In.Gredients, The First package-free and zero waste grocery store in the United States

Join the Human Impacts Institute Community Conversation! How much waste do you make from your groceries?

The initial step has been taken to recover from our nation’s obsessive consumption disorder with one grocery store in Austin, Texas. In.gredients, the first ever package-free, zero waste grocery store in the United States, is opening in the Fall of 2011. It has said goodbye to the traditional grocery store with aisles upon aisles of every brand name cereal or canned goods known to man. The idea is not only to recycle by to precycle by not bringing home items that will generate waste.

Customers bring containers to fill with the produce of their choice. The area of Austin in which the store will open is lacking in organic and sustainable food choices. The stores location in the east side of Austin is noted for its growing young, environmentally conscious population. Speaking with some of the local residents, a Human Impacts Institute representative found that not a lot of people knew about In.gredients.

This new method of grocery shopping prevents overconsumption by allowing the customer to take the right amount for their household. An astounding amount of food ends up in landfills and now represents the single largest component of garbage reaching landfills and incinerators. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, in 2009 Americans produced about 243 million tons of Municipal Solid Waste, or about 4.3 pounds of trash per person per day.

In.gredients has omitted itself from the mass production of waste. Not only does this eliminate the use of plastic bags, the second most common form of waste found in landfills across the country, it also excludes any paper packaging. Packaging makes up almost thirty percent of the waste produced in the country, an alarming percentage.

In.gredients is thinking outside of the box, literally. Local farmers and locally-sourced produce will be offered to the citizens of Austin all year round. By supporting the local economy, In.gredients will reduce dependence on the transportation of supplies from other regions. This not only decreases the use of fossil fuels but also builds community involvement in eco-friendly and sustainable practices. The package free produce will also lessen the allure of advertising, eliminating the unnecessary purchasing of items or “splurges”. The USDA has noted the benefits of organic farming practices for the well being and health of soil, animals, and humans. Organic options have a reputation for being too expensive for average working class families to afford.

Weighing and measuring out the proper amount for a household has financial benefits as well. People can purchase what is needed or buy in bulk to avoid dipping deeper into their wallet. Erin Wood, a local resident of Austin, is in favor of the new store and agrees that buying in bulk producing less waste. She says, “If someone needs to bake and only needs a cup of flour then they will only buy a cup instead of a huge bag of flour that will, a couple months later, expire or go bad and to waste.” This brings up a really important component of the waste going into our landfills. A lot of what one will buy at the grocery store is usually for a dinner idea or for a planned event. Most of the ingredients needed for the actual dish are not used and spoil, ending up in the trash.

In today’s society, we are completely out of touch with where our food originates. Most people are oblivious to what ingredients are in what they consume. With increasing health risks such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes, it is worth the small task to pay attention to the details of one’s diet and what it is you are in fact eating.

Living in a fast-paced, urban environment such as NYC, it is likely that we will reach for the easy, cheaper alternative such as fast-food. Grocery stores such as Whole Foods and Trader Joes are available in the NYC Metropolitan area, but more eco-friendly options are needed. As a part of reducing waste from food, the Human Impacts Institute’sEcoPreneurs Program works with small businesses to reduce their overall environmental impact in areas such as emissions, recycling cooking oil, and reducing waste. In.gredients is an ideal model and example on how businesses can take on these practices.

By Brigette Walsh, 2011 Human Impacts Institute Environmental Services Intern with reporting contributions by Mugzy Undemir, 2011 Human Impacts Institute Climate and Coalition Building Intern

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