Buying food and personal care products in bulk is catching on as the zero-waste movement is becoming more mainstream. It’s becoming so popular that you can buy almost anything in bulk (just ask Bea Johnson) including dish soap, laundry detergent, shampoo, spices, olive oil, honey, coffee, wine and nut butter. Why we love bulk bin shopping:
1. Bulk ingredients are less expensive
Why pay for your food and your packaging every time you shop? One benefit of bulk bin shopping is that it reduces all the hidden costs associated with packaging. In addition to the cost of the actual packaging production and materials, packaged food costs more because of package design, marketing, and transportation costs due to packaging weight and bulkier sizes of packaged foods. Then there’s the waste-hauling costs we pay to throw the package in the trash or recycling. Considering the lifecycle of a food package, it’s pretty silly to pay for all these ad-ons when we can just buy our food unpackaged.
2. Bulk ingredients are better for you
Eliminating packaging also means that your food isn’t sitting in small plastic bags, plastic bottles or plastic-lined paper bags for months before you purchase it. The Environmental Working Group says some plastics contain “ingredients or additives we know are harmful, like the plastics chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) and the plastic softeners called phthalates.” Shopping in bulk using your own stainless steel containers, cloth bags or glass jars means less surface area is in contact with plastic at the supplier, in transit, at the grocery store, in your kitchen, and ultimately in your food.
3. Buying in bulk reduces waste
Almost one-third of the trash generated by Americans is attributed to packaging, and all of that plastic waste is on the Earth somewhere and always will be. Our reliance on disposable packaging is overwhelming our planet: By 2050, the oceans will contain more plastic than fish by weight. Remembering reusable bags and containers when going to the market is a high-impact way to positively affect the health of the planet. Look for containers that have etched tare weights to make checkout seamless for you and the market (the container’s weight is easily deducted at checkout).
4. Buying in bulk gives you more control over quantity
Ever just need a teaspoon of an unusual spice for a recipe but end up buying a whole jar and never use what’s leftover? Ever want to try a new shampoo or coffee but don’t want to buy the entire bottle or bag? The NRDC says “40 percent of food in the United States today goes uneaten.” Bulk bin shopping is a great solution to help reduce food waste, as well as other household products. Buy as little or as much as you need.
Our favorite places to shop in bulk (and get inspiration):
Good Earth Natural Foods in Fairfax
Package-Free Shop in Brooklyn
The Refill Shoppe in Ventura
in.gredients in Austin
The Source Bulk Foods in Australia
Zero-Waste Market coming soon in Vancouver
Bepakt index of package-free markets
Zero-Waste Grocery Shopping Tips from Zero-Waste Home
Bulk Finder App, to find bulk locations while you travel, also from Zero-Waste Home
Where to Shop is a state-by-state guide for bulk shopping, package-free foods and household goods from Litterless
There are many more! Do you have a favorite to add to the list? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image from 3 Chairs.