Yesterday morning, I was thinking about what it would be like if the Berkeley Bowl expanded its bulk foods section to fill the entire store. I fantasized about filling up glass jugs with cold, creamy milk, transferring speckled brown eggs from a refrigerated shelf to a plastic egg carrier, carefully wrapping a stick of butter in waxed paper, pouring flour into a burlap sack...
So imagine my surprise when my husband called me over to his computer last night to show me this short article about Unpackaged, a London grocery store that (as the name might imply) sells its goods unpackaged. A simple yet brilliant idea!
Here is what Unpackaged has to say about itself:
Unpackaged was founded in 2006 by Catherine Conway in the belief that there is a better way to sell food. We want to make it easy for our customers to do the right thing – the right thing for themselves and for the environment.We started on a market stall and now have a shop at 42 Amwell St, London, EC1R 1XT.
It seems pretty straightforward: You bring your containers from home (they're willing to fill anything and everything - and, of course, they weigh the heavy containers first so you don't end up paying for their weight), fill 'em up, weigh 'em, pay for everything, take it home, and repeat once you've run out. Reminds me a little of the co-op my family belonged to when I was little but with no membership requirements.
My question is why we don't have one (or several thousand) of these stores here in the U.S.? I could see this working very well in the Bay Area or NYC to start. Reusing your plastic bags is a good first step but this type of business innovation would speed things up considerably. Just imagine, unpacking your groceries without having to feel guilty about all the wasteful packaging. In addition, buying in bulk tends to be cheaper since you're not paying for the design and production of all that packaging.
Since Elephant Pharmacy closed (ah, the sadness), there is even a very nice, centrally-located retail space available in the Gourmet Ghetto here in Berkeley. Could be a perfect fit for the neighborhood!
Please share on Facebook and Twitter -- let's try to get the idea out there.
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