Nu Grocery, Ottawa’s First Zero-Waste Grocery Store

by Natalie Mouradian on 08/21/2017 | 4 Minute Read

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If you live in Ottawa and have been stockpiling canvas bags and ball jars, or you’re just sick and tired of thinking about all of the waste you’re bringing home that comes from food packaging alone, you’re in luck. Nu Grocery, Ottawa’s first zero-waste grocery store, opened its doors in Hintonburg this past weekend.

Nu Grocery currently offers 350 types of products that run the gamut from the usual bulk food items you would find at Whole Foods like beans and rice, to other kitchen staples like eggs and milk. If that weren’t enough, they’ve even decided to carry beauty products. About the only thing you can’t purchase is meat or fish, but a majority of the foods they do carry are from local growers and are natural and organic. But best of all, there’s no waste whatsoever.

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If the concept seems foreign, it’s quite simple. Just bring some empty containers from home, pick up what you need, weigh it (minus the container, naturally), fork over some cash, and eat.  If you don’t have your own personal containers, it’s no problem.  Not only do they have compostable paper bags for dry goods, they also have jars you can borrow for wet products that can be obtained with a deposit fee. You can also purchase a wide array of containers, canvas totes, or bulk bags while you’re there.

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Nu Grocery started when founder Valérie Leloup adopted a zero-waste lifestyle after having read Bea Johnson’s Zero Waste Home. But as Leloup was getting started, she quickly realized that she was going to five different grocery stores a week to complete her shopping. She wanted to create a one-stop shop for all of her daily needs while also tackling wasteful consumption. In Canada alone, the average person produces more than 1,500 pounds of waste per year.

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This is a trend that is happening the world over.  Leloup was inspired by other zero-waste stores like LOCO that were just getting underway in Montreal, but they’ve been quite popular in Europe for the past few years like the crowdfunded Unverpackt in Germany. Here in the states, stores like Brooklyn’s The Fillery will be opening up soon as well.

But while we can all celebrate a little less waste in our landfills, where does that leave package designers? Do they just pack up and take their ball home as more and more zero-waste stores open up?

While packaging will almost certainly not be going away anytime soon, brands and designers can both look to zero-waste stores for bold, new ideas that innovate and inspire change throughout the industry. Designers can continue to create and improve upon disposable or reusable packaging that leaves behind no environmental footprint as consumers look to purchase sustainable products.

Plus, as useful as mason jars and bulk bags are, they’re a little dull and tiresome in appearance and could probably use a makeover.

For now, Ottawa residents can bask in the glow of a clutter-free store with all of its contemporary trappings, all the while helping to eliminate waste.

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Bill McCoolBill McCool is a freelance writer based out of Los Angeles. Though new to the world of design, he has always been a storyteller by trade and he seeks to inspire and cultivate a sense of awe with the work and artists he profiles. When he's not winning over his daughters with the art of the Dad joke, he is usually working on a pilot, watching the Phillies, or cooking an elaborate meal for his wife.

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