Zero-Waste, What is it?

Zero-Waste, What is it?

The definition of Zero Waste, according to Zero Waste International, is the conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health.

Zero Waste is also a movement, a set of ideals and guidelines to live by. This means farm practices, productions processes, transportation, food waste, food and product packaging, reuse, recycling and even buying choices are all connected in the Zero-Waste concepts. Simplifying your life and feeling good about living are both potential outcomes from this approach. Zero Waste stores, and more specifically, Zero Waste grocery stores, are sprouting up in almost every urban center. These innovative stores offer healthy and organic bulk foods, household cleaning products, personal care products, and freshly prepared meals to shoppers looking for plastic-free, sustainably sourced and ethically manufactured products. In addition to eliminating waste, you are often able to find the things you need from local and regional farmers you can trust, in amounts you can use when you need it. It can be truley exciting to feel good about improving your zero waste quotient, ultimately moving closer to true sustainability and better health.

Meg's LunchI like to do zero waste lunches at work. I source my foods locally at Red Barn Natural Grocery and Little Wings Farm (CSA), both in Eugene, Oregon, knowing they do their best to buy locally, organically and ethically, and prep my lunches at home and storing everything in my fun bento boxes. It really doesn't take much extra effort to make them zero-waste. I feel good knowing that I don't have to throw anything in the trash can at lunch. ~Meg, Hummingbird Sales Rep

Starting down this Path—easy as 1, 2, 3

You can start by walking into a Zero Waste store or any local natural foods grocery store with a robust organic bulk department - hopefully with a few containers, bags and jars under your arm. Take your containers and weigh them and write the weight on a sticker, the container or lid—this way you'll only pay for the contents. Step 1 completed.

Step 2, find your favorite foods (looking for Organic and local & regional origin) or products and fill your various containers. ReUp out of Oakland, California actually produces a Shopping List that you can print and track to be sure you get all the things you need. Here you'll need to record the PLU or price lookup number.  

The final Step 3 is simply to check out with your bulk products (in your containers). No packaging here! The cashier will weigh your items, deducting the container weight, and adding each product to your bill. Even your receipt will not have to be printed - opting to have it emailed. 

For more detailed guidance on buying in bulk take a look at The Bulk Aisle: What's it really good for?

Finding the best stores to shop at isn't always easy. We found a good resource you can use is the Litterless Zero Waste Grocery Guide. It has every state listed. If you know of a great store that isn't listed there you can even add it to the directory

Here are a few shining examples of Zero Waste groceries in the Pacific Northwest. Of course there are so many great natural food co-ops and markets with growing bulk departments too!

The Realm Refillery (Portland, OR)

-Mimi's Zero Waste Market (Seattle, WA)

-Amis de la Terre Zero-Waste Market (Costa Mesa, CA)
-ReUp (Oakland, CA)

-Roots Zero Waste Market (Boise, ID)

PHOTO TOP: Jamar and Deb from Coos Head Food Coop in front of their amazing bulk food department. 

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