Every time I walk into the grocery store, I see a new food item touting the practicality and convenience of its individually packaged product. Transitioning to a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle has been a constant tug of war between the desire to purchase trendy health foods and stuffing my home with a variety of plastic containers. In New York alone, consumers dispose of almost 2,000 tons of plastic bags every single week.
One of the ways I have managed is to take my own containers for bulk goods such as nuts, seeds, and grains, not bagging fresh produce in those flimsy plastic bags, and taking a reusable bag to the store. While these practices can help minimize my environmental footprint, our society would make significant progress if we had the support of the grocery system on our side.
Let’s take a trip down to Austin, Texas.
In the heart of this city is a zero waste grocery store offering area-sourced products and bulk items. This is in.gredients.
Established in 2012, in.gredients was the first store of its kind to hit the United States. in.gredients is modeled as a traditional grocery store in scope and a corner store in scale, carrying products ranging from fresh produce, to oils and vinegars, and beer and wine. According to in.gredients, this store diverts about 99% of materials from the landfill and have sent zero pounds of food waste to landfills since opening in 2012.
When you walk into the store there is a taring station for the customer to weigh his/her reusable containers. The scale prints off a barcode and weight, so the customer does not have to re-weigh their container every time they visit the store. From that point on, customers can feel free to browse the store, filling their reusable containers and carts with delicious fresh and local foods. If customers forget their reusable containers, in.gredients offers free paper and ziplock bags in addition to mason jars and other durable–and reusable–containers for purchase. in.gredients also takes strides to reduce waste in the sourcing process by encouraging vendors to deliver products in reusable and returnable containers.
In addition to fresh foods, in.gredients also offers local beers and wines, cold brew coffee, kombucha, and sodas on tap, plus a delicious menu of local food offerings.
Since the inception of in.gredients, several package-free or zero waste grocery store initiatives have cropped up across the United States and North America. Here are a few other options:
1. The Fillery is a neighborhood bulk food store located in Brooklyn, New York, striving to minimize unnecessary packaging and waste. The Fillery prides itself on providing competitively priced and responsibly sourced food and household products.
2. ZERO market is Denver, Colorado’s first zero waste grocery store featuring bulk ingredients, oils, teas, plastic-free body care, household products, and a selection of daily life products.
3. Located in Vancouver, British Columbia, Nada is Canada’s first package-free grocery initiative. Established in 2015, Nada works with the local food community to supply a variety of high-quality and responsibly sourced packaged-free foods.
Here’s hoping that more grocery stores transition to this model. Until then, I’ll be carrying my own mason jars and reusable bags.
What is your favorite package-free or zero waste grocery store?
Also by Olivia: Smoky, 5-Ingredient Vegan Coconut Bacon Bits
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