Imagine a world where you could visit a grocery store with your own reusable containers and reusable shopping bags and use zero waste.
With zero waste grocery stores, you don’t have to imagine. This has become a reality for consumers all across the globe. All you need are reusable and refillable containers, reusable canvas grocery bags, and a basic understanding of what it means to lead a zero waste lifestyle.
When you have begun a zero waste lifestyle (internal link), you will need to use as many resources as possible to help achieve and maintain a lifestyle of zero waste. That is exactly why the zero waste grocery store came into existence.
What is a Zero Waste Grocery Store, and Why is it Important?
A zero waste grocery store uses reusable items to completely replace the use of disposable plastic items. This is important because it eliminates plastic from being thrown away and taken to landfills.
Plastic makes up the most waste at landfills across the United States alone. The Environmental Protection Agency measured plastic at approximately 14 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) in landfills during 2017.
Zero waste grocery stores use reusable containers, jars, and canvas shopping bags. This completely eliminates the use of plastic containers, plastic wrap, and plastic bags. Removing plastic as an option in a grocery store means that plastic won’t end up at the landfill.
Plastic Doesn’t Recycle… It Down-Cycles
Plastic is used in so many grocery store products and supplies, including produce bags, plastic bags, deli meat packaging, water bottles, and dairy containers, just to name a few. These items are labeled as recyclable, but they are actually down-cyclable.
Plastic sent to a recycling facility is turned into a weaker form of plastic and then repurposed. Once the repurposed plastic is recycled, it will turn into another weaker form of plastic and repurposed once more. This will continue until the plastic becomes so weak that it can no longer serve a new purpose, and guess where the plastic ends up? The landfill.
This is known as down-cycling. It gives the impression that the plastic is being recycled and used for more than one application, ultimately keeping the plastic from ending up at the landfill when that is eventually where the obsolete plastic will end up. This serves no purpose other than delaying the inevitable.
Don’t Recycle Plastic. Replace It!
The best way to guarantee that plastic doesn’t end up in landfills is to eliminate that option altogether. Plastic can’t fill landfills if it doesn’t exist, and this is exactly what the zero waste grocery store has in mind.
Zero waste grocery stores have completely eliminated plastic products and replaced them with reusable items. This ensures that plastic stays out of landfills and ultimately out of our environment.
Most of the litter found in our water supply comes from plastic sources, such as water bottles, wrappers, and plastic bags. When plastic litters our planet, the soil and water absorb the chemical properties of the plastic. This causes the plants and animals of the soil and water to absorb the plastic properties, ultimately transferring those properties to you when you eat the plants or animals.
The best way to combat this problem? Replace all plastic with reusable options. This is what makes zero waste grocery stores so successful and why they are growing in popularity throughout the country.
How to Turn a Normal Shopping Trip into a Zero Waste Shopping Trip
There’s no denying it. You will get the most zero waste when shopping at a zero waste grocery store. This is because the zero waste grocery store is established for this sole purpose: to provide zero waste.
However, if there is no zero waste grocery store in your neighborhood yet, don’t fret! You can easily turn an ordinary shopping trip into a zero waste shopping trip by following these few simple suggestions.
1. Use Reusable Bags
We cannot stress this enough. Do not use the plastic bags that your grocery store will use when bagging your groceries.
Instead, bring your own personal reusable canvas shopping bags and have your cashier bag the groceries in those bags. (Or if you are shopping in a grocery store where you have to bag your own groceries, this is even better.
You don’t have to encounter the awkward exchange that may occur when providing your own bags. But, let’s be real, an awkward exchange is extremely minuscule when comparing it to our planet’s overall well-being.)
2. Refuse Various Excess Plastic
Instead of tearing off a plastic bag in the produce section when choosing the best head of lettuce, you should avoid this altogether. The plastic bag is essentially useless when it comes to grocery shopping, and it just gets thrown away after you get home.
Avoid this altogether by placing your fresh produce in one of the reusable canvas bags you have brought with you on your shopping trip. This will prevent extra plastic from being used and inevitably thrown away after you arrive home.
