Kitchener-Waterloo’s First Zero Waste Grocery Store

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by Micaela Yawney

Within just a few months, Kitchener-Waterloo’s first zero waste grocery store will be open for business. Zero Waste Bulk is a local company founded and owned by Waterloo Alumni, Ellin Park. The grocery store will be located on 110 King St. S and will offer a place for individuals to purchase local and organic groceries, while also shopping zero waste. This means that customers will be able to purchase grocery items that are free of packaging and plastic.

The idea of opening a zero waste grocery store began a year and a half ago when Park made the transition to live a minimalist and zero-waste lifestyle. “When I became more mindful of my consumption, I became more mindful of my waste,” Park said. “I have always cared about the environment, but I didn’t realize there was more I could do,” she said.

Park realized how inconvenient it was to shop zero waste since there was not one place to purchase all the necessities without packaging in one place. Zero Waste Bulk will make this possible. With the opening of this new grocery store, it will become convenient for individuals to live a life free from excess waste and overconsumption.

The store will work through a bring-your-own-container (BYOC) system. Individuals will be encouraged to bring their own containers to take home groceries, or for a small fee, purchase paper bags to place their groceries in. In entering the store, customers containers will be weighed. At checkout, the weight of the container will be deducted, and customers will only be charged for the weight of the product within their container.

Zero Waste Bulk has most recently been running a campaign to raise money to cover their startup costs. They have currently raised over $13,000 with a goal of $15,000. These costs will cover expenses such as the purchasing of inventory and equipment for the grocery store.

The company has also prioritized working with local companies – specifically, local farmers, to supply the items at the grocery store. “The closer the better,” she said. Local suppliers have been willing to work with Zero Waste Bulk to ensure that products are packaged, transported and sold free from plastic and single-use packaging. For example, container systems are being utilized amongst local coffee bean suppliers in transporting coffee beans to the grocery store.

Zero Waste Bulk’s own line of plant-based foods will also be available for purchase at the grocery store. Accessibility has also been prioritized in the design of their grocery store. “Accessibility is something we have thought about from the beginning,” Park said. Their goal is to make zero-waste living possible for everyone.

Through thought, time, and preparation, Park states that zero-waste living is possible. “Trying to reduce your waste comes down to being prepared,” Park said. “Waste is preventable. Why do you need to get something packaged every time?”

Park hopes that people will become more mindful of their consumption and the waste that results. Park recommends, “Start small, make it easy for yourself,” in making the transition to a zero-waste lifestyle.