Zero Waste Shopping: Whole Foods

I planned one trip to Whole Foods for the month of February as part of my zero waste experiment. My goal was to get some organic/free range meat, and some bulk goods that I couldn’t get from my usual supermarket.

This trip took longer than I expected. I spilled flour on myself, had to ask someone to refill the maple syrup jug, and spent a while at the cheese counter.

I reflected that buying from the bulk aisle was refreshingly free from advertising. The only labels are merely informative and not branded, and what you see is mainly the food itself through the clear bins. The units are not packages, which are commercial, but weight and volume. Once I brought them home, all the dry goods went into plain jars and containers, which are rather attractive. I had all these jars already: I have a jar-collecting habit that has now come in handy.


It did surprise me that, even at Whole Foods, avoiding packaging isn’t necessarily quick or easy. For example, the cheese counter display, a landscape of wheels of cheese stacked with cut wedges, suggests that those big blocks are waiting to be chopped just for you. But really you’re supposed to buy the already-wrapped cut pieces. It took a while for the (very helpful) saleswoman to find a block in the back to cut from.

Likewise at the meat counter, the butcher recommended that I buy bacon prepackaged, because it was exactly the same thing as at the counter, only cheaper.

Whole Foods does, however, have a wide selection of snacks in bulk (seasoned nuts, crackery snacks, sweets), as well as lots of cookies and pastries. I picked up a few chocolate goodies to make a (zero waste) Valentine’s gift for Mike!


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