Many big supermarkets have removed package free items, closing off their bakery and the self-serve loose nuts sections due to the pandemic and hygiene measures. This leaves zero-waste grocery stores, who often rely on a bulk self serve model, in a tricky position and many have had to adapt how they run their business.
It has been a little bit harder to engage in some of the everyday acts and behaviours that had become habit as we tried to live lighter on the planet (and for good reason too!). But many of us out there who have adapted to these changes and are still doing all we can to live with as minimal an impact as possible and luckily zero waste groceries stores have been adapting with us! My local zero waste grocery store (The Source, here in Australia) has been able to remain open with a bunch of measures in place to ensure safety such as socially distancing in store, wearing masks, customers getting their own pen, and the staff wiping the scoops once they've been used.
With COVID-19 and the resulting lockdowns increasing work and financial insecurities for many of us and disparity of privileges, you might think that we have had to quietly drop our ethical and environmental concerns when shopping. However, numerous reports and studies have in fact shown that the opposite is true, and that coronavirus has focused our minds on helping to create a better, healthier world. Luckily many of our zero-waste groceries have pivoted their operations to help us keep it up, here are some from around the world.
Naked Asian Grocer is Australia's first zero waste asian grocery store which has rolled out online during the pandemic.They stock things like noodles, rice, tea, herbs and even meal kits (noodle soup kit, yes please!).
The Source Bulk Foods has adapted in store and also has an online shop which delivers (for those in AUS, NZ and the UK) if it's not possible to go in store!
Green Queen has put together a very comprehensive list of zero waste groceries in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, The Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia. A lot of these stores have put measures in place while also offering online shopping and delivery in most cases!
A Bit Less Bulk Store in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia has a very thorough run through of ways they are operating in a COVID-safe way up on instagram!
And their customers thank them for it!
Zero Grocery is the U.S.'s first online zero-waste grocery store and a Black-owned company bringing environmentalism to the masses by removing single-use plastics from their operations. The great thing about this company is that they are holding equity at heart and it reflects in their diverse group of investors, commitment to black communities and localised operations.
While some stores are not currently accepting Bring Your Own Containers (BYOC) to minimize potential contact, get in touch with your local to find out what measures they have in place to keep everyone safe.
While attitudes towards plastic and food have shifted a bit in the UK since the pandemic started, it still remains on the radar of many - with 60% of respondents in this survey saying they weren't more or less comfortable with buying loose produce!
Here is a list of over 100 Zero-Waste stores in the UK! Find out which stores are operating near you and contact them for information on their trading, opening hours and delivering abilities at the moment.
Zero-waste Bulk food grocers all around the world are doing their best to be extra vigilant and work with their customers to ensure that the measures put in place are followed for the safety of everyone in the store or during delivery. The zero-waste movement already raises questions about privilege and access and it's important to note that during a global pandemic we are all balancing our priorities and thinking a lot more about the health and safety of everyone.
Although the zero-waste, conservation and environmental movements have been greatly affected by COVID19, the cause isn't hopeless and we have a chance to come out of this looking towards a more resourceful and sustainable future. In doing our bit, no matter how small, we are helping take the world towards this future.
Jacqueline Klopp, the co-director at the Center for Sustainable Urban Development at Columbia University's Earth Institute says "I think this pandemic has made us realize that we are in this together," Klopp says. "It shouldn't be up to us just as individuals, but up to us as individuals in networks, in movements to say we need to do things differently. It's important to give people encouragement that they can act, but that's never enough. We need to keep pushing."