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Monday, 24 July 2017

LBH Weekly Roundup: Zero Waste Grocery Shopping at the Bulk Barn


Quite by accident, I found out that Bulk Barn, which is a national chain of stores selling bulk food, was now allowing customers to bring their own containers.  This is a boon to anyone interested in reducing their waste and the amount of packaging coming in to their home.  Your containers must be in clean condition and plastic and paper bags are not allowed.  You have the containers tared (or weighed) first before filling them so that the cashier is able to subtract the weight of the container from the total weight when you cash out.  I have always found it interesting when I hear of the difficulty of people in other countries in finding stores that sell bulk groceries as Bulk Barn has been around in Canada for many years.  The great thing about Bulk Barn is the vast selection.  There are lots of unusual things like Xylitol powder and hemp seeds on offer.  There are even liquid foods like various pie fillings and honey.  If you aren't in Canada, do you have a grocery store that is similar to Bulk Barn?  Any way, my first trip to Bulk Barn was more of a test.  I bought a handful of pretzels, 0.80 kg @ $5.28 per kg which came to 42 cents (before taxes).  I chose pretzels because packaged snack foods tend to be the Achilles heel for a lot of people trying to reduce their waste.  The process was so straightforward.  No arguing with the cashier about why you wanted to use your own container and trying to explain the concept of zero waste.  My second trip was a bit of a failure as this time I bought 2 handfuls of pretzels, as well as flour.  The pretzels came to over $3.00.  I couldn't figure out the disparity until, after much staring at the two receipts, I realized that the cashier forgot to subtract the weight of the container at the second visit as the receipt didn't show the net and gross weight the way the first receipt did.  So I think the cashiers are still getting familiar with the new system and you have to check your receipt.  I used my vintage French mason jars but you can find similar ones here.  
via Amazon



The great thing about this French brand is that you can get tall ones for storing pasta like spaghetti or linguine and get replacement gaskets as well.

via Amazon


After reflecting over my experience, I have concluded that it is a process that needs to be gradually assimilated into your lifestyle if you want to sustain the practice over the long haul.  At the moment, I am the only one in my household with any interest in it so I don't think I will ever go completely zero waste. Personally, I like to say "reducing waste" rather than "zero waste" as it makes it less intimidating. Because the process means taking your own containers to the store, the trip needs to be planned out beforehand.  I can't expect Monsieur to assist as he has mobility issues so it would be very difficult for him to haul containers to the store.  At one point, we considered getting our groceries delivered when our combined health made ordinary chores like grocery shopping extremely arduous and delivery would, obviously, preclude shopping at the Bulk Barn.  
To be honest, when I first heard about zero waste, I was simultaneously intrigued and repelled.  As with any movement, extremists tend to be attracted to it.  I felt like it wasn't for me and my household.  I mean, I am not going to get into an argument with the pharmacist about why life saving medications are being dispensed in a plastic jar!  If you go on the Bulk Barn website, you will see that they've partnered up with a fairly well known French-American zero waste proponent that I once followed.  When I saw that, I had a bit of a giggle because I remember when she ran a crowdfunding campaign and then immediately after the campaign ended she disabled comments on her blog and began running ads on her website for some time  for...disposable one-use cleaning products.  So, I stopped following her when I realized this zero waste guru had clay feet.  My personal belief is that balance is the key and finding what works for my home and the people in it.   Right now, any reduction in household waste is a good thing and I do have to give tremendous props to Bulk Barn for instituting this new policy.  Do you have any interest in bulk grocery shopping?  What are your experiences with the zero waste lifestyle?

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