zero waste store mason jars

How To Use Zero Waste Shops

As part of making the change to living a more eco-conscious life, finding and shopping in a zero waste store can be a great way of reducing your waste. But it can be very daunting if you’ve never used a refill-shop before, so we’ve got some tips on how to shop at a zero waste store.

Find your nearest shop

There are now around 200 zero waste shops around the UK, so there are plenty to choose from.

You can Google “zero waste store”, or use a directory like ours to find your nearest zero waste shop on a map. Make sure to choose one that is close to you, or on your frequent journeys so you don’t spend too much fuel getting to it!

Zero waste stores are also called “plastic-free” or “refill” shops, so be sure to search for those too.

What can you find at a zero waste shop?

Once you’ve found a nearby store, you may be asking “how does a zero waste shop work?”. Well, the idea is to visit the store and buy your dried foods and necessities in sustainable or plastic-free packaging. More shops and brands are thankfully moving towards this trend of using more environmentally-friendly ingredients and packaging.

Zero waste stores are normally independent shops, so it will depend. Usually, you can expect to find pasta, cereals, lentils, rice, fruit, and vegetables. You’re also likely to find toiletries, home cleaning products, and possibly local produce. All of the products are intended to be sustainable and zero waste alternatives to your everyday items.

Because you can choose the exact quantities of most things you purchase, you’re not obligated to buy more than you need. That way you’ll get as much food as you’ll need, which will reduce the amount that may go to waste otherwise. This could mean you’ll save money too.

What to bring

The idea of a zero waste store is that you bring your container and bags to take all of your purchases away with. Then, after you’ve used them up, you’ll bring those same containers back to the store to refill them. 

The most common containers to use are sealed mason-jars, as they are air-tight, sturdy and easy to use. You can use them to refill foods like pasta and rice. You may want to re-use old tupperware for smaller items like legumes or spices.

For any liquids you want to buy, bring an old bottle (which can be re-sealed). Despite trying to avoid plastic waste, it’s perfectly fine to bring an old plastic bottle, as you’ll be reusing it! Try to use bottles that have a volume label, as it’ll make it easier to know how much you’re buying.

For other bigger produce like vegetables, bring a canvas bag or something similar.

At the checkout, the customer service person will weigh or scan each item, so you’ll pay for as much as you’ve taken. 

What if you don’t have any containers?

Many zero waste stores will have containers that you can purchase in the store, so if you don’t have any mason jars or sealed containers you can buy them in-store. 

How do zero waste stores help the environment?

There are many advantages to using refill stores, the biggest being that using them helps you to be more sustainable by not using as many single-use plastics. These include re-using containers such as tupperware and plastic bottles.

Re-using the same containers over and over again reduces the amount you’re throwing away, and lowers the number of new single-use plastics manufacturers have to use.

Omar Agor-Wood
Omar Agor-Wood

Omar is a digital marketer by day for one of the UK's largest environmental consultancy companies, and is writing like the world depends on it for Pick Ethical at night. He has a passion for hiking, bouldering, and making a fuss of his dog.

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