Even if you’re the type to tote your bottle the extra block to find a recycling bin (or in some cities all the way home), and to carry that cloth bag when it’s time to buy groceries, it’s hard not to be wasteful. Those plastic containers, the ones that hold even the most organic of berries, don’t go in recycling bins reserved for rigid plastics (jugs and bottles). And those granola bars may be Fair Trade and sugar-free, but they’ve been wrapped in plastic and boxed, processed and then flown and driven hundreds or thousands of miles to get to your kitchen.
In an effort to reduce the energy expended and waste generated by food, a new Austin grocery store, in.gredients, is shunning recycling in favor of “precycling,” the practice of avoiding recycling altogether by not creating packaging in the first place.
The country’s first zero-waste, package-free grocery store opened for business in August and has been a great success. In the spirit of a farmers market for groceries, in.gredients reminds people to reduce and reuse, not only recycle. Customers bring their own containers to stock up on the goods, paying by weight (minus that of containers) for everything from leeks and laundry detergent to brownies and beer. The products include many gluten-free and vegan options, and all have a few guiding principles in common: they’re local, GMO-free (genetically modified organisms), GE-free (genetically engineered), non-processed and all-natural. Plus there’s the option to grab a healthy lunch at the deli counter.
Because in.gredients is a community organization, they encourage the community to get “in.volved:” volunteers can work in exchange for store credit. They also host events like acoustic band performances, open mic nights and film screenings. To keep the cycle of good flowing, in.gredients allows customers select the charity they’d like to donate a percentage of their purchase to.
This is one model we’d like re-used: use less, waste less. Simple? Maybe. Brilliant? Definitely.