later on we will tell you how it turned out.

We must admit the great satisfaction to know that we’re taking the right direction, and more important than to do all these changes in the way we live, is the change in the mindset that we are making ourselves. It is also gratifying to see the influence we have between our family and friends, who are gradually joining the good practices.



  1. darryl
    Alberta, Canada
    November 1, 2011, 2:11 pm

    Thank you so much for your initiatives and reports. I too am being careful to buy within walking distance, and avoiding toxic packaging. Our recycling facilities are better here; I use bins or depots for low-quality paper, newsprint, boxboard, most types of plastic, glass, steel, and aluminum. Best Regards.

  2. Cirsa Alvarado
    San José, Costa Rica
    November 3, 2011, 10:46 pm

    A few months ago I became aware of this issue in the supermarket. Buy cloth bags and take them with me almost all the time in my visits to the supermarket. I think that supermarkets can promote more environmentally friendly initiatives, with small changes we can accomplish great things. Thank you for sharing this.

  3. Alberto and Michelle
    November 6, 2011, 8:05 pm

    Darryl, next week well be talking about recycling in our country,thanks for your comment!

  4. Susan
    November 9, 2011, 1:18 pm

    I like the idea of cloth bags, so I bought several of them from my local supermarket for $1. each. At times, I do forget to take them out of my car. But I want to comment on something that I find strange; Stores sell these bags, right, but what I’m not understanding, is that some of the cashiers seem to think that since you came with the bag you have to bag it yourself. I actually, had one lady cashier tell me that she didn’t know how to bag it?? At other times, they would just take the money and ignore putting the products in the bag…I complained one time a store manager, and the response was that the situation would be brought up in their next meeting, but course, when I went back there I had a similiar experience with a cashier not wanting to bag it..So the result of these experiences, particularily for this one store, is that I no longer bring a bag..