Many people are aware of the Zero-Waste movement and have probably seen the videos of stores that are popping up around the globe that are zero-waste stores. Our store has been a part of this movement but we recognize that we will likely never become a zero-waste store but rather just ramp up what we have been doing since we opened. We have been and are a Waste-Reduced store but now we will be even more so,
Zero-waste is a goal and it can be kind of overwhelming for many people to embark on this path. With pursuing the waste-reduced path a person continues to evolve along the path with the ultimate goal to have reduced waste by a substantial amount – possibly attaining the ‘zero-waste’ level. I do not think it is possible to attain a zero-waste level because there will always be some waste somewhere along the line. You can only ever achieve a waste-reduced life and depending on how a person embraces this lifestyle to more their life will look like zero-waste nirvana.
I think it is better to have 50% of the population to reduce their waste by 25% than 2% of the population to reduce their waste to ‘zero’. If our goal is to reduce the total burden on the planet and the production of waste (aka packaging) then the more people travelling along the waste-reduced path is the most effective way to get there.
In 1991, we were the first store in Edmonton to offer cleaners, shampoos, conditioners, and chemicals (borax, washing soda, baking soda, concentrated vinegar, etc) in bulk. We brought in products that were minimally packaged.
Since we became an organic food store in 2010 we have continued to push the waste-reduced envelope. We have over 500 items in bulk and not only will people save the impact that packaging has on the planet when they refill a reused container/bag but they will normally save money.
Our customers are great and have embraced the way we do ‘business’. In the first three months of this year, they eliminated over 12,000 bags and over 11,000 containers because they reused their own. We are a small store and yet our customers have eliminated an incredible number of plastic bags and containers being manufactured and entering the waste stream.
But we need to take it further along the Waste-Reduced/Zero-Waste path.
At present, we have recycled plastic produce/bulk bags and small clear plastic bags available for people to use for their purchases. We are going to eliminate these from our store in our pursuit to greatly reduce our contribution to the single-use plastic waste stream. We want to eliminate the single-use plastic from our store.
We will be using up our present inventory of these bags and they will not be replaced. People will have to either bring their own reusable bags and/or containers, use the donated reused bags/containers that other people have donated, or purchase durable reusable bags/containers from us as part of your own zero-waste/waste-reduced kit.
At present, we have several products in packaged form and also in bulk. We will be ceasing to carry these packaged products and only offer the bulk options. So thinks like Carina shampoo and conditions, Bragg’s liquid seasoning/liquid aminos, tamari, frozen blueberries, etc. will only be available in bulk and we will not be reordering the package forms.
We offer lots of reusable options for people to purchase but our preference is that people use reusable items from their homes.
Our store is embarking on yet another evolution, a transition, another step along the zero-waste path. Do you want to be part of this evolution and join the zero-waste/waste-reduced movement?
What is a Waste-Reduced Store?
Most businesses focus on the back-end of the packaging/waste stream flowing through their business. They promote that they are recycling. That is about it.
A waste-reduced store looks at the packaging/materials coming into the store. We want as little material going through our business so we purchase more bulk and encourage our customers to refill and reuse. We even give them a 5 cent reward for each item that they reuse.
We divert the waste stream to recycling facilities but more importantly, we divert as much of that stream into a reusing stream. For example, we divert organic food waste to animal feed that goes out to a local farm animal rescue sanctuary, our glass apple cider vinegar bottles are offered for free to people to reuse, 20L plastic pails are offered for free to people, etc. Reuse is so much better than recycling – especially since recycling is so poorly done – even in Edmonton.
We offer pallets to people so that they can build compost bins in their yards.
And yes, we recycle 100% of recyclables. We use good one side paper to print on and have only bought about 500 sheets of ‘new’ paper over the past year. We seldom fill up the ‘garbage’ dumpster once a month. We reduce our energy by having solar panels on the south side of our building and we use water very efficiently and respectfully.
We are the most ecological store in Edmonton because it is more than just about waste. It is the whole footprint. We are constantly looking for ways to reduce our footprint and helping our customers do the same. Moving more along the waste-reduction path is only a logical progression for us.
In many stores, they are using the deterrent of charging 5 cents for a single-use plastic bag. We can’t do that since we have never had single-use plastic shopping bags. The simple 5 cent charge can make significant changes to people’s consumption habits. Superstore reports that they have reduced consumption of over 3 BILLION plastic bags because of their 5 cent charge. Good going. I wonder how many bags would have not been used if they charged 10 cents or a quarter?
Transition to a Waste-Reduced Store
This will be a taxing transition for our staff and for many of our customers. We will be the first store in Edmonton to do this and it is scary. We do what we think is the right and we have been fortunate to have had support from enough people to stay in business over our 27 years of serving the Edmonton community. We cannot continue to do business like most other businesses because that is what has contributed towards the ecological mess we presently find ourselves in. So we need to keep within our values and evolve.
Just as our store is based on models that went before us other stores have started up that have pushed the envelope on zero-waste/waste-reduced. Though we started doing this in 1991 the new stores have in essence surpassed us. The reason why is because they started with the sole focus of zero-waste/waste-reduced and we had several focuses – bulk/waste-reduced, organic, local, bulk, refilling, paying higher wages than standard, peace, justice, environmental integrity, respect, etc.
In fact, we are recognized as a model by many of the zero-waste stores as being part of their inspiration on getting started along the zero-waste path. Nice.
We should be finished this next transition by the end of May. Please bear with us. This next evolution will be the best yet version of what a waste-reduced store can be.