New year, new ways to save the planet. At least that’s what the latest eco-lifestyle trend, zero waste stores, has us feeling.
From France to Florida and Canada to Connecticut, more and more retailers are on a mission, not just to reduce the amount of food and product packaging in stores, but to eliminate disposable packaging completely.
By offering people the option to buy bulk items in their own containers, or purchase refillable ones, these new package-free stores could change the way we shop. Food and product packaging, like plastic bags, bottles, and boxes, make up nearly a quarter of the trash in U.S. landfills. According to the EPA, this waste is also a majority of the litter that ends up infiltrating waterways and washing onto beaches.
Is there a zero waste store near you? Read on for our roundup and let us know if we missed your favorite. Then, use our tips to shop greener.
Determined to help people shop with less packaging, Katerina Bogatireva opened a zero waste grocery store in Brooklyn earlier this month. (Also new in Brooklyn is The Wally Shop, a new package-free grocery delivery service that's currently in beta.) Similar to the handful of other package-free stores popping up worldwide, Precycle prioritizes selling locally sourced produce (sans plastic bags) and bulk pantry staples like grains, flours, beans, oils, baking ingredients, spices, and more.
After filling up their own containers or bags, shoppers can then get bulk items weighed (minus the tare) and pay only for the food they need. A new way to shop that’s plastic-free, helps reduce food waste, and saves you money? What’s not to love!
This sustainable shop in Newtown, Connecticut features over 270 bulk items from vinegars, oils, and honey on tap to bins of grains, spices, teas, and snack items. You can even refill your jar of coconut oil or buy package-free beauty products, like bath bombs.
With a stock list available online to help you prepare for your shopping run, this Utah bulk shop (set to soon re-open in a new Salt Lake City location) wants to make waste-free shopping easier for everyone. Stock up on grains, legumes, herbs, and dried nuts and fruits in the food section. There are also cleaning supplies, body care needs, and essential oils for sale completely package-free.
Founded by eco-focused teen, Brandi Kneip, just two months before high school graduation, this Stuart, Florida store is stocked with organic bulk items, like coffees, beans, pastas, flours, and dried fruits. There are also non-food items available, including reusable sandwich bags and plastic straw alternatives, to help promote more sustainable lifestyles.
Scheduled to open in spring, this Garden City, Idaho eco-shop will offer plastic-free shopping for bulk pastas, flours, oils, spices as well as beers and wines on tap. Local organic produce will also be available alongside non-toxic household and personal care products.
While not technically a zero-waste store, this Bay Area worker-owned co-op has become an eco-emporium for locals because of its massive bulk section. Over 800 items are available, including a wide variety of organically grown and locally sourced products, everything from miso, salsas, spreads, and syrups along with other dried good essentials and package-free produce.
Your Own Neighborhood!
If a zero waste store hasn’t opened in your town yet, you can always check out the local farmers’ market for package-free produce along with baked goods (just bring your own bag!). If your neighborhood has a co-op, consider becoming a member, as some co-ops require membership in order to shop, or find a public one; most co-ops prioritize locally sourced produce and offer bulk pantry essentials. Finally, check if your local grocery store has a bulk aisle. Many chains like Whole Foods, Sprouts, Earth Fare, Fresh Thyme, and MOM’s organic market feature a wide selection of bulk items and have no problem with customers using their own bags and containers (though it doesn’t hurt to double check first).
Waste Free Shopping Tips
If the thought of switching your usual grocery shopping trip for a new bring-your-own routine sounds like too much, Bogatireva of Precycle says there's no need to quit packaging all at once: "Do your research and find the way that works for you!" This could be as small as carrying reusable shopping totes and skipping plastic produce bags. Maybe it’s keeping a few small cloth bags with you, as Bogatireva does, in case you pass by a bulk aisle. Whatever you choose, remember changes take time, but small steps can have big impacts.