Is America ready for zero-waste grocery stores?
Friday, July 22, 2016
Conservation is the key to helping the planet, and unless we actively combat waste we cannot lessen the terrible burden our planet is under. The concept of the zero-waste grocery store has spread across Europe quickly, and now it's finally set to debut here in the United States.
Brooklyn, New York, will have the distinction of being home to the first zero-waste retailer in the country as entrepreneur Sarah Metz is preparing to open the Fillery soon. Customers will now be able to bring their own reusable bags or containers to shop for food and other household products. They can measure out just the right amount and take just what they need, instead of buying in bulk and then throwing away what they don't need later.
Milk, for instance, could be bought and taken home in glass bottles. The next time the shopper comes in, she could simply bring back these glass bottles and fill them up with as much or as little milk as she needs.
Shoppers could use their personal glass or reusable jars to fill up with vinegar, oils, honey, syrup and other condiments. Cloth sacks could be used to buy dry goods like grains and spices. What's more, customers could even use refillable screw-top bottles to get just the right amount of dish soap they need. It would definitely lead to a world with much less garbage.
European nations like Germany, Austria and Spain have paved the way for zero-waste retailing. Denmark also made waves earlier this year when it set up its first food waste retailer that now sells edible but out-of-date produce at a fraction of the original cost.
These stores have received a tremendous response from consumers who support their methods and philosophies to combat waste at any cost. Now it's North America's turn. Along with Metz's Fillery, we also have Brianne Miller's Zero Waste Market all set to begin sales in Vancouver, Canada.
In Denver, Zero Market's co-founder Lyndsey Manderson, has another innovative idea to combat waste. A tracker in the store will help her customers see how much packaging they have prevented from piling up at the landfill.
As Metz told The Huffington Post: "It's hard not to notice how much waste is generated here. You walk past piles of trash that are higher than you are," making it imperative that we do something about the amount of waste generated every day. When you are just going chuck the plastic bags once you reach home, why use them? It takes little effort to bring a reusable grocery bag to the store next time.
When you think about it, zero-waste stores are not really a new concept. Before the supermarkets and bulk buying took permanent place in our minds, we depended on neighborhood stores for decades. We only bought what we needed and never more.
Another added benefit is this will likely cut down on impulse shopping and help us save on unnecessary grocery bills. The return of this habit will help cut down on the amount of unused food as well as unnecessary packaging.
However, getting everyone to embrace the concept outright might not be as easy. Americans are used to a fast-paced life and eating on the go, so the use-and-throw concept abounds. An estimate from the Worldwatch Institute points out to the staggering fact that Americans discard 100 billion plastic bags each year. In New York alone, that number is 2,000 tons of plastic bags discarded each week.
Unless there is a collective effort to embrace reusable containers, our lifestyles will continue to generate a huge amount of waste every day.
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