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Zero waste (or package free) grocery shopping

2 min read

Most of us want to be a little more environmentally conscious, even if we’re not diehard, green, activists. Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities to incorporate simple, reasonable, practices that can make a positive impact without requiring that we up-end our whole lifestyle. Zero waste shopping is one of those.

What is zero waste shopping?

Waste free shops (also known as zero waste shops) allow you to buy products (like nuts and beans or soap and laundry detergent) by weight and carry them out in your own containers. Truthfully, it’s not a new idea (milk used to come in reusable bottles, for example) but it is an idea that’s finding a resurgence. The appeal is simple: pay only for the product, not the product plus the cost packaging.

Could it actually make a difference?

Yes. Absolutely. Both for you and the planet.

  • It could save you money. About 13 percent of an item's cost comes from packaging so cutting that out of the equation means that zero waste shops can sell some items for less. You probably can't expect savings across the board, because there are a lot of variables, but there is a good possibility you find savings on key products.
  • It is better for the environment. Food and packaging/containers account for almost 45% of the materials landfilled in the United States (so over about 120 million tons per year). And, according to the EPA makes up the majority of the litter that ends up in waterways and washing onto beaches. Simple supply-and-demand mechanics mean if less of us demand this from our grocery stores then less of it will be produced.

It is better for the environment. Food and packaging/containers account for almost 45% of the materials landfilled in the United States (so over about 120 million tons a year). And, according to the EPA, this type of waste also makes up the majority of the litter that ends up in waterways and washing onto beaches. Simple supply-and-demand mechanics mean that if less of us demand this from our grocery stores then less of it will be produced.

What can I do if there isn’t a zero waste shop near me?

If a zero waste store hasn't opened in your town yet, there are still some options for you to consider.

  • Check out the local farmers' market for package-free produce along with baked goods (just bring your own containers)
  • See if your neighborhood has a co-op you can join (some co-ops require a membership). Most co-ops prioritize locally sourced produce and often include bulk products.
  • Check if your local grocery store has a bulk aisle (chains like Whole Foods or Sprouts usually feature a wide selection of bulk items) and most are okay with customers using their own bags and containers (it’s a good idea to check though).

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