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Your Guide to Shopping in Zero Waste  Stores

Flickr | just_a_cheeseburgerThe bright side of the plastic pollution problem is that every individual has the power to contribute to its solution. Reducing your plastic waste is not as difficult as it might seem at the beginning. It only takes a bit of planning and thinking of where your waste comes from. Nowadays, the public is becoming much more aware of the negative consequences of plastic and the zero waste movement is rising. Moreover, bulk stores are popping up worldwide.

When you take a look around the regular supermarket, the only thing you see is the waste from unnecessary packaging. While every piece of eggplant and every leaf of coriander is wrapped in something potentially harmful to magnificent sea creatures, it’s very hard to leave the store without a bad environmental conscience. So how can you shop conveniently without feeling guilty?

Flickr | Anna GregoryIf you bring your own cotton bags to the supermarket, you can get a satisfying amount of vegetable and fruit, whilst avoiding the packaging. However, you probably won’t find everything that your taste buds are craving. Mainstream supermarkets, though, are gradually shifting to more sustainable practices. For instance, Dutch supermarket Ekoplaza just opened a new aisle which is completely plastic-free. Nevertheless, it’s still only one aisle and one chain. If you really want to get rid of your unnecessary packaging, you might be interested in bulk stores.

Zero Waste Shopping

Before your first visit to a zero waste store, you should collect some containers. It could be anything from grandma’s preserving jars to homemade sewn cotton bags made of old pieces of clothing. The weight of the container is insignificant as only its content is measured. If any of these aren’t found in your house, you can also purchase containers in the store. The first rule of zero waste shopping is: planning is necessary. Instead of impulsive shopping, you have to think about your visit in advance and bring with you a sufficient number of jars and bags. The advantage is that you can take as much of the ingredient as you want.

Hygiene is often pointed out when zero waste shopping is discussed. In bulk stores, customers take full responsibility for the cleanliness of their containers. They’re also not allowed to return the food which was once dispensed in their container due to the health and safety of other costumers.

Pixabay | dghchocolatierThere are plenty of things you can find in bulk stores; from pasta, flour, grains, herbs, dried fruits or nuts to cheese. The offer is not limited only to foodstuffs but includes also cosmetics and household products. In some stores, you can even get lemonades or spirits. For those who are used to processed food, shopping in zero waste stores might be challenging. However, locally made biscuits, chocolate or cookies are in bulk stores’ range as well.

Running a Bulk Store

In the past, zero waste shopping used to be ordinary practice without a fancy name. Although many of the bulk stores are popping up worldwide, it’s difficult to follow up the old practices. Many of the shops have been struggling since their beginning. Some of them work as NGOs and don’t make any profit from their business. Their owners usually invest a huge portion of their time and finances to run their stores and continue only because of their enthusiasm and belief in changing the world. They also often depend on crowd-funding campaigns so if you wish to have a zero waste store in your neighborhood, you might consider supporting them. For instance, Bulk Market in London, the first plastic-free shop in London, is currently closed and crowdfunding for a new and permanent location.

Suppliers are essential for bulk marketers. Local and smaller farmers and producers are always preferred. A zero waste store is usually based on the community of people and personal attitudes to suppliers and customers. Instead of being wrapped in harmful plastic, you buy food that was ethically produced, usually following the bio norms. This might result in higher prices; however, some of the food can still be cheaper than in regular supermarkets as it doesn’t include the price of the unnecessary package.

By Eliška Olšáková - Online Journalism Intern

Frontier runs conservation, developmentteaching and adventure travel projects in over 50 countries worldwide - so join us and explore the world!

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