Zero-waste shopping is key to living green
We obviously have a positive impact on our environment each time we buy groceries just by replacing the plastic bags offered at the store with our own reusable ones. If significantly reducing the amount of land-fill waste is possible by this one step, imagine the impact we could have by shopping at a grocery store that operates on a philosophy of not just reduced waste, but zero-waste? The good news is these groceries are gaining popularity throughout the world.
Until about 1915, consumers typically bought their groceries by giving a clerk behind a counter their list of needs and having those goods brought to them from shelves or storage, often packaging them into the customer’s own containers. In the years that followed, groceries became more self-service, allowing shoppers to browse the shelves and pick up items for themselves.
Since then, grocery stores have transitioned from neighborhood shops to large chain supermarkets, with pre-packaged items and bar code scanners for efficiency and consistency, based on mass production of food products. As the culture became more aware of the need for healthier, organic foods and lifestyles, organic supermarkets started showing up.
According to Bepakt, (a packaging-free information source), in 2007, European pioneers like Unpackaged in London, UK, and the Italian franchises Negozio Leggier and Effecorta, (re)introduced zero-waste, bring your own container stores where food could be dispensed from bulk bins or dispensers. Then, in 2016, Canada’s largest bulk food retailer, Bulk Barn, started a successful pilot program to investigate the safety of customers using their own reusable containers.
Now zero-waste grocery stores are showing up in the United States. What is zero-waste? Wikipedia explains “Zero Waste is a philosophy that encourages the redesign of resource life cycles so that all products are reused. No trash is sent to landfills or incinerators.” A process mimicking the way resources are reused in nature.
Zero-Waste groceries embrace this concept because customers bring their own reusable containers and bags, establish the tare weight before shopping, and weigh their products at checkout. Generally the stores offer reusable or compostable containers and bags if they are needed.
Better yet, the move in zero-waste groceries is toward zero-packaging. Imagine how much of our nation’s waste stream would be eliminated with each trip to the grocery store. The Daily Good cites that Americans add 570 million pounds of food packaging to landfills each day, 27 percent of food brought into U.S. kitchens ends up wasted because pre-packaging forces consumers to buy more than they can use. In addition, treehugger.com states that approximately 50 percent of plastic waste in the U.S. comes from packaging and containers. In 2008, according to the EPA, containers and packaging accounted for roughly 31 percent of all municipal solid waste in the U.S. That’s 76,760 thousand tons. And worse, less than half of that gets recycled.
Zero Waste Market in Vancouver, B.C. lists several other benefits of shopping this way. In addition to lowering individual impact on the environment, you support local and sustainable operations, have access to fresher food, and save money by buying in bulk, minimizing waste by buying only what you need.
Reducing waste by using only what you need is an idea we at Control-n-Roll thoroughly embrace. Helping to reduce post-consumer waste and save money, Control-n-Roll is another tool in our ever-increasing arsenal to improve and protect our environment.