A Waste Free Holiday: Grocery Shopping the NU Way

Photos courtesy of NU Grocery

Back in August, Ottawa opened its very first zero waste grocery store, NU, located in the heart of Hintonburg.

NU offers a one-stop shopping experience for customers looking to reduce or eliminate their food packaging waste. Inside, you’ll find everything from bulk food items, fresh produce, and baked goods to food containers, personal hygiene products, and detergents. Everything in the store is all-natural, waste-free, and, when possible, organic and locally sourced. The idea is to bring your own reusable jars and containers, weigh them, fill them with bulk products, and then pay the difference; this way, the focus is on the products themselves rather than the packaging. And in case you forget or don’t have your own containers, you can always borrow or purchase them in store.

NU’s holistic approach to zero waste living holds particular significance for the month December. The sign outside the store indicates that throughout the holiday season, Canadians will buy and throw away 6 million rolls of tape and 3000 tons of wrapping paper. Add in all the plastic packaging, greeting cards, shopping bags, and leftover food, and it’s no wonder that household waste increases by about 25% during Christmas.

So what can we do to reduce our waste output over the holidays? NU owner Valérie Leloup’s first piece of advice is to refuse the things you don’t need. “When you give a gift to someone, apply it to them. So, ask yourself if that’s something that they really need, instead of just buying stuff just because you want to give something. Spend a little bit more time thinking about the needs of this person, who this person is, and [choose] more mindful and more meaningful gifts.”

Once you’ve chosen your gifts, it’s about making them as waste-free as possible. Leloup suggests focusing on experiences rather than material goods (e.g. a golfing certificate for two versus a new set of clubs) and using gift materials that you already have at home, such as newspapers, cardboard boxes, and even re-gifted wrapping paper. “Try to reuse everything you have in a creative way.”

In terms of food waste, buying ingredients in bulk is a great way to prepare for Christmas dinners. “You buy only the quantities that you need versus buying the quantity that is imposed on you by the manufacturer,” Leloup says. Another idea is to have your dinner guests bring empty containers with them – that way, everyone can take a portion of the leftovers home and nothing has to be thrown out.

These tips are just a small part of NU’s mission to raise awareness about waste and to offer consumers the tools and information they need to reduce their environmental impact. Last month, the store launched their #NoExcuseForSingleUse campaign, focused on reusable alternatives to items that are often thrown away (e.g. plastic bags, water bottles, and coffee cups). Just last week, the store held free workshops on zero waste gift ideas and zero waste gift wrapping, which highlighted their eco-friendly furoshiki wraps. Leloup tells customers to “stay tuned” for more upcoming events at NU, including product demos and a workshop on how to minimize food waste over the holidays.

For more information on NU Grocery Store, check out their website and social media accounts or visit the store in person at 1130 Wellington St W.