Kristine Hansen
August 9, 2011

bag-free store

Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Thinkstock

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In.gredients will become the first zero-waste grocer in the nation when it opens in fall.

When an Austin, Texas, grocer, in.gredients, opens this fall, it will cater to eco-minded shoppers hungry for package-free goods. Every single item sold on in.gredients’ shelves — including household cleaners and edibles such as beer, milk, spices and olive oil — will be sold without packaging, essentially creating a zero-waste environment.

It’s estimated that 40 percent of landfills in the United States are overrun with packaging. Most groceries use plastic packaging, as well as non-recyclable cardboard, paper and metal. In.gredients co-founders and brothers Christian, Patrick and Joseph Lane saw an opportunity to not only make a difference, but to also teach consumers how to drastically reduce their reliance on packaging.

The store is based in the same city as the organic and all-natural grocery store Whole Foods Market’s home base, where the chain’s first store opened 30 years ago.

In.gredients will be the first zero-waste grocer in the nation. Even with the two large, organic, all-natural grocery stores, there is still room in Austin for lots of innovation: In.gredients will feature gardens and an on-site composting area open to the community, making the inevitable chore of grocery shopping more fun.

Since shoppers will be required to bring their own containers (which might be an empty wine bottle for a refill or a Tupperware container with a lid for dry goods) or make use of compostable containers provided in-store, almost everything can be bought in bulk at the zero-waste grocer.

If customers aren’t already cooking in-season, they soon will be. Eliminating products with packaging means only locally sourced or locally grown groceries will make the cut. This includes coffee beans from a local roaster and heirloom tomatoes grown in nearby gardens, with the majority of In.Gredients’ offerings being organic.

If you can’t get to Austin for in.gredients’ opening day but still want to employ a package-free approach to your next grocery-shopping trip, here are five tips:

Buy the larger size: The percentage of extra packaging that goes into a larger size of the same product is minimal and certainly less than purchasing two smaller sizes. When you can, spring for a larger bottle of ketchup or an extra-large olive-oil container. This is especially good for items like condiments or oils that don’t expire quickly.

Fill your own containers: Bath and body products, such as shampoos and liquid soaps, as well as household cleaners are often dispensed by the ounce into customers’ personal containers at many natural-food stores.

Reuse plastic: Tortillas and loaves of bread almost always come in plastic bags. Instead of tossing them into the recycling bin once you’ve consumed the product, reuse them as lunch sacks or a means to transport snacks (especially good if you’re bicycling or walking and it starts to rain).

Soap by the ounce: Many organic and all-natural stores sell bars of soaps displayed in loaves of colorful, textured bars. Simply cut off a wedge from a huge slab and pay by weight.

Shop the bulk aisle: Most grocers, including conventional stores, feature a bulk aisle where flours, sugars, nuts, cereals, pasta and dried fruits are sold by the pound. By dumping your purchases into a reusable bag or a lightweight container, you are rejecting plastic packaging that holds similar products sold on store shelves.

To learn more about in.gredients, click here.

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