3. Try to Avoid Plastic Packaging
A zero waste grocery store will likely already avoid using plastic packaging in most, if not all, of the items they offer, but if you are shopping in a regular big-box grocery store, then you will want to try to avoid purchasing plastic packaging if at all possible.
Many of the organic options come in higher quality containers, like glass. You should always opt for this choice if possible, as this will completely eliminate using and throwing away plastic.
4. Avoid Buying Disposable Items
This one should go without saying, but someone may need to hear it. Avoid buying disposable items while you are at the grocery store. This includes anything from disposable utensils, plates, and napkins, all the way to personal care items like razors and bottles of soap.
Instead, use dishes and silverware in your home that can be washed and reused. This includes using cloth napkins instead of paper towels. Paper towels are quick to use and throw away because of their convenience, but this only adds to the overall waste that is taken to the landfill.
You should also purchase reusable personal care items. This will prevent you from throwing away plastic after plastic, whether it’s through disposable razors or empty soap containers. You can easily replace the disposable personal care items in your life with reusable ones or ones made from a different type of packaging material.
Where to Find Zero Waste Grocery Stores Near You
To find a zero waste grocery store near you, you can search the Litterless zero waste grocery store database. Here, you will find zero waste grocery stores located in every state throughout America. We have also included a few of the best zero waste grocery stores on our list to help you get a better understanding of some of the chain zero waste grocery stores that you can shop from today.
Sprouts Farmers Markets was founded in 2002 in Chandler, Arizona. Sprouts Farmers Markets are now located in 23 different states, with multiple locations in each state. Sprouts Farmers Markets focuses on providing the best bulk grains, produce, meat, and dairy products, all of which are organic.
Sprouts is just beginning to transition from plastic bags and containers to reusable bags and containers, and this transition may have already occurred in your neighborhood. If your local neighborhood Sprouts location is using plastic bags, just make sure to bring your own bags as you would if no bags were available. You can also bring your own reusable containers or jars to fill with grains, cereal, or nuts.
Healthy Living Market is a chain retail zero waste grocery store with three locations in the northeastern United States. Two locations are in Vermont, with the third location being in New York. They were founded in 1986 by Katy Lesser in Vermont.
Healthy Living Market offers various organic bulk items you can purchase by bringing your reusable containers to fill with your favorite grains, oats, cereals, nuts, or other dried foods. You can also purchase a wide variety of dairy products, including farm-fresh cage-free eggs.
Healthy Living Market also finds ways to give back to the communities, both in the locations where the stores are located, as well as through discussing current events that help promote equality among races and genders.
Although they are based out of Colorado, EcoRoots is a zero waste grocery company that offers online orders throughout most of the US. The offer a number of sustainable and ethically-sourced products for all your needs, including bath and kitchen products.
All of their beauty and personal care products are free of plastic, SLS and animal byproducts and they donate a percentage of all their profits to the Ocean Conservancy in an effort to remove all plastic from our oceans.
The convenience of online ordered makes EcoRoots a great option for anyone looking to get their zero waste products anywhere they are. Due to online shipping, they ensure that all of their shipping materials are made from recycled and biodegradable materials and obviously … don’t use any plastic.
While they don’t have a wide variety of food items, Life Without Plastic is one of the best online zero waste stores you’ll come across. They offer various home and kitchen products along with childcare, drinking personal care items.
Life Without Plastic has one of the largest inventories of zero waste products so there’s never any need to worry about products being sold out. All of their materials are packaged using plastic-free materials like cellulose-based tape and compostable cornstarch packing peanuts for shipping.
Zero waste grocery stores are located throughout all 50 states across the country, and using an easy-to-search website like Litterless will help you find the best one for you.
So what are you the most excited about during your next (or first) visit to the zero waste grocery store in your neighborhood? Let us know in the comments!
If you have any questions about zero waste grocery stores, let us know below, too!
We can’t wait to discuss the many benefits that come with shopping at a zero waste grocery store.