Think of an average week of groceries. What does it look like for you? For most of us we can imagine filling a cart with a variety of different foods, each coming in their own separate packages. Cans of beans, bags of rice, and pre-packaged snacks aren’t unusual to find in a grocery haul. From one perspective a full shopping cart represents the week’s meals. This perspective can change dramatically when looking at a full cart through a waste conscious lens. How much plastic packaging has to be thrown out? How much food spoils before you’re able to eat it? Did you carry your items out in a paper or plastic bag, maybe even a reusable one? The speed and convenience of grocery stores has become a norm in our lives and unfortunately, so has the waste. While having access to a wide range of healthy and fulfilling foods does not have to go away, waste can be greatly reduced or even eliminated from the equation. The concern surrounding waste is an important one. Waste can contribute to climate change, landfills and ocean pollution, all things detrimental to every part of living ecosystems on the planet. Addressing this issue becomes increasingly important as residents of the Earth move toward more environmentally conscious lifestyles.
With large amounts of waste generated daily it can seem like an insurmountable problem, but some innovative businesses are taking steps to change that. Meet Sarah Metz, the mind behind The Fillery, an upcoming bulk grocery store in Brooklyn New York. The store takes on a waste reducing business model, with plans to sell goods in bulk that patrons can fill their own containers with. Its focus goes beyond groceries as well, with plans to host seminars to teach community members about cooking and living healthier lifestyles. Metz’s interest in creating this sort of store stemmed from her already existing consciousness of environmental issues. She explains:
I’ve always been an eco-conscious person, and one who loves to cook and eat healthily. These passions are only intensified by living in New York City: There is a very visible and seemingly insurmountable waste problem here, and my cooking and eating habits are inspired daily by the broad range of cultures I’m exposed to. Shopping at bulk/refill stores supports both of these interests – it allows me to try unique ingredients without having to commit to more of an item than what I actually need, thereby reducing food waste, and it eliminates unnecessary packaging. I shopped at By the Pound, a fantastic bulk store in Ann Arbor, Michigan more than 10 years ago, and there’s really nothing comparable in Brooklyn. This store certainly inspired me to start researching refill stores in other locations.
The idea for The Fillery became a reality when Metz took on the task of bringing a bulk grocery store to her area. After ten years of living there she felt that it was about time that Brooklyn had that type of store. Using the crowd funding platform Kickstarter, she was able to pass her originally intended goal of $15,000 dollars to start turning The Fillery into a reality. The decision to crowd fund the campaign was multifaceted. The publicity surrounding the campaign started to generate a conversation about the problem of waste as a whole, helping others see the world through this lens.
We chose to launch a campaign on Kickstarter for a few reasons: We wanted to create visibility and get a conversation going around plastic pollution, waste reduction, and the idea of creating change by offering community education and giving consumers more sustainable options. We also wanted to give members of our community a chance to be a part of the project.
Metz’s commitment to community involvement is deep seated in her business model. In addition to being a store that empowers patrons to live waste-free lifestyles, The Fillery plans to offer cooking classes, and seminars on healthy living. Metz’s goal is to “go beyond providing people with the tools they need to live more healthily and sustainably — we want to provide community education on how to do so effectively.” The store’s values will even be reflected in its physical space. Metz explains that The Fillery will “use re-purposed and recycled materials whenever possible, and only non-toxic products which have minimal environmental impact.” It will be more than just a store, but also a place to connect with other people.
The Fillery’s deep commitment to waste reduction and community is something that showcases one of the many ways we can combat environmental degradation. When many people think of waste their thoughts go to reducing litter, making sure to recycle and keeping a compost bin. While all of these are positive steps to take in reducing waste, starting with making waste-conscious purchasing decisions gets closer to addressing the root of the problem. Stores that make it easier for consumers to make waste conscious choices help set off of a chain of waste-free business models. Metz believes that as this perspective becomes more popular it will make enabling this sort of business to succeed easier as well. This also relates to one of the challenges she has run into starting her business.
While it is our goal for The Fillery to send as little as possible to the landfill, we are learning that absolute Zero Waste for a starting business is not yet 100% feasible. There are many challenges associated with becoming a Zero Waste business, such as having to limit the vendors we work with and the products we offer to those that meet very strict packaging and shipping guidelines. Zero Waste businesses are also limited in the type of marketing materials and methods they use, which are key to the successful launch of a new business. As more business adopt zero waste strategies, these challenges will begin to disappear.
The focus on empowering communities as well as providing them the tools they need to make positive lifestyle changes is something that resonates with our mission at Earthos. To build resilience in communities it requires a deep respect for its members and the ability to understand and work towards satisfying their needs. We believe that The Fillery’s mission aims to do this in a just and thorough way and we’re excited to see its development as time progresses (we might even need to pay a visit when it opens)! Combating waste and working to improve communities shows how The Fillery has a deep commitment to helping the members of its bioregion and helping us move toward a more sustainable planet. If you know of any similar stores in your bioregion or businesses working to reduce waste tell us about them! We always love learning about organizations with similar commitments to creating a more resilient planet.
The Fillery plans to launch an additional crowd funding campaign using Indiegogo which should be up sometime in the near future! For more information on The Fillery you can always find them on their website and Twitter.
Written by Earthos intern Omari Spears