Precycling and Package-free Bulk Shopping
The City of Austin (Austin, TX) has set a lofty goal is to reduce the amount of trash sent to their landfills by 90% in 30 years (by the year 2040).
They've created a master plan which includes a system to reward those community members who divert waste from entering landfills and it includes a “Home Composting Rebate Challenge”. In addition, they have developed improved recycling programs and are implementing home composting carts.
One group of entrepreneurs in Austin has jumped on board to forge the way in reducing waste through a unique business model. The first ever package-free and zero-waste grocery store in the United States debuted in 2012 and is called:
A unique grocery shopping concept
"In.gredients" has been unique collaborative effort between business, the Austin community, and consumers. Their goal is to reduce waste by eliminating packaging altogether. An old practice that over the last century the U.S. has strayed from.
Instead of recycling packaging that’s already been produced, they are implementing the concept of "precycling" - the practice of eliminating the packaging before it before it’s even made.
For local consumers, here is the design:
1. Those shopping bring their own shopping bags and clean containers from home. Resuable containers will be available to purchase for those that forget theirs from home.
2. In.gredients weighs and labels the empty containers
3. The eco-conscience consumer fills the containers with the desired food (fresh produce and bulk items)
4. At check-out, the consumer pays based on only the weight of added food.
The concept is based on old and simple principles and one that is still used regularly in open markets in other countries.
Local Food Sourcing - a key component
"In.gredients" sees local food sourcing as a top priority. The premise is that the local economy will be stimulated when consumers buying locally. In terms of fresh produce and fresh foods, consumer choices will be based on what is in season. The emphasis will be on real food, not food that has been chemically modified.
Buying food package-free enables the consumer to control how much is purchased. This encourages portion control and reduces the amount of wasted food. Why by a huge bag of carrots when you only need four or five?
The store offers:
- Fresh Produce
- Dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese, etc)
- Dry bulk goods (grains, baking ingredients, spices, coffee/tea, etc.)
- Liquid bulk goods (oils/vinegars, beer/wine, etc.)
- Fresh and local meats
- Ready-to-eat fresh foods
- Baby food
- General merchandise (containers, bags, reusables)
- Household items (green cleaners, personal care items)
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How can those of us outside of Austin benefit?
First and foremost, Austin should be applauded for taken such a bold initiative. Many cities across the U.S. can learn and emulate this initiative.
Second, while most of us will never have the opportunity to visit and shop at In.gredients, there is much that can be learned from their efforts. In.gredients.com provides many useful precycling tips, tools and links out to other useful green and sustainability sites.
In.gredients provides an educational blog with tips on how to reduce household waste. And you can learn how to compost in an urban setting through their website.
If this business model proves to be successful, you may very well see more stores like this popping up across the country!
In the meantime, there are three steps anyone can be take to move towards socially and environmentally conscience shopping.
- Take resuable shopping bags to the store
- Seek out a local co-op and buy in bulk
- Eat more fresh produce and less pre-packaged food