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Re-designing the grocer : London’s Unpackaged

January 25, 2010

According to wikipedia, a grocer was “a dealer in comestible dry goods such as spices, pepper, sugar, and (later) cocoa, tea and coffee” as early as the 14th century. A grocer was somebody that delivered bulk goods to you, the consumer.

So it only seems fitting that London-based store, Unpackaged, would take this definition to heart. Catherine Conway, the founder, recognized that large grocery stores are highly inefficient when it comes to the environment. Food travels a huge distance from farm to table, and most products come with a tremendous amount of packaging. So she opened a store that eliminates most of the waste, a simple yet brilliant idea to encourage a more eco-friendly approach to food shopping.

Unpackaged encourages customers to bring reusable containers (whatever works) to the store where bulk bins are filled with a number of products ranging from couscous to laundry detergent, to fennel seeds. They carry bulk oils, housecleaners, tolietries, bulk herbs, loose teas, a selection of local baked goods, cheeses, milk in glass bottles and so much more — check out their list of products here.

Most of the products are organic, many fair-trade, and none (none!) come by air freight. They try to sell mainly local products while sticking to the environmental principles of reduce, reuse and recycle.

This truly is a fantastic idea, one that could be in every community to support local products while reducing costs and pollution from both packaging and transportation. Oh and don’t worry if you happen to forget a container but need something from the store, Unpackaged has some reusable bags on hand for just those kinds of days.

What do you think? I know I get frustrated sometimes if I got to my nearest Whole Foods’ bulk section thinking they might carry, say, lentils only to find that you have to buy an entire bag of red lentils for $6. I only need a cup for a recipe so why do I need to spend so much and have the plastic bag? I would be delighted to have something like Unpackaged here in Boston, wouldn’t you?

photos via WeHeart from Unpackaged site

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