How do zero-waste grocery stores really work? - Leaf'd

How do zero-waste grocery stores really work?

by Sarah Zitin
As many cities in the U.S. pass bills to ban plastic bags from stores, many eco conscious European cities embrace the idea of a market your ancestors may find familiar. Imagine a grocery store in which food is not hidden behind a colorful cartoon character on cardboard, a grocery store that allows you to choose exactly how much of a product you want, a grocery store that helps save the environment while saving you money- A zero-waste grocery store. A zero-waste grocery store is a one-stop shop where you can purchase a variety of food and household items in bulk. Unlike buying in bulk at your wholesale store, zero-waste grocery store products don’t come in excessive plastic packaging. In fact, they don’t have any packaging at all. Customers are expected to bring all their own jars, containers, and reusable bags. Most green living zero-waste grocery stores do sell containers if you are in need. Gone are the days of squinting to find the find print of the unit prices of items. You hand-select soaps, oils, grains, etc. at any quantity you wish at wholesale prices. Some zero-waste grocery stores try to practice sustainability and buy local produce and products. At Zero Market in Canada, “ugly” local produce is sold to reduce food waste. Reduce Food Waste: According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 30-40% of food produced is wasted each year. Some food is disposed of because if it appears misshapen or “ugly,” even if it is safe, ripe, and edible. Perhaps you wouldn’t find yourself throwing away a garden-fresh tomato for a little bump on it. Many of us are, however, guilty of having “eyes too big for our heads” at times.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 30-40% of food produced is wasted each year.
We often dispose of food simply because we take too much. The United States’ food and beverage production is responsible for 13.6% of fossil fuel emissions, according to the USDA. All this wasted food is sent to landfills where it then produces ozone-depleting methane gas. The Environmental Protection Agency (which was recently defunded) determined that landfills are responsible for 17.7% greenhouse gasses. Having more green living zero-waste grocery stores could reduce the amount of food that is wasted each year. By shopping at zero-waste grocery stores, you are able to purchase precise amounts, even if that means just a cup of sugar for a cake recipe or a half-cup of beans for taco recipe. Reduce Non-Biodegradable Waste: Have you ever struggled for over a half hour just to open a package? I am confident that a fair amount  of millennials and their baby-boomer parents have opened at least a few seemingly impossible-to-open Barbie or Power Rangers boxes in their lifetimes. Out of the 258 million tons of trash that the EPA determined were produced in 2014, 34% was recycled. The remainder was brought to landfills where it will take that plastic hundreds if not thousands of years to biodegrade. A large portion of the non-recycled plastic disposed of in landfills is a result of food packaging. According to the Pacific Institute, 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide were produced in water bottle production alone. When you bring your own reusable containers and bags and buy from bulk bins at zero-waste grocery stores, it can drastically reduce the amount of plastic produced and disposed of in landfills. How Can You Visit a Zero-Waste Grocery Store?: If you live in Europe, you will have a much easier time finding a zero-waste grocery store than you will if you live in the United States. You are in luck if you live in the green living Denver area. On April 1, 2017, Zero Market is opening a location in Aurora, CO. Vancouver just opened its first market with the same name. Even if we succumb to the traditional grocery store, we can certainly be more mindful of the food we purchase and bring our own reusable containers and bags.  
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