March 9, 2009


I thought this idea was a good follow up to the video I referenced in my last post.

Unpackaged is a shop in London which is all bulk, unpackaged organic wholefoods and environmentally friendly products for your home. Customers bring their own containers to fill up—and it is cheaper, too.

I would hope that most communities have a bulk shopping option. I don't mean bulk as in large quantities, but bulk as in buying flexible amounts from bulk bins and using your own containers.

San Francisco has a fantastic co-op grocery which has an amazing array of items available in bulk. I hope to write about it in detail sometime. Maybe I could even do my first video post on a tour of the bulk bins at Rainbow.

The Unpackaged website has a great summary of why shopping without packaging is important:

The Problem with Packaging

Cost: Unnecessary packaging increases the price of the goods you buy. It means you are charged twice; first when you buy over packaged goods and then through your council tax to dispose of your rubbish.

Waste: Unnecessary packaging is a waste of resources at every level: to produce, store and transport, remove and to dispose of.

Pollution: The two main methods of disposing of this packaging – landfill and incineration – are major pollutants for humans and the environment and release greenhouse gases.

What about recycling?
While some packaging is recycled, most ends up in landfill sites and some packaging is just difficult and often impossible to recycle. Recycling is certainly part of the solution, but it will only work if we use less packaging in the first place and adopt more reusable ways of doing things- it is this ethos of reuse that Unpackaged is based on.

Reduce by only buying what you need
Reuse by bringing your containers for a refill
Recycle what you can’t reuse
And… if you can’t reuse or recycle it then don’t buy it!

I personally could do better at buying more items in bulk. I do make an effort to avoid certain products with ridiculous excess packaging or containers that cannot be recycled. For instance, I avoid buying liquid laundry detergent because those big plastic bottles make me nutty! But then again, Rainbow sells detergents, lotions, etc. in bulk, so that is pretty cool.

Do you have shops like Unpackaged in your area?


Anonymous said...

When my kids were little, I used to shop at the Bethesda Co-op in Bethesda, MD. It still exists, with the same name, but now it's located a little further out in Cabin John. Not only do they have bulk dry foods such as nuts, spices, flour, granola, but customers can bring their own jars for honey, maple syrup etc.
Here in DC, Whole Foods and Yes have organic bulk bins. However, one has to put the stuff into a little plastic bag. I guess that's better than full packaging, but it's still more plastic!

mom go green said...

you don't need to use plastic bags for bulk at whole foods (or at any store, for that matter). there are organic cotton produce and bulk bags readily available. i got mine at and keep them in my shopping bags. they are compact and washable. our food co-op also sells them, as do some of the farmers at our farmer's market. really worth the small investment.