Unpackaged at Last

imageI remember back when I heard about the first package-free store. Unpackaged opened in London in 2010 and was a internet sensation the moment it opened (ok maybe only among us zero-wasters). The only downside – it was all the way over in England.

Well since then, lots of things have changed. The bulk departments of our local stores are growing, the Soap Dispensary opened in Vancouver offering bulk cleaners, soaps, and toothpastes, and our farmer’s market began to stay open every week year round. All these things make it much much easier to live zero waste, but I still had my eye on that first zero waste store.

When Grant and I started planning a trip to the UK, I knew Unpackaged had to be on our list of tourist attractions. In perfect serendipity, the store ended up being just a 5 minute walk from the place we were staying.

image_2The most exciting part of Unpackaged is the bulk yogurt, something I have been unable to find in Vancouver. Second most exciting are bulk oils and vinegar which are sometimes available but not easy to come by. And now that we’re here, the achievements of Unpackaged are especially notable because, from what we’ve seen in London supermarkets, it’s pretty darn hard to live zero waste here. I’m talking 2 or 3 choices of package-free fruits and veggies and everything else wrapped in plastic. They do seem to have fantastic recycling with public bins everywhere and food scraps pick up at homes, but the key to reducing waste is catching it at the source, and it’s not easy here.

So kudos to Unpackaged not only for doing what you’re doing, but for doing it in a country where pretty much no one else is!image_3



Filed under consumerism, food, packaging

24 responses to “Unpackaged at Last

  1. Greetings from Virginia! Here in Richmond, we, too, have a tough time reaching bulk heaven. Whole Foods and a local market, Ellwood Thompsons, are great, with rarities like bulk nutritional yeast, honey, and even olive oil. But bulk personal care? Only in my dreams. I would love to see someone open up a store on par with Unpackaged locally. PS- What would you guys say has been one of the hardest sources/types of waste to eliminate? PPS- I’m excited to see you back online! Happy travels =)

  2. Elizabeth Leboe

    It must be a European thing: when I had a chance to visit Holland last summer, I was also shocked to see virtually every single vegetable wrapped in plastic on a styrofoam tray. It felt criminal buying all that for our bike picnics, with nowhere to put all the packaging but the garbage. Grrr. I sure hope that is not the future for our Canadian super-markets…. go farmers’ markets, go!

  3. Mel

    We have a student food co-op here in York (and Leeds and other places) where many things can be bought in your own containers (including oil, spices and washing liquid). No package-free toothpaste tho!

  4. I am contemplating a zero waste challenge at my house but I just don’t know how to get everyone on board. LOVE the idea of Unpackaged and wish we had one!

    • We love friendly competitions and also rewarding people for great recycling and avoidance rather than shoving rules down their throat. What about letting everyone make the rules up together and having a prize for the final winner?

  5. Sometimes I think of opening up a Unpackaged style store here in Melbourne. Half of me wants to do it to show everyone how easy buying package free food is and the other half of me wants to do it so I can get everything in one place rather than zipping about from store to store!

    • I don’t think there is anywhere in Melbourne that has an unpackaged store. I’m in Geelong & there’s not one here either that I’m aware of.
      I think an unpackaged store would do well in Melbourne!

      • Hi Stacey, there are many in Melbourne! Have you tried the Bulk app. It’s a free app that lets you look up Bulk stores. Bulk stores sell most of their goods unpackaged. I go to one in Collingwood and East Brunswick. There is one in Prahan called The Source too. Hope that helps πŸ™‚

  6. Constance

    Just curious how you are feeling about “The Bulk Barn” coming to B.C.? I was so stoked as when I lived in Nova Scotia I could get feta cheese in bulk…so exciting! BUT they will not let you use your own bags. Have you visited a store yet?

  7. ClearItWaste

    Rubbish collection is essential for keeping environmental condition fresh and cleanness around streets. Its also beneficial for the economic growth of the country by doing recycling of this useless waste.

  8. This store sounds exciting! Wish there were many more worldwide, allowing the use of own containers!

  9. In Canada here some places it seems hard to convince people to bring their own bags to the grocer. I can only imagine what some of these houses look like! Down with the extra packing too, I mean c’mon really?! Have this stuff the packaging takes up more space than the actual product!

    Great read!
    Cheers mate!

  10. Wow, that store looks amazing! I’d enjoy having something like that around me – finding things in bulk is a challenge in my area.

  11. I can’t believe that there are still stores where every single vegetable or fruit is wrapped. This is a real criminal. I mean, people are not poisonous, even if you buy fruit already touched by someone else you can clean it with water. Is it so hard? So many useless wraps! It is criminal!

  12. This store looks like heaven! We are so lucky to have the Soap Dispensary in Vancouver. Great Blog, I’m enjoying it very much (:

  13. Karla Mundy

    Do you know of anyone planning to open one of these in Vancouver? I would be so excited and imagine that it would be pretty popular.

    • Not specifically, but The Soap Dispensary on Main has shampoo, cleaning products, and now some food items like olive oil and vinegar and bulk chips! Other grocery stores like Whole Foods and Save-on-foods have pretty great bulk options as well.

  14. In my country, Romania, is nothing like that yet. And it’s really hard to explain in supermarkets that you don’t want extra plastic bags on everything… :/

  15. Hi, I’m Han’s Mom-i-l and it’s great to read your blog and see the changes you’ve made! Well done Grant – guys are often skeptical about stuff like this. Awesome!

  16. Such a great journey to see how you have evolved over the years! Going zerowaste is something we aspire to and follow your tips! We are saying no more often and simplifying ou life in so many areas!
    Thank you
    Using Stainless Steel Drinking Straws

  17. The store of this nature is necessary for many buyers. Here we can find a large selection of goods that we need. This is a great advantage.

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