Something which has been in existence for a couple of years now in Europe is zero-waste food markets and growing in popularity and trending in the US. I think it’s a really good idea and there is a simple philosophy which is to preempt waste from bags and packages simply by not offering them and therefore redefining waste. The food is sold in bulk and you just bring your own container, reusable container, reusable bag, jar etc., and measure out the exact amount of food, or other household products that you want. I think I like the idea of just being able to get the right amount of ingredients that I want rather than having to buy more than I need, either because it’s only available in large packets and I just never get around to using all of it , and then it just sits in the cupboard. Or in some stores you might have to use or even pay for a plastic bag and use once and then discard it, plastic bags are the scourge of the environment – think about the harm that they do to the oceans. In fact this form of trying to eliminate the need for plastic bags or creating waste is a manifestation of precycling or eliminating waste before it’s created or at source. On the flip side, there is a benefit for the zero-waste stores that offer this service or approach of “buy only what you need” and that is that they don’t have lots of stock that just gets left on their shelves and rather than having 101 choices of a particular food item, they just carefully source the food item and consumers aren’t left with having to make lots of choices.
This of course, is only an alternative to the usual forms of shopping, as not everyone will be in favor of reusable containers and less choice, mainly because we seem to move so fast in our lives – the fast pace of life. Also most peoples lives seem to be all about the single-use lifestyle, everything from take out coffee cups to food containers or take out trays, which we just dispose of or toss away without a moments thought. I know I am certainly guilty of this or when I have picked up something to eat and then ended up throwing most of it away, and then when I get home I am hungry again. I know the idea of zero-waste stores and using them would require a lot of adjustment and require us to rethink and reinvent grocery shopping not just for consumers but also for manufacturers. I for one would find it difficult because I like how some foods are packaged and I like to read nutritional information and I am just basically very persnickety. I am scared about ‘Best Before’ labels and worrying about if the food I buy is still good to eat. Although I used to be all about as long as it smells okay and looks okay, then it’s good to eat, and I was usually pretty safe with canned foods or food items that are packaged and shrink wrapped in layers of protection. However, I like the idea of walking into a zero-waste store with shelves made from recycled wood or wooden crates filled to the brim with food items, ladders that enable me to access higher shelves and filling up my amber colored reusable glass jar, as I pass from chalkboard to chalkboard that are clearly labelled with contents, that are both informative and inviting as I fill or scoop out dry goods or whatever else I want or need. Taking the drudgery out of shopping and one which allows me to participate in or making it feel more like a jaunt.
I know that zero-waste food markets might not be for everyone but its more about alternatives of shopping for food and other products and freedom of choice. I can’t be certain that it will catch on – but in life there aren’t very many certainties after all. Zero-food waste itself might not sound like reality but so much food never makes it to our tables and it just ends up as unnecessary waste and from both consumers and businesses like restaurants and grocery stores etc.,. It would be nice to see a lot more zero-waste food stores and to just buy what I need without having the additional cost of all that packaging passed onto me indirectly or making choices about what type of pasta or rice I need and spend less time in the store. Now if only I could figure out how much I actually need for those chocolate chip cookies I was planning to make and what if I decide to make an extra batch?