What we choose (or refuse!) to buy can have a lasting impact. When it comes to our food and household item purchases, it really pays to reduce, reuse, recycle and rethink!

Sustainable Shopping

Check out our short video about sustainable shopping in grocery stores and then scroll down below for Food and Household Product shopping tips. 

Familiarize yourself with Ecolabels & Logos on everyday packaging!

Reduce & Recycle

Bring Your Own Bag: Reduce your plastic bag usage and bring your own bag when shopping. As of October 1, 2020, all stores in Howard County who provide customers a disposable plastic bag at the point of sale are required to charge 5 cents per bag. Be the Change, Keep the Change.  

Bring Your Own Container: Reusable bags aren’t the only thing you should always have on hand. Reduce the amount of disposables by bringing your own water bottle, travel mug and even utensils when dining and carrying out.

Buy in Bulk: Consider buying items in bulk when appropriate to reduce the amount of packaging required.

Shop Smarter, Buy Recyclable: Not all grocery store and carryout packaging is recyclable. Before you shop, make sure the item is recyclable in our curbside program. 


Plan Ahead: Nearly 30% of our food is wasted. We can reduce that statistic by planning ahead. Our Food Waste Prevention page has tips on how to create a flexible shopping list, plan out your meals, and store food properly. 

Refuse Unnecessary Extras: If you’ve already brought your own, this shouldn’t be difficult! Refuse the plastic bags, utensils, straws, napkins and other single-use “extras.”

Household Products
Reduce & Recycle

Buy it for Life: One way to reduce what we send to the landfill is to choose durable, high quality items whenever possible. A little research before making a purchase can save you and the environment. Check out some of these buying guides for helpful reviews:

Know Before You Throw! Before tossing an item, see what drop-off or mail-in recycling programs are available. If it’s in good condition, consider donating first!


Borrow Before You Buy: There’s no sense in buying something you may only use once! The DIY Education Center at the Elkridge library is a great resource for tools and equipment available to loan. 

Repair Before Replace: Consider attending a Repair Café event. This organization specializes in fixing, repairing and mending everything from lamps to vacuum cleaners to clothing and jewelry. 

Used Before New: Save some money (and the environment) and buy used whenever possible. Thrift stores, consignment shops and yard sales are great places to find good quality (used) items. The online marketplace is also full of options:

Shop Sustainably: Supporting local and sustainable companies (Certified B Corporation1% for the Planet, etc.) is a great way shop smarter for the planet.

Ecolabels & Logos

What exactly does it mean when a notebook has the FSC label stamped on it? What's the difference between the universal recycling logo and the How2Recycle logo? Use our chart below to help demystify some of these "ecolabels" and become a more informed shopper.

1% For The Planet                         

Businesses (or individual members) that give at least 1% of their profits to an approved environmental non-profit.

1% For The Planet website

Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI)  

The leading certifier of compostable products in North America. Products and packaging that meet BPI or ASTM D6400 standards are certified compostable and are permitted in our Feed The Green Bin food scrap collection program.

BPI website

bpi2 logo
Certified B Corporation  

Certified B Corporations are businesses "that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.”

Certified B Corporation website

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)  

FSC’s mission is to “promote environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable management of the world’s forests.”

  • FSC 100% Label: All materials are sourced from forests that meet FSC’s social and environmental standards.
  • FSC Recycled Label: Product is verified to be made from 100% recycled content.
  • FSC Mix: Product is made with a mixture of FSC-certified forests, recycled materials and/or FSC-controlled wood.

FSC website


The How2Reycle label was designed to remove the confusion surrounding a product's recyclability. These labels contain instructions on how to correctly recycle, dispose or drop-off packaging depending upon the material type. The program currently has over 225 brandowners and retailers as members and over 75,000 products with a How2Recycle label.

How2Recycle website

Maryland Green Registry  

Maryland businesses, churches, schools, government agencies and other organizations that take steps to reduce their environmental footprint are part of the Maryland Green Registry. 

Maryland Green Registry website

Recycling Symbol  

The universal recycling symbol was designed by Gary Anderson in a contest at the first Earth Day event in 1970. The symbol is widely used in many countries and is part of the public domain. A resin identification code system (#1-7) was introduce in the 1980s to assist recyclers with the sorting and processing of plastics. Contrary to popular belief, this system does not indicate whether an item is recyclable.

Seal of Testing Assurance (STA Compost)  

The US Composting Council's Seal of Testing Assurance (STA) is a compost testing, labeling and information disclosure program. STA certified compost is held to the highest standards and must be regularly tested to maintain this status. Howard County's HoCoGro Compost is STA certified and recent lab reports are available online. 

US Composting Council website

Sustainable Forestry Initiative  

Created to "advance sustainable forestry and responsible purchasing," the Sustainable Forestry Initiative label assures consumers that the fiber in the packaging was sustainably sourced.

Sustainable Forestry Initiative website

USDA Organic  

The US Department of Agriculture established a third-party National Organic Program (NOP) that develops "rules and regulations for the production, handling, labeling, and enforcement of all USDA organic products." Companies that mislabel a product as "organic" can be fined up to $17,952 for each violation.

USDA website

Work Green Howard Certified  

Work Green Howard certified businesses are those that report their recycling tonnages to Howard County each year. These businesses often make additional strides to reduce their environmental footprint and may apply for our annual Green Awards.

Work Green Howard website

work green logo

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