Interview with owners of the bulk grocery store in Uptown Waterloo

Ellin Park, Owner of Zero Waste Bulk

Ellin Park, the owner of Zero Waste Bulk, located in Uptown Waterloo, decided to open the doors of her grocery store in 2017 to make zero waste grocery shopping more convenient. She and her partner, Kevin Choi, wanted to make a one-stop shop for local produce, dry goods, household supplies and sustainable packaging alternatives. They are both passionate about being more conscious about consumption, and thereby reducing the amount of waste they produce daily. We had an interview with Ellin and asked a few questions about the industry and it’s influence within the Kitchener-Waterloo region.

What are the main environmental and economic benefits of zero waste grocery shopping?

Environmental: You cut down on packaging waste since products aren’t pre-packaged into small portions. Bulk quantities of products use less packaging material per volume, and some of our suppliers use reusable containers that get reused over and over again. Economic: You often save on packaging costs for bulk products.

What attracted you to enter the zero waste grocery industry?

There was a lack of zero waste options when I would grocery shop. I wanted a one-stop shop where I could do the majority of my groceries zero waste.

How do you think zero-waste grocery shopping contributes to the KW community?

We reduce waste and also build community by supporting many other local makers and suppliers.

What have been the greatest challenges in the zero waste industry?

It can be hard to find products that are both sustainable, local, and affordable. Often the sustainability of the product is reflected in the price. Products that are ethically made will cost more because people are being paid fair wages. The downside is that “zero waste” lifestyle products are sometimes inaccessible.

How do you see this business growing?

Expanding our product selection and sourcing products in bulk that are typically hard to find without single use packaging.

How do you think COVID-19 influences people to purchase zero waste?

BYOC (“Bring Your Own Containers”) has been stigmatized and many businesses have stopped allowing BYOC due to COVID-19, but I think many people are looking forward to getting back into zero waste shopping with their own containers. Single use waste has grown since COVID-19, but we are trying to provide low waste alternatives by packaging our bulk products in 100% compostable packaging or packaging in our reusable deposit jars which can be picked up no contact. We plan on resuming BYOC once we reopen our storefront.

[Since reopening in August, BYOC has resumed! Keep up to date on their current offerings on their website and social media.]
Located in Uptown Waterloo at 110 King Street South

Zero Waste Bulk is located at 110 King Street South, in Waterloo. Ellin and Kevin encourage shoppers to bring their own containers, to reduce the need to purchase containers. If you have extra containers you can even leave them behind for other customers to use! Plus to reduce food waste and give back to the community Zero Waste Bulk has added a Community Fridge (A community fridge is a non-for-profit fridge consisting of fresh, donated foods that anyone can take from for FREE. It is designed to reduce food waste while also helping those who struggle to access fresh foods). Zero waste grocery shopping is a positive step towards minimizing consumer waste sent to landfills, and gives you a stronger sensibility of a more environmental lifestyle. They reopened their storefront August 9th, you can shop in store or online. Find out more on their website!