Tell All Thursday: Zero Waste Bulk
We are excited to announce that one of our newest stockists is Zero Waste Bulk in Uptown Waterloo! Not only do they stock our cubes, but we are working on creating a zero waste option and offer our ice cream in re-useable glass jars exclusively through Zero Waste Bulk. We interviewed owner Ellin to share her journey to a zero waste lifestyle and her aspirations to inspire the KW community to join the movement.
Tell us a bit about you and how your path to Zero Waste Bulk got started! What sparked your passion bringing zero waste options to KW?
I first heard of “zero waste” when I connected with minimalist communities about two years ago. It started with a journey of re-evaluating my possessions. How did I accumulate so much stuff and why was I so attached to my possessions? I was a borderline hoarder, but being surrounded by clutter was a constant source of stress. A key moment was when I realized I didn’t have an organization problem - it was a “too much stuff” problem. Too much stuff that didn’t even bring me joy (I was definitely inspired by Marie Kondo - now trending on Netflix). I realized much of this stuff I was decluttering was destined for the landfills, and this bothered me a lot as I’ve always wanted to prevent things from being wasted (that was part of the reason I held onto so much stuff). Being critical about my material possessions also led to the re-evaluation of my consumption habits. That’s where minimalism and zero waste overlap - both involve becoming a conscious consumer. As I began trying to live zero waste, I realized that it was inconvenient. If there were a one-stop shop where you could shop zero waste, this would be much easier. I’ve heard of other zero waste shops popping up around the world and wanted to see one near me, but as far as I knew, this wasn’t happening. I did not want to wait for someone else to start a zero waste store in the area since I didn’t know how long that would take. So I decided I would take the initiative and start one myself.
How does Zero Waste Bulk work? What kinds of alternatives and products do you offer in your store?
The idea is to reduce packaging waste by allowing customers to bring their own containers to (re)fill. Customers are encouraged to bring their own containers to fill with bulk products. The weight of the empty container is first recorded so that it can be deducted upon checkout. Along with your typical bulk dry foods, we also offer products that are harder to find in bulk without packaging including soaps, shampoos, cleaning products, oils, vinegars, toothpaste, cosmetics, condiments, and even frozen foods like pierogis, waffles, and vegan burger patties.
What are some of the ways you can help customers to make transitions to a zero waste lifestyle?
We offer a wide variety of packaging-free bulk products along with many sustainable, plastic-free alternatives to your everyday disposables (e.g. stainless steel safety razors, plastic-free dish scrubbers with replaceable heads).
Is there anything you feel like consumers should know that they might not know already about packaging, waste and the impacts on our environment and health?
Vastly reducing the waste you produce is not as difficult as it may seem. Although we currently produce too much waste as a society, there is a lot we can do to reverse this. So much of the waste we produce comes from food packaging, but buying in bulk with your own containers can really cut this waste. I also encourage everyone to push companies to take responsibility of their product packaging and switch to more sustainable practises. Another thing… Recycling is not enough! Recycling is just a form of waste management. What we want to do is reduce recycling by creating systems of reuse. Recycling is still resource intensive, and putting things in the blue bin does not necessarily guarantee that the item will get recycled. In addition, plastic “recycling” is really downcycling. Every time plastic goes through the recycling process, its quality deteriorates; plastic cannot be recycled forever - it eventually becomes waste.
Our community has lots of diversity – what are some ways that you hope to reach different types of community members in KW?
We want to make living zero waste as easy and as accessible as possible. Many people who walk into our store are not already trying to live zero waste and are unfamiliar with bringing their own containers to shop. It’s easy to forget your own containers when starting out, so we offer free and cheap reusable containers for people to use. We have a wide price range to try to have something for everyone. We are also planning on implementing student discount days as I am very familiar with shopping on a limited student budget!
What excites you about a partnership with another small business like Four All Ice Cream? What’s been your favourite Four All flavour and what are your dream flavours?
I’m glad we have an option for delicious locally made ice cream and that the packaging is paper based. However, I would love to work together to offer ice cream in reusable glass jars! The rose pistachio #JusticeForBarb flavour and chocolate truffle were amazing! I would love to see more creative vegan flavours - I have too many ideas! Rocky road, earl grey, lavender, matcha red bean, maple pecan, cookie dough, s’mores, gingerbread, black sesame, banana bread, pistachio, etc.
What are your goals for the future of Zero Waste Bulk in the KW community?
We would like to continue to build local partnerships to bring locally made products without the disposable packaging waste.
Are you working on anything new you want to share with our customers?
We’re always working on improving customer experience. We’re currently working on making it easier to access product information as a conscious consumer is an informed one